Constructing Mestiza Consciousness: Gloria Anzaldúa's Literary Techniques in Borderlands/La Frontera-The New Mestiza

By Kynclová, Tereza | Human Architecture, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Constructing Mestiza Consciousness: Gloria Anzaldúa's Literary Techniques in Borderlands/La Frontera-The New Mestiza


Kynclová, Tereza, Human Architecture


Abstract: In this essay I argue that the literary techniques in Borderlands/La Frontera-The New Mestiza as well as the form of the book are means by which Anzaldúa (also) renders her identity politics-the Mestiza consciousness. In other words, Mestiza consciousness does not come into being solely through the content of the book and the meaning of Anzaldúa's written words. It is chiseled also by a unique employment of multiple literary techniques that themselves embody a meaning and/or a value by which a layer of the writer's identity is implied. The essay provides an analysis of the strategic use of code-switching, first- and third-person transitions and related alternations in points of view from which Anzaldúa portrays a single event. Bilingualism of the book is also paid attention to and it is argued that each of Anzaldúa's languages refers to different value systems and to different lived experience. Further, this article shows at length the roots of Anzaldúa's persuasion that writing can possess therapeutic and healing qualities both for the writer and the reader and that in general artistic creation bears transformative potentials.

The style of Borderlands is a hybrid style: poetry, description, essay-we cross genres, cross borders. It's a new poetics. It's a new aesthetics... 1 (Gloria Anzaldúa)

Borderlands/La Frontera-The New Mestiza is a book acclaimed not only for the author's portrayal of the path that has led to the invention of her new self-the New Mestiza. The approaches to the composition of the book and the combinatory techniques which have been used to describe the hybrid identity are hybrid in no lesser a degree and deserve equal considerations.

The work shows both the creative as well as the annihilating forces a person living in the borderlands-i.e. in between categories-must struggle against. Anzaldúa describes the tension that exists "wherever two or more cultures edge each other" 2 and invents her personal literary style where two or more kinds of literary techniques are united in a single sentence. Anzaldúa finds herself continually at a quest for an adequate means of self-expression; a style which would convey the internal hurt caused by historical, political, social, and also linguistic oppression and at the same time would embody the language which would perfectly fit her multiple identity-Mestiza consciousness.

Anzaldúa is both the inheritor of the indigenous tradition and the bearer of the Western academic thought which she has obtained pursuing her university education. The authoress thus inosculates these two contradictory approaches to language, and the literary style of Borderlands/La Frontera projects the writer's attempt at their mutual fusion and interconnectivity.

As Anzaldúa seeks a form of reconciliation of the two bordering cultures and her double linguistic background to both of which she belongs, she discovers a luculent instrument: the solution dwells in writing Borderlands/La Frontera bilingually.

Throughout the book the writer, gradually, composes a mosaic that in the end reveals a delicate new perspective for grasping the world's reality, and of course, a new approach to writing as such. Not only does Anzaldúa challenge set definitions and categories of gender, ethnic and sexual identity, she also shatters the academic criteria a piece of writing should obey. In an extraordinary way the authoress combines the old with the modern-her native tongue and ever-so flexible English. She also alternates between first and third person narration, which indicates her step-by-step growing awareness of collective and individual identity.

The experience Anzaldúa portrays can thus be understood as both a representative of Anzaldúa's autobiography as an individual and at the same time as a representative of the universal story of the Chicano people. The authoress confers on her writing: "...the literature that [I] write is not just about [my] experience; it's a cultural representation. …

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