1,950 mile-long open wound
dividing a pueblo, a culture,
running down the length of my body,
staking fence rods in my flesh,
splits me splits me
me raja me raja (Anzaldúa 1987: 2)
This piece was written by Chicana (a women/girl of Mexican descent or origin) scholar Gloria Anzaldúa. Chicana studies are silenced in almost every aspect, especially given the politicizing narrative that becomes unnecessarily attached to them, such as “illegal immigrants”. Above, the graphic description describes Anzaldúa’s personal experience growing up on the US-Mexican border. Not ideal by any measure at all.
Anzaldúa is considered pivotal to Third World feminism, a branch of feminism that doesn’t center their theory on the experiences of the First World (think of wealthier and advanced countries like the USA). Her work in This Bridge Called My Back: Writing by Radical Women of Color (1981) served as an intervention in feminist studies, offering new perspectives overshadowed by dominant tropes surrounding feminism at the time.
What makes Anzaldúa unique beside her subject position is her combination of poetry, historical narratives, and myths truly make her work interesting and entertaining to read. She defies traditional philosophy by not only moving between English and Spanish but additionally different variations of the language. The US-Mexican Border was a topic of serious discussion for Anzaldúa, given her background and experience with it, suggested above. To her, the Border is an open wound that Anzaldúa tries to heal through her writing, a point of clash between the Third World and the First World.
One of the popular concepts coined by Anzaldúa is the “borderland”, becoming prevalent in her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Borderlands, according to Anzaldúa, are “physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where the lower, middle and upper classes touch.” The reason for this rethinking is to break down the dividing lines imposed by borders, labels, and binary thinking, merely categories that attempt to “to contain, imprison, limit, keep us from growing.” Instead, these limits were artificially constructed are fluid, not fixed. Anzaldúa’s poetry and storytelling is a performative means of liberating these boundaries to construct something entirely new as an affirmation of Chicana subjectivity.
To learn more about Anzaldúa’s legacy, please check out the videos below!