Sunday, February 8, 2009

Kimberly's Literary Analysis of Borderlands

Borderlands is a brave collection of various writings by Gloria Anzaldua which symbolize the hardships she has endured in her life, particularly in the area of Texas along the Rio Grande where she was raised. Throughout this book, Anzaldua condemns many aspects of her culture, including the sexism among the Chicano/as, as well as rape and violence among other aspects. She criticizes the acceptance of this darkness, in the form of silence, by the women in her culture, and emphasizes the point that she valiantly did not conform to her culture, and that she
"want(ed) the freedom to carve and chisel (my) own face." (p. 44)

Despite all that she condemns, Gloria Anzaldua strives to preserve her culture and her roots, including their various languages and the knowledge of their ancestry, including "Indians," by which she is referring to Native Americans in today's language. It almost appears hypocritical considering the poems and writings describing the pain and violence, sexism and racism and homophobia in the region between Mexico and the US. The ties that Gloria Anzaldua feels to her culture and her interest in preserving and educating about her culture are self-justified. Anzaldua writes, "I feel perfectly free to rebel and to rail against my culture. I fear no betrayal on my part, because, unlike Chicanas and other women of color who grew up white or who have only recently returned to their native cultural roots, I was totally immersed in mine." (p.43)

This is likely a familiar feeling to many- we can say something negative about ourselves like, "Wow, I sure have gotten plump after having some kids," but if an old friend from high school said the same, it would be received as rude or hurtful. Gloria Anzaldua feels so strongly tied to her culture, and clearly knows it so well as illustrated in her writing, that she is her culture and she can speak freely about herself.

Part of the freedom that she expresses in her writing is the style she uses. Jumping from Spanish to English is unique and not limited by borders such as chapters or specific poems. She intermingles tongues freely throughout the text and I wouldn't hesitate to assume it goes deeper than the two languages noted above. Though I am not familiar enough with the various dialects that Anzaldua associates herself with, (Standard English, working class and slang English, Standard Spanish, Standard Mexican Spanish, North Mexican Spanish dialect, Chicano Spanish, Tex-Mex, and Pachuco,) (p. 77)I would assume that they are all interspersed in her writing, as she is writing as she pleases, sans limitation. Anzaldua is writing honestly and openly about herself and her culture, and in that altering the cultural map while freeing herself.

An important theme which rises again and again throughout her writing is the abuse and the alteration of her cultural and geographic maps at the hand of Anglos/whites. She refers a few times to the unfounded cruelty inflicted on her and her classmates at the hand of white school teachers, and it is further evidence that the difficulties in her life extended far beyond the borders of the ranches where she lived, even into a school setting where teachers should be protecting and helping the children. Instead, the Chicanos/as are punished for being themselves, but clearly have not suppressed Anzaldua from growing into a woman who "survive(d) the borderlands" and "live(d) sin fronteras." (p.217) The reader is invited into the past, as well as the present, to see how Anzaldua has been harmed and how these serpents continue to re-visit her throughout her life; they are her. Nevertheless, she is going to draw attention to this culture in hopes of preserving it, but allow someone who is non conforming to it, such as herself, to be a part of it.

Recently, on the Baltimore news, there was a rally to stop the frequent murders in the city. Often young black men are the targets for the ruthless and mindless loss of life. Instead of drawing thousands, as was hoped, the rally drew dozens, hopefully not symbolizing that our local culture is not ready to join together to stop these horrid occurances.

Marvin "Doc" Cheatham has nearly quit being the leader of Baltimore's NAACP chapter. When one views the disappointment of such low attendance at a rally of such high importance on the local news, it is easy to see why the leader may be discouraged. However, he has not given up for his race, and he carries on with his mission. This reminded me of Anzaldua and how she carried on to preserve her culture, though there were many devastating aspects of it. She became a teacher to young Chicano/as, just as Cheatham tries to educate Baltimoreans.

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