To Live in the Borderlands

To live in the borderlands means you

are neither hispana india negra espanola

ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata, half-breed

caught in the crossfire between camps

while carrying all five races on your back

not knowing which side to turn to, run from;

To live in the Borderlands means knowing that the india in you, betrayed for 500 years,

is no longer speaking to you,

the mexicanas call you rajetas, that denying the Anglo inside you

is as bad as having denied the Indian or Black;

Cuando vives en la frontera

people walk through you, the wind steals your voice,

you’re a burra, buey, scapegoat,

forerunner of a new race,

half and half-both woman and man, neither — a new gender;

To live in the Borderlands means to

put chile in the borscht,

eat whole wheat tortillas,

speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;

be stopped by la migra at the border checkpoints;

Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to

resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle,

the pull of the gun barrel,

the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;

In the Borderlands

you are the battleground

where enemies are kin to each other;

you are at home, a stranger,

the border disputes have been settled

the volley of shots have scattered the truce

you are wounded, lost in action

dead, fighting back;

To live in the Borderlands means

the mill with the razor white teeth wants to shred off

your olive-red skin, crush out the kernel, your heart

pound you pinch you roll you out

smelling like white bread but dead;

To survive the Borderlands

you must live sin fronteras

be a crossroads.

— Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Texana poet, author, and critical theorist Gloria E. Anzaldúa re-shaped the American feminist landscape with her work, breaking down the boundaries of a white, middle class, heterosexual movement and building a feminism that recognized and celebrated what would now be called “multiculturalism,” but is actually just “reality.” With Cherrie Moraga, she co-edited This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981), one of the most influential set of writings for broadening the feminist movement. Anzaldúa’s poetry and essay collection, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987), gave a lyrical voice to her theories. Her Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color (1993) is also a good place to start if you’re reading up on (pan-)American feminist perspectives.

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