Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The thing that amazed me the most about Gloria Anzaldua was how actively self-aware she was in the midst of the confusion and separation she felt through her race, culture, gender, and sexuality. For someone who felt so misplaced by who she was, Anzaldua seemed to know exactly where she came from, where she was, and where she was going. She seemed to apply the “mestiza consciousness” throughout Borderlands in her writing, like the “new consciousness” she evokes, “comes from continual creative motion that keeps breaking down the unitary aspect of each new paradigm” (p. 102). At the beginning of Borderlands, I felt distant from her when she wrote in Chicano Spanish; separated from who she was. But by the end, I felt engulfed in her beliefs. It isn’t she that should apologize for speaking another language but me for not being able to understand.

Again, I felt estranged while reading Anzaldua because her displacement made me feel my own even more. What’s worse is that I felt I shouldn’t feel as displaced as I do. I fit the white, male, American, heterosexual model, so what the hell do I have to complain about? Except as I was reading I questioned my own roots. I am Polish, English, and Irish and I barely know about any of my ethnicities’ history and culture. I belong to a Jesuit college and frequent church about once a year. I live in New Jersey and have NO idea what exit my town corresponds to. Anzaldua’s crisis of finding her identity became my own, in a way. This is in no way a comparison to the hardships Anzaldua experienced, but, somehow, I felt a connection with her in her otherness.

Really, at the heart of her writing, Anzaldua is both trying to show her own otherness and the otherness of a culture she feels she should but should not be a part of. Except, that culture (as with my own) may have no idea of their own culture. Anzaldua’s writing literally hit me in the face (I asked my roommate to slap me in the face for how little I knew about my own culture) and led me to a feeling of complacency that was untruthful.

Anzaldua connects the opposites we do not want to acknowledge; reality versus imaginary, adulthood versus childhood, culture versus culture, race (Anglo) versus race (Chicano), homosexuality versus heterosexuality, physical boundaries versus psychological boundaries.

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