Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Carrying a Culture on One's Back

One of the biggest things I’ve taken from all of the readings we’ve done thus far is this idea that a person’s individual culture cannot be reduced to a fraction of what it really is by grouping it within the larger context of geographical placement. While a landscape may shape a person’s identity, physical borders in no way restrict cultural identities. With both King and Anzaldua, the greatest barriers to overcome is this idea that a person has to be consolidated into a certain group all the while denying other parts of their identities.

The greatest similarity between King and Anzaldua is this idea of not allowing their specific identities to become compromised in the face of generalizations. Anzaldua’s final poem in Borderlands, “Don’t Give In, Chicanita”, sums up exactly what King’s mother is attempting to do within “Borders.” Dedicated and directed at her “m’ijita”, Anzaldua speaks to her grandmother as the land that was once hers is taken away and along with it, a piece of her cultural identity. Still, Anzaldua pleads with her grandmother by saying, “Don’t give in mi prietita/ tighten your belt, endure./ Your lineage is ancient” (p. 224). Her grandmother’s blood is so rooted in the land that as their land is taken away and stripped of its special culture that Anzaldua sees part of her “m’ijita” getting taken away as well. The place in which her grandmother’s “great-great-grandfather” was buried is no longer hers, indicating that not even one’s lineage is safe from being stripped away.

However, Anzaldua notes that there is one thing that can never be taken away from her or her grandmother when she writes, “But they will never take that pride/ of being mexicana-Chicana-tejana/ nor our Indian woman’s spirit” (p. 224). The preservation of this pride, for Anzaldua and King, is what allows one’s cultural identity to remain intact. As King’s mother was too proud to state a citizenry she felt falsely represented herself, Anzaldua is too proud to merely put herself into an over generalized group. This pride is what keeps their cultures alive for both.

Also, for both, pride seems to be a hereditary distinction that allows King and Anzaldua to carry their cultural identities on their backs at all times. As King writes, “Pride is a good thing to have, you know. Laetitia had a lot of pride, and so did my mother. I figured that someday, I’d have it, too” (p. 142). Anzaldua writes in the poem that one day that she and her grandmother will become a “new species” capable of “carrying the best of all cultures” (p. 225). This idea of carrying one’s culture at all times seems to overcome King’s “Borders”, moving both King and Anzaldua into Anzaldua’s Borderlands.

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