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Born in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas in 1942, Gloria Anzaldúa was a leader in her works of cultural/chicana/o theories, feminist theories, and lesbian/queer theories. She’s published numerous works of fiction as well as essays, articles, interviews, anthologies, an autobiography and even children’s books. Her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza published in 1987 is one of her most foremost pieces of work. Growing up she faced several accounts of discrimination due to her ethnicity and sexual orientation, but she remained dedicated to her studies and used her advertises, as well as the scenic, dry landscapes of Texas she would work as a kid to inspire her writing (Benson).
Anzaldúa received her bachelor’s in English from Texas Pan-American University in 1969 and her master’s in English and Education in 1972 from University of Texas at Austin. She worked with many feminist organizations, political and conscious-raising groups.
She moved to San Francisco in the mid 70s and spent time in New York during the 80s where much of her work was published.
She was accepted into a Ph.D program at University of Santa Cruz in 1988 but due to professional work and health circumstances, her graduate study was delayed until 2001. Anzaldúa passed way on May 15th, 2004 at age 62 due to a diabetes related complication, and was awarded her Ph.D posthumously from UCSC in 2005 (Benson). In How to Tame a Wild Tongue— and excerpt from Anzaldúa’s book mentioned above— she speaks about borders.
Borders regarding culture, class, race, religion, but mostly, language. She mentions all the different forms of language she has learned as a Chicana living in Texas and Jacqueline Gamboa good analysis of her Gloria's life. California; examples are, “standard Spanish, standard English, working class and slang English, Standard Mexican Spanish, Tex-Mex, etc.” and all the differentiation between.
The way in which she speaks, the mixture of both Spanish and English, is a direct form and part of her Chicana identity. It is part of her identity as much as is the food she eats, the clothes she wears, the music she listens to. She talks about how her way of speaking is attacked, like how for example in Pan-American University she had to take speech courses in which the purpose of was to remove her accent. She also speaks of other Latinos and Latinas shunning her and other chicano/as for either not speaking Spanish “right” or ruining the Spanish language with her Chicana blending or mestisaje. Chicanos and chicanas themselves oppress each other by trying to “out Chicano” one another. She calls these types of attacks linguistic terrorism, forms of criticisms and oppression based on the way in which chicanos speak, and in turn condemning their true identity.
Burciaga highlights the struggle of Chicano identity in Drink Cultura, and how one adapts to the American culture one lives in while trying to maintain his or her’s Mexican roots. When he is asked whether he is Mexican or American he answers that he is both, with pride. Yet, both sides reject them, leaving them suspended in a question of where they belong. “A veces no soy nada ni nadie. Pero hasta cuando no lo soy, lo soy” (Anzaldùa) Chicanos were realized in the 1960s, where they reclaimed the once derogatory term with full embrace and pride. Chicanos distinguished themselves in American society, and became increasingly self aware. Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta formed the National Farm Workers Association, Luis Valdez created El Teatro Campesino, la Raza Unida party was formed, all fighting for Mexican and Chicano rights and delineation. Chicano films, music, and art ascended from the culture, and began to simultaneously bloom and sink its roots. The Chicano struggle is still far from over. Conflict over issues of identity and assimilation continues today, borders are becoming a physical reality, gentrification and other injustices oppress Mexican-Americans down.
In the film Precious Knowledge, educators and students in Tuscon, Arizona fight for the right to be able to hold ethnic studies courses in their school. These courses teach kids the true history of their ancestors, they teach them valuable lessons of respect and create an atmosphere unlike any other class. These courses have aided and inspired struggling students to graduate and more importantly become self-awaren and self-accepted. These courses have brought together a community of educators, parents, and students.
Yet the state of Arizona shut down these courses, claiming that they are radical, anti-American, separatist classes, while protestors were literally knocking at their doors. We face injustices in many aspects of our lives, in physical appearance, and the way we speak is instantly prejudiced against by others. Wherever these prejudices come from, sometimes internalized loathing or irrational fears, they can be changed. Every chicano/a has had their own experience and narrative, and overcoming these injustices begins with self-actualization, an embracement of everything that makes up who we are individually and collectively. With unconditional self-love and self-acceptance we can bestow our tolerance and respect unto others. “Tenemos que hacer la lucha,” says Anzaldúa— we have to keep fighting. Chicanos have survived the dominant anglo-american culture that has invaded their ancestors land, and they will persevere long after it is gone.
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