Thursday, September 24, 2009

Borderlands/ La Frontera

The New Mestiza

According to the Oxford English Dictionary’s official website a “mestiza” is a person of mixed origin; originally a man with a Spanish father and an American Indian mother. When Christopher Columbus first disembarked in the new world in 1492, he discovered a world populated by indigenous people, described as “uncivilized” and “exotic.” Decades later, with the arrival of Spanish conquerors, the indigenous race was violently vanished from the world, and a new race began to flourish. It is written in our history that the first mestizo in America was the son conceived by Hernan Cortes and Malitzin.

In her book Borderlands/ La frontera, Gloria Anzaldua destroys the image of a mestiza along with every convention and definition that has been imposed to her, and recreates a new identity and meaning. This new mestiza, as described by Anzaldua, is “the coming together of two self-consistent but habitually incompatible frames of reference.” She is tolerable, has dual personality, and learns to coexist between two opposite worlds. She is the Virgen de Guadalupe and la Malinche, the good and the bad, she is everything and nothing.

“As a mestiza I have no country, my homeland cast me out; yet all countries are mine because I am every women’s sister or potential lover. (As a lesbian I have no race, my own people disclaim me; but I am all races because there is the queer of me in all races.) I am cultureless because, as a feminist, I challenge the collective cultural/religious male-derived beliefs of indo-Hispanics and Anglos; yet I am cultured because I am participating in the creation of yet another culture.

In this passage Anzaldua, describes the necessity of the new mestiza to become neutral, universal, a person who can be turned into different directions, someone who can be everything at once, and at the same time be nothing.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Excellent, Viri. You have identified a critical historical piece in the evolution of the term mestiza that the OED does not elaborate. In his 1950 "Labyrinth of Solitude," Mexican philosopher Octavio Paz says that Mexicans are hijos de la chingada (children of the fucked one) because of la malinche. That burden of inferiority that Paz derives from mestizos' historical/mythical mother has been pervasive in both Mexican and Chicana culture. Like other Chicana feminists during this time and since, Anzaldua reclaims Malinche AND mestizaje as a therapeutic term. I like that you say she "destroys the image of a mestiza" because in the way it has been constructed, it has become an image. Anzaldua, it seems, wants to make it more than that, wants it to be felt, experienced, in all its agony and, sometimes, joy.