Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Ethnic" Mestiza vs. "Cultural" Mestiza

The "mestiza" is the product of the "mestizaje", in which the children's ethnic makeup is blended from their parents' ancestry. "Mestiza" is the female form of "mestizo", originally understood as: "a man with a Spanish father and an American Indian mother;" but is now understood to mean: "a person of mixed American Spanish and American Indian descent."

In the context of Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa links her self-identification of a mestiza to being at a crossroads, not only in the matters of race, but where her cultural identity stands as being virutally nonexistent under the Anglo hierarchy (which had, in turn, affected Mexican hierarchy). In other words, she assigns different definitions for "ethnic" mestiza and "cultural" mestiza.

As an ethnic mestiza, she still believes that the only solution from being exiled is to create a new culture. In the eyes of her motherland (and its inhabitants), she is worthless, nonexistent, "cultureless". But Anzaldúa sees herself as otherwise, proving her worth by "participating in the creation" of her mestiza culture.
"(R)evolution works out the clash of cultures. It makes us crazy constantly, but if the center holds, we've made some kind of revolutionary step forward."
And like any culture, it is a building block upon other cultures beneath it:
Indigenous like corn, like corn, the mestiza is a product of crossbreeding, designed for preservation under a variety of conditions. Like an ear of corn--a female seed-bearing organ--the mestiza is tenacious, tightly wrapped in the husks of her culture. Like kernels she clings to the cob; with thick stalks and strong brace roots, she holds tight to the earth--she will survive the crossroads.
Anzaldúa describes mestiza as indigenous, meaning that it is only natural for this culture to be cultivated within the confines of Mexican culture. By giving birth to culture, she is free to contribute meanings and images that are relevant and pay homage to its ancestors, much like how the ethnic mestiza was created.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely. Excellent, Anthony. I like the distinction you draw between ethnicity and culture, between blood discourse and social discourse. Notably, the OED definition doesn't seem to allow for the "Anglo" (much less the African or Asian) to cohabit with the Indian or the Spanish. But Anzaldua makes very explicit that part of New Mestiza Consciousness is negotiating the tensions and contradictions of all the various culturally-defined subject-positions. So what do you think this does to "blood discourse"?