Racial ideology of Latinas / Lit. review
Racial Ideology of Latinas in Discourse Analysis
Racial Ideology of Latinas
Latina Discourse -- Fiction and Non-Fiction
In her book Borderlands: The New Mestiza (1999), author Gloria Anzaldua, a self-proclaimed "borderland Chicana," writes about her experiences living on the border between Texas and Mexico. She describes the experience as being challenging and frustrating because of the conflict of the borderland. She refers to this way of living as being a "marginal person," existing in a perpetual state of transition and ambivalence. She expresses the frustration of what it is like to have the steady influence of different cultures while lacking the ability or the security to claim one of those cultures for herself. She infuses her expression with both prose and poetry, Mexican-Indian mythology with psychology, and mythology with philosophy to explore the meaning of what it is like to be on a constant quest for racial and cultural identity.
Anzaldua (1999) describes the area where the U.S. And Mexico meet as una berida abierta, a border "where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country -- a border culture." This sort of imagery soaks Anzaldua's text as she analyzes what it means to be a border culture -- both literally and ideologically speaking. She describes a border as a place that generally divides an area that is safe and one that is unsafe. It is used to distinguish people -- us from them (1999).
The frustration of having a borderline is that it is vague and undetermined, "created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary" (Anzaldua 1999). The border is always changing, constantly shifting as people cross over. The border keeps out the forbidden -- los atravesados -- whom Anzaldua refers to as the "strange" or the "troublesome" who come in the forms of "mongrels" and "mulatos" -- the half-breeds as she refers to them. These forbidden people who cross the border are trying to get to "normal." Normal is a place and it lives on the other side of the Mexican border.
Any border is a dividing line between two cultures, Anzaldua (1999) notes. However, what is interesting to contemplate in Anzaldua's work is the glaring difference between how Americans see the Mexican border as opposed to the Canadian border. Her work makes one wonder if it is because of the different color of skins -- or is it the language that creates such a division between peoples and ideologies? What has made the borderland of the U.S. And Mexico so controversial? Anzaldua's work points out the obvious fact that the border is not just a simple divide -- dividing two lands here and there. It has come to mean much more, but it has become a social, cultural, and psychic border that seeps into both cultures and stands in the way of unification. It is a constant reminder that one is superior to another that one is racially and culturally better. If one tries to cross into the U.S., they may be raped, maimed or killed -- shot or strangled. Anzaldua (1999) names the "legitimate" inhabitants as the whites who are in power -- and then those who align themselves with the whites. The rest are inferior.
Anzaldua (1999) not only gives the reader an emotional journey in which to contemplate the problem of the U.S. -- Mexican border and how it affects personal and cultural identity, but she also gives a historical viewpoint as she discusses the original peopling of the Americas: the first inhabitants came across the Bering Straits and walked south across the continent. The oldest evidence of mankind in the United States -- the Chicanos' ancient Indian ancestors -- was found in Texas and has been dated back to 35000 B.C. (1999). In the Southwest of the United States, archeologists have discovered 20,000-year-old campsites of the Indians who migrated through, or permanently settled, the Southwest, Aztlan -- land of the herons, land of whiteness, the Edenic place of origin of the Azteca (1999).
Anzaldua (1999) offers a historical account of the Chicano people as well as an intensely passionate account of the formation of Chicano ideology. To live at the border is to be a "half-breed" so Anzaldua (1999) explains -- caught in the crossfire of two very different peoples.
Anzaldua, Gloria. (1999). Borderlands: The new Mestiza. Aunt Lute Books; 2nd edition.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1994) is a work of fiction about the clash between Esperanza's dream -- the "American Dream," which is to own a house of her own, just like the ones she sees on television -- and her Mango Street reality. Like Anzaldua (1999) describes in her work Borderlands: The New Mestiza, Esperanza feels like the "half-breed" -- not belonging to a race or a class of people who can live in the types of houses that she dreams of living in. She does not want to identify herself in terms of the house she can afford (the one on Mango Street), but the poverty in which she lives keeps her and her family from having the "American Dream" they so fully desire.
In Cisneros's work -- as in Alzadua's -- there is a distinction mentioned between here and there. Esperanza is stuck in the barrio but she wants to go to the other side -- outside the barrio. There is where people have the nice houses that she sees on television. It is the nun that Esperanza meets on Loomis Street who points out the here and there to her in a rather ironic scene. The nun teaches Esperanza to be ashamed of where she is living and thus to be ashamed of her people and what she has come to identify herself with. The nun makes Esperanza promise that she will have a "real" house someday, pointing out the glaring difference between her house and the one that she dreams of. Her house isn't real because it's not good enough to be considered real.
Cisneros uses the house on Mango Street as a symbol throughout her book. The house is symbolic of status and security as well as overcoming poverty. Furthermore, the house would be a place where she could forge her own identity and it would also be physical evidence that she belonged somewhere. Because Esperanza's family has moved so much, she has never had a place to call home for any great length of time where she could really develop of sense of place and thus identity within that place. The house is also symbolic of our bodies. Our bodies "house" our souls -- our innermost thoughts and feelings. It is the place that stores our memories and therefore a place that is safe and secure. Esperanza's desire to have a house in Cisneros's work is really a metaphor for wanting self-acceptance. While literally Esperanza wants a nice house to define herself with, she is metaphorically stating that there is a rejection of her reality house and thus a rejection of who she is.
Cisneros, Sandra. (1994). The house on mango street. Knopf; 1st hardcover edition.
Ana Castillo's novel, The Guardians (2008), takes places on the El Paso, Texas / Juarez, Mexico border, which is referred to as a "paradise lost" -- where family members regularly disappear and women are murdered for their organs or raped by "narcos." It is a soulless desert, an area where undocumented workers hope to gain access to America, people try to find love, or at least some sort of salvation.
The novel, told from four different perspectives -- Regina, a 50-year-old widowed virgin who lives in Cabuche, New Mexico, who is on a quest to find her brother Rafa as he tries to cross the border and join her in the U.S.; Miguel, Regina's love interest, a leftist high school teacher; Gabriel ("Gabo"), Rafa's 16-year-old son, a man obsessed with becoming a monk and is, at the same time, tempted by the gang life where he will find some sort of family and security; and lastly, Abuelito Milton, a crabby old man from the El Segundo barrio, who forces his grandson Miguel into action, rescues Gabriel from jail one night, and even flirts with Regina.
Regina is, undoubtedly, the heart of this story. She is a modern heroine who is skeptical of the church and unable to forgive the people who have hurt her most in the world. She is a fierce protector of her property and will go as far as using her rifle to keep infidels as well as wild animals from her rancho. Regina is also, in essence, Gabriel's mother, in the absence of Rafa, and the challenge of understanding her Christ-like "son" brings up issues having to do with the difficulty of raising a child alone -- specifically a teenager. There is also a very strong feeling of family in the…