A Kind of Consciousness

anzalduaGloria Anzaldúa describing “the new Mestiza” in her book Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987).

She puts history through a sieve, winnows out the lies, looks at the forces that we as a race, as women, have been a part of. . . She reinterprets history and, using new symbols, she shapes new myths. She adopts new perspectives toward the dark-skinned, women and queers. She strengthens her tolerance (and intolerance) for ambiguity. She is willing to share, to make herself vulnerable to foreign ways of seeing and thinking. She surrenders all notions of safety, of the familiar. Deconstruct, construct. She becomes a nahual, able to transform herself into a tree, a coyote, into another person. She learns to transform the small “I” into the total self.

**In an interview in 1991, Anzaldúa elaborated:

Typically, for me, the “new Mestiza” is a kind of border woman who is able to negotiate between different cultures and cross over from one to the other and therefore has a perspective of all those different worlds that someone who is mono-cultural cannot have. And because she has that kind of perspective, tiene conocimiento: she has an understanding of what’s going on in all these different terrains. And so her interpretation is based on perceiving more about the different realities in this world than someone who is just mono-cultural…The new Mestiza for me is a feminist, is definitely a feminist, whether she calls herself that or not. And she’s different from the old mestiza because it’s no longer just a question of blood, it’s no longer a matter of one being Indian or black or Asian or Spanish; you may have those bloods and be raised in a white, middle-class world, or you may be a white woman but be raised in a Chicano community. So it goes beyond just the biological mestiza… there’s such a thing as a cultural mestiza. It’s a kind of consciousness.

I Will Have My Voice

Gloria AnzalduaFrom Gloria Anzaldua in “How To Tame A Wild Tongue:”

So, if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity – I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself. Until I can accept as legitimate Chicano Texas Spanish, Tex-Mex, and all the other languages I speak, I cannot accept the legitimacy of myself. Until I am free to write bilingually and to switch codes without having always to translate, while I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak spanglish, and as long as I have to accommodate the English speakers rather than having them accommodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate.

I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent’s tongue — my woman’s voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.