Postmodernity has brought about new movements and ideologies that focused on the transcending boundaries, more exactly on going beyond what already existed. Transculturalism is part of these transcending movements and “refers to the idea that cultures are shaped by continual interactions, by overlapping political relationships, and transformed through specific and individual actions.” (Szeto). It was first defined by Cuban Fernando Ortiz who based his ideas on the article Nuestra America (1881) by Jose Marti. Ortiz thought that transculturalism is the result of the synthesis between two phases, one implying deculturalization of the past that will lead to the creation of a new “common culture” (Transculturalism).
One of the authors that approached transculturalism in her writings was Gloria Anzaldua in her book “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza”, but also in a letter “Speaking in tongues” published in a feminist anthology. Anzaldua took care to dedicate “Borderlands” to many people, but also to her readers as she stated “to you” (Anzaldua np) referring to those people she encountered on street, whom she past at crossroads, those who live in a similar borderland, but also to those who never heard of this kind of territory. In the Preface of the book she mentions the physical borderland she is dealing with, the Texas US- Mexico border, along with the unseen borders as the psychological, sexual, and spiritual ones (Anzaldua np). For Anzaldua “the Borderlands are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy.” (Anzaldua np) meaning that this space represents a confluence, a crossroads of cultures.
She describes herself as a border woman, being raised between two cultures, the Mexican one and the Anglo culture that shaped her as a woman (Anzaldua np). That “place of contradictions” (Anzaldua np) is full of hatred, anger, and exploitation becoming a landscape difficult to live in (Anzaldua np). Gloria Anzaldua approaches many topics in her book like language, gender and sexuality, style, culture, and race.
“Borderlands/La Frontera” states from the first view that it is written in two languages, English and Spanish, elements that define her as a writer. The languages are used simultaneously in the same phrase or paragraph: “The V.S.-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds.” (Anzaldua 3) as a bridge between her two consciousnesses. She stated: “Language is a male discourse.” (Anzaldua 54) reinforcing the idea that culture is made by those who are in power, the men; they make the rules and laws, and women transmit them (Anzaldua 16). Also, she felt that “language is a homeland” (Anzaldua 55) and that we need a secret language to communicate with ourselves; a kind of introspection. The author becomes personal in the matter of language writing that if you want to hurt her, you need to talk badly about her language because she is her language and she must take pride in it (Anzaldua 59).
In “Speaking in Tongues”, she is talking about the “white eyes” (Anzaldua 163) that do not want to learn their language, and do not provide the background for others to learn this language (Spanish) in schools. Anzaldua is criticizing in this way the fact that white people, here the ones who are not of mixed race, do not take into consideration the situation and identity of the others. It also hints towards the idea that whites are privileged mentioning that the racist teachers thought of Chicanas as dumb and dirty and that Spanish was not required in any of the school grades (Anzaldua 164). Even though this occurred, she wrote her poems both in Spanish and English, keeping her dual identity.
In “Borderlands” the style of writing is as mixed as she is. There is a certain order in her disorder. She managed to write understandably in a way that combines personal writing with academic writing. The text is full of poetry, quotes, letters and the tone is subjective, personal (like in a diary). It is like she is carrying us through the meanders of her mind. The subtitles are also well positioned because they summarize the content and make it easy to follow (“A tolerance for ambiguity”, “La encrucijada/The Crossroads”). On the other hand, “Speaking in Tongues” is clearly classified as a letter with a greeting “Dear mujeres de color” (Anzaldua 163), the body and the conclusion, and also the closing with signature (“Love,/Gloria”). This writing also contains poems and quotes by other authors. Here is also mentioned the “organic writing” (Anzaldua 172) that she describes as being about what you create inside, “in the gut and out of living tissue” (Anzaldua 172). The writer continues with the idea that a poem works for her when it evokes what she wanted it to evoke. So, it is about senses, not meaning. We should search for what a poem wakes inside of us, and not what it means.
On the matter of gender and sexuality, Gloria Anzaldua explores the sexual minorities like homosexuals. She is a lesbian herself. She explores the colored homosexuals and states that they have more knowledge of other cultures, have suffered more and have survived all of these (Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza 85). In the subchapter “Fear of Going Home: Homophobia” she explains that the greatest rebellion a lesbian can make is to go home and act true, without hiding her sexuality. The author confesses here her sexuality, the fact that she has been raised as a Catholic and was supposed to be straight, but she chose to be queer, knowing that she will be criticized (Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza 19).
Furthermore, she is not only talking about LGBTQ problems, but also about women in general and their struggle to resist in a male dominated world. As it was mentioned above, Anzaldua thinks that culture is the product of those who has the power (the men) and women are only transmitting their rules and laws (Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza 16) meaning that women are seen as inferior. “Men, even more than women, are fettered to gender roles. Women at least have had the guts to break out of bondage.” (Anzaldua 84) stated her continuing with the fact that only gay men have the courage to open up in front of a woman and to challenge the masculinity. Anzaldua concludes this paragraph with the requirement of a new masculinity and a new movement that will support this new man (Anzaldua 84). On the other side, in “Speaking in Tongues” she is addressing directly to women, encouraging them, giving them hope and inspiration. She finishes on a strong note telling the women to find the muse inside, the hidden voice; she demands them to not fake it or sell it for a handclap or the name in print (Anzaldua 173), things that people usually work for. Gloria Anzaldua manages to transcend the barriers of her cultures, of her physical borders, of her sexuality through a book and a letter that are not only addressed to women, but also to men, minorities and people that feel trapped in a certain place or in a certain state of mind. She adopts the mestiza consciousness and is not telling us her identity, but wants us to experience it through her writings.
- Anzaldua, Gloria E. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987. Print.
- Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers. 21 May 1980. PDF.
- Szeto, Janet. Urban Dictionary. 17 May 2008. Online. 01 June 2019. .
- Transculturalism. 30 April 2019. Online. 01 June 2019. .