American Literature Gloria Anzaldúa
by
Ariana Vigil
  • LAST REVIEWED: 09 March 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0078

Introduction

Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (b. 1942–d. 2004) was born in Raymondsville, Texas, in the lower Rio Grande Valley. She received a BA in English, Art, and Secondary Education from Pan American University, and an MA in English and Education from the University of Texas at Austin in 1972. She later enrolled in UT’s doctoral program in comparative literature after having worked for the state of Indiana as a liaison between migrant farmworkers’ children and the public schools. She left the program and moved to California in 1977, where she supported herself as an independent scholar. Anzaldúa spent several years (1981–1985) on the East Coast, including three years in Brooklyn. In 1986, she moved to Santa Cruz, California; in 1988, after being denied entry to the History of Consciousness program at the University of California at Santa Cruz, she enrolled in their doctorate program in literature. She continued to live in Santa Cruz but traveled and lectured extensively, holding writer-in-residencies and distinguished visiting professorships at The Loft (Minneapolis), Pomona College, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and the University of California at San Diego, among others. She was awarded a PhD in Literature from UCSC posthumously. Anzaldúa began her career as a poet and editor of Chicana, Latina, and US Third World women’s literature and thought. In 1981, along with Cherríe Moraga, she co-edited the groundbreaking anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, a cornerstone of 20th-century women of color feminist thought. Anzaldúa edited Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color in 1990. She is well known for her writing and thinking about borders and borderlands, as well as her contributions to the development of queer theory and her theories of the new mestiza and mestiza consciousness. Stemming from her own experiences living and working in the contemporary US-Mexico borderlands, Anzaldúa’s development of the concept of the borderlands as a unique social, psychological, linguistic, political, and spiritual place has been applied to numerous geographic and temporal contexts. In her most well-known work, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) Anzaldúa combines epistemologies, disciplines, and languages. She discusses and critiques Chicana/Chicano and Catholic culture while referencing Aztec and Yoruba deities and writes in several languages, including Spanish, English, Nahuatl, and caló. The work touches on major themes in Anzaldúa’s life and work, including Chicana/Chicano identity, mestizaje, spirituality, the importance of writing, and the connections between the physical and psychic selves. Anzaldúa also published several children’s books, including Prietita Has a Friend (1991) and Friends from the Other Side/Amigos del Otro Lado (1993). In 2002 she published her last work, the co-edited anthology This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation. She died in 2004 from complications from diabetes.

Primary Texts

Anzaldúa made a deep and lasting intervention in Chicana/Chicano studies and feminist theory via the three anthologies she edited and the multigenre Borderlands/La Frontera. That she began her career as a co-editor of an anthology of works by radical women of color reflects the collaborative work at the heart of her writing, as well as her very deep roots in communities and organizations of women of color. The works cited below reflect her ability to express her creative and critical acumen in genres as varied as poetry, short stories, and children’s literature.

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