Gloria Anzaldúa

Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (1990)
Born Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa
(1942-09-26)September 26, 1942
Rio Grande Valley, Texas
Died May 15, 2004(2004-05-15) (aged 61)
Santa Cruz, California
Nationality American
Occupation Author, Poet, Activist

Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (September 26, 1942 – May 15, 2004) was a scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory. She loosely based her most well-known book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, on her life growing up on the Mexican-Texas border and incorporated her lifelong feelings of social and cultural marginalization into her work.

Early life

Anzaldúa was born in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas on September 26, 1942, to Urbano Anzaldúa and Amalia Anzaldúa née García. Gloria Anzaldúa's great-grandfather, Urbano Sr., once a precinct judge in Hidalgo County, was the first owner of the Jesús María Ranch on which she was born. Her mother grew up on an adjoining ranch, Los Vergeles ("the gardens"), which was owned by her family, and met and married Urbano Anzaldúa when both were very young. Anzaldúa was a descendant of many of the prominent Basque and Spanish explorers and settlers to come to the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as of indigenous descent. The surname Anzaldúa is of Basque origin.

Anzaldúa began menstruating when she was only three years old, a symptom of the endocrine condition that caused her to stop growing physically at the age of twelve.[1] As a child, she would wear special girdles fashioned for her by her mother in order to disguise her precocious sexual development. Her mother would also ensure that a cloth was placed in Anzaldúa's underwear as a child in case of bleeding. Anzaldúa remembers, "I'd take [the bloody cloths] out into this shed, wash them out, and hang them really low on a cactus so nobody would see them.... My genitals...[were] always a smelly place that dripped blood and had to be hidden." She eventually underwent a hysterectomy to deal with uterine, cervical, and ovarian abnormalities.[2] Reflecting upon her illness, she announced: "I was born a queer."[1]

When she was eleven, her family relocated to Hargill, Texas.[3] Despite feeling discriminated against as a sixth-generation Tejana and as a female, and despite the death of her father from a car accident when she was fourteen, Anzaldúa still obtained her college education. In 1968, she received a B.A. in English, Art, and Secondary Education from Pan American University, and an M.A. in English and Education from the University of Texas at Austin. While in Austin, she joined politically active cultural poets and radical dramatists such as Ricardo Sanchez, and Hedwig Gorski.

Career and writings

After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in English from the then Pan American University (now University of Texas-Pan American), Anzaldúa worked as a preschool and special education teacher. In 1977, she moved to California, where she supported herself through her writing, lectures, and occasional teaching stints about feminism, Chicano studies, and creative writing at San Francisco State University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Florida Atlantic University, among other universities.

She is perhaps most famous for coediting This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981) with Cherríe Moraga, editing Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color (1990), and coediting This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation (2002). She also wrote the semi-autobiographical Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987). Her children’s books include Prietita Has a Friend (1991), Friends from the Other Side — Amigos del Otro Lado (1993), and Prietita y La Llorona (1996). She has also authored many fictional and poetic works. Her works weave English and Spanish together as one language, an idea stemming from her theory of "borderlands" identity. Her autobiographical essay, "La Prieta," was published in (mostly) English in This Bridge Called My Back, and in (mostly) Spanish in Esta puente, mi espalda: Voces de mujeres tercermundistas en los Estados Unidos. In her writing, Anzaldua uses a unique blend of eight languages, two variations of English and six of Spanish. In many ways, by writing in "Spanglish," Anzaldua creates a daunting task for the non-bilingual reader to decipher the full meaning of the text. However, there is irony in the mainstream reader's feeling of frustration and irritation. These are the very emotions Anzaldua dealt with throughout her life, as she struggled to communicate in a country where she felt as a non-English speaker she was shunned and punished. Language, clearly one of the borders Anzaldua addressed, is an essential feature to her writing. Her book is dedicated to being proud of one's heritage and to recognizing the many dimensions of her culture.[3]

She made contributions to ideas of feminism and contributed to the field of cultural theory/Chicana and queer theory.[4] One of her major contributions was her introduction to United States academic audiences of the term mestizaje, meaning a state of being beyond binary ("either-or") conception, into academic writing and discussion. In her theoretical works, Anzaldúa called for a "new mestiza," which she described as an individual aware of her conflicting and meshing identities and uses these "new angles of vision" to challenge binary thinking in the Western world. The "new mestiza" way of thinking is illustrated in postcolonial feminism. In the same way that Anzaldúa felt she could not be classified as only part of one race or the other, she felt that she possessed a multi-sexuality. When growing up, Anzaldúa expressed that she felt an "intense sexuality" towards her own father, to animals and even to trees. She was attracted to and later had relationships with both men and women.[2]

While race normally divides people, Anzaldúa called for people of different races to confront their fears in order to move forward into a world that is less hateful and more useful. In "La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness," a text often used in women’s studies courses, Anzaldúa insisted that separatism invoked by Chicanos/Chicanas is not furthering the cause, but instead keeping the same racial division in place. Many of Anzaldúa’s works challenge the status quo of the movements in which she was involved. She challenged these movements in an effort to make real change happen to the world, rather than to specific groups. Scholar Ivy Schweitzer writes, "her theorizing of a new borderlands or mestiza consciousness helped jump start fresh investigations in several fields -- feminist, Americanist [and] postcolonial."[5]

Anzaldúa wrote a speech called “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers”, focusing on the shift towards an equal and just gender representation in literature, but away from racial and cultural issues due to the rise of female writers and theorists. She also stressed in her essay the power of writing to create a world which would compensate for what the real world does not offer us.[6]

This Bridge Called My Back: La Prieta

Gloria Anzaldua's La Prieta, is an essay which deals with the author's own personal manifestation of thoughts and horrors that have constituted her life in Texas. Anzaldua identifies herself as an entity without a figurative home and/or peoples to completely relate to. To supplement this deficiency, Anzaldua created her own sanctuary — Mundo Zurdo, whereby her personality transcends the norm-based lines of relating to a certain group. Instead, in her Mundo Zurdo, she is like a "Shiva, a many-armed and legged body with one foot on brown soil, one on white, one in straight society, one in the gay world, the man's world, the women's, one limb in the literary world, another in the working class, the socialist, and the occult worlds." (205) This passage perfectly describes the identity battles which the author has had to engage in throughout her life, because of the numerous identity conflicts that have manifested over time. Since early childhood, Anzaldua has had to deal with the shame of being a woman of color. From the beginnings she was exposed to her own people's, own family's racism and "fear of women and sexuality."(198) Her family's internal racism immediately cast her as the "other" because of her family's bias that being white and fair-skinned means prestige and royalty, when color subjects one to being almost the scum of society (just as her mother had complained about her 'prieta' dating a 'mojado' from Peru). The household in which the author grew up is almost a stereotypical chicano family, whereby male figure was the authoritarian head, whilst the female, the mother, was stuck in all the biases of this paradigm. Although Anzaldua acknowledges the difficult position which white, patriarchal society has cast women of color, gays and lesbians, she does not make them to be the arch enemy, because she identifies that “casting stones is not the solution” (207) and that racism and sexism does not just come from the whites, but from people of color as well. Throughout her life, the inner racism and sexism from her childhood would haunt her, as often she was asked to choose her loyalties, whether it be to women, to people of color, or to gays/lesbians. Her analogy to the 'shiva' is well-fitted, as she decides to go against these conventions, and enter her own world — Mundo Zurdo. This Mundo Zurdo, allows for the self to go deeper and transcend the lines of convention, whilst at the same time recreating the self and the society. This for Anzaldua is a form of religion, one which allows for the self to deal with the injustices that society throws at them, and come out a better person, a more reasonable person.


Anzaldúa described herself as a very spiritual person and stated that she experienced four out-of-body experiences during her lifetime:

  1. Her early menstruation at two or three years old as a result of dying and a different spirit entering her body.[7]
  2. Drowning "for a little while" at around eight years of age while swimming in South Padre Island.
  3. Dying for around two minutes after falling down a hill and breaking her back.
  4. Dying for twenty minutes during her hysterectomy.

Anzaldúa also had out-of-body spiritual events involving narcotics. One experience in Austin was the result of mixing alcohol and "percada," something Anzaldúa described as a downer (depressant). On this night, "my soul left my body," she stated.[2] In many of her works she referred to her devotion to la Virgen de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), Nahuatl/Toltec divinities, and to the Yoruba orishás Yemayá and Oshún. In her later writings, she developed the concepts of spiritual activism and nepantleras to describe the ways contemporary social actors can combine spirituality with politics to enact revolutionary change.


Additionally, her work Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza was recognized as one of the 38 best books of 1987 by Library Journal and 100 Best Books of the Century by both Hungry Mind Review and Utne Reader.

In 2012, she was listed as one of the 31 LGBT history "icons" by the organisers of LGBT History Month.[12]


Anzaldúa died on May 15, 2004, at her home in Santa Cruz, California, from complications due to diabetes. At the time of her death, she was working toward the completion of her dissertation to receive her doctorate in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.[13] It was awarded posthumously in 2005.

Several institutions now offer awards in memory of Anzaldúa.

The Chicana/o Latina/o Research Center (CLRC) at University of California, Santa Cruz offers the annual Gloria E. Anzaldúa Distinguished Lecture Award and The Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars and Contingent Faculty is offered annually by the American Studies Association. The latter "...honors Anzaldúa’s outstanding career as an independent scholar and her labor as contingent faculty, along with her groundbreaking contributions to scholarship on women of color and to queer theory. The award includes a lifetime membership in the ASA, a lifetime electronic subscription to American Quarterly, five years access to the electronic library resources at the University of Texas at Austin, and $500".[14]


Anzaldúa's published and unpublished manuscripts, among other archival resources, form part of the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. Anzaldúa also maintained a collection of figurines, masks, rattles, candles, and other ephemera used as altar (altares) objects at her home in Santa Cruz, California. These altares were an integral part of her spiritual life and creative process as a writer.[15] The collection is presently housed by the Special Collections department of the University Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Children's books

  • Prietita Has a Friend (1991)
  • Friends from the Other Side/Amigos del Otro Lado (1995)
  • Prietita y La Llorona (1996)
  • la fea (1958)

See also

  • Xicana literature



  • Anzaldúa, Gloria E., 2003. "La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness", pp. 179–87, in Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim (eds), Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives, New York: Routledge.
  • Keating, AnaLouise, and Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez, eds. Bridging: How Gloria Anzaldua's Life and Work Transformed Our Own (University of Texas Press; 2011), 276 pp.
  • Keating, AnaLouise, ed. EntreMundos/AmongWorlds: New Perspectives on Gloria Anzaldúa. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005.
  • Keating, AnaLouise. Women Reading, Women Writing: Self-Invention in Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldúa and Audre Lorde. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996.
  • Lavie, Smadar. "Staying Put: Crossing the Israel–Palestine Border with Gloria Anzaldúa." Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly, June 2011, Vol. 36, Issue 1. This article won the American Studies Association’s 2009 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars.
  • Mack-Canty, Colleen. "Third-Wave Feminism and the Need to Reweave the Nature/Culture Duality" pp. 154–79, in NWSA Journal, Fall 2004, Vol. 16, Issue 3.
  • Pérez, Emma. "Gloria Anzaldúa: La Gran Nueva Mestiza Theorist, Writer, Activist-Scholar" pp. 1–10, in NWSA Journal; Summer 2005, Vol. 17, Issue 2.
  • Reuman, Ann E. "Coming Into Play: An Interview with Gloria Anzaldua" p. 3, in MELUS; Summer 2000, Vol. 25, Issue 2.
  • Stone, Martha E. "Gloria Anzaldúa" pp. 1, 9, in Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide; January/February 2005, Vol. 12, Issue 1.
  • Ward, Thomas. "Gloria Anzaldúa y la lucha fronteriza", in Resistencia cultural: La nación en el ensayo de las Américas, Lima, 2004, pp. 336–42.

External links

  • Template:Sister-inline
  • biography
  • Obituary for Gloria Anzaldúa
  • "Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldua"
  • "Gloria Anzaldua Legacy Project - MySpace"
  • Finding aid for the Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa Papers, 1942-2004
  • Finding aid for the Gloria Anzaldúa Altares Collection

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.