Gloria Anzaldúa (1942-2004) was an influential activist, author, and advocate. Her works mark the power of intersectional stories and left a longstanding legacy in Chicana literary history. Anzaldúa was born and raised in Texas and her work is often inspired by the “Borderland” and Tejana culture she experienced in Southern Texas. With her unique blend of poetry and theory, Anzaldua’s works have become essential to Chicana, Feminist, and Queer theories. Her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) blends both poetry and theory together and fearlessly explores the realities of living in America as a bilingual, Queer, Latinx woman. Additionally, her work co-edited with Cherríe Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981), is considered a groundbreaking work for Feminist theory and famously includes her work "La Prieta." Her other works include her children’s stories Prietita Has a Friend (1991), Friends from the Other Side — Amigos del Otro Lado (1993), and Prietita y La Llorona (1996) as well as her posthumously published work Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality (2015).
Anzaldúa is a great example of the power of language, as she fiercely spoke out against the harms of "linguistic terrorism." Her works often explore the struggle to be a woman of color in America and the influence of language on identity. Borderlands captures these themes as she seamlessly writes in the eight languages that make up her identity (two English and six Spanish variations), capturing the significance language has had on her life. Her works detail the struggles for linguistic justice and the importance of honoring all languages. Living in a “borderland” herself as a Tejana, Anzaldua captured the experience many Americans face when living in two cultures.
Her theoretical work has become so influential that many consider it a necessary landmark in Latinx history and philosophy. With the introduction of theories such as "the new mestiza," "Nepantlera," and the "Coyolxauhqui imperative," her legacy has had a lasting impact on Latinx theory. Anzaldua taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz and her work has been hailed by Feminist, Latinx, and Literary theorists alike. Anzaldua has won the National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Award (1991), the American Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award (2001), 100 Best Books of the Century by both Hungry Mind Review and Utne Reader for Borderlands, and The National Women's Studies Association has created the Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize in her honor.
“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” (Anzaldua)
Autumn Andersen is an English Literature graduate student at Stanislaus State. In addition to being a Penumbra editor, she is a tutor at her school's writing center.