Welcome back to Towards Awareness! For this meeting, we will discuss excerpts from the book Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa. In these excerpts, Anzaldúa explores the pena (shame) associated with being from the borderlands: a shame which is heightened through language. She explores how she feels her Chicana identity cannot be accepted unless her language is because, as she says, “I am my language.” Ultimately, through the three passages, she is asking a question of identity: Who are the people of the borderlands?

First published in 1987, Borderlands is historical yet timeless. On the one hand, it speaks to lived realities shaped by specific factors, like location (i.e. Mexico, U.S…), identity (i.e. gender, ethnicity), and time (i.e. late 20th century). On the other hand, to the general ways language and culture impact day-to-day experiences. For example: while writing from–and about–a time of grave Chicana/o/x discrimination, Anzaldúa also captures overarching issues and aspirations of belonging, that many people face.

In preparation for our meeting, consider both dimensions. What does this reading teach us about the past? And how does it apply to the present-day or to other groups of English speakers? Another important element is how Borderlands relates to your personal language-learning / language-teaching experiences. After reading the excerpts, complete the following quotes as they relate to you (or if they don’t, tell us why):

Gloria AnzaldúaIn my own experience…
“Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity”“For me, linguistic identity is…
“Being Mexican is a state of soul not one of mind, not one of citizenship”“Being ________ is…
“To live in the Borderlands means you…”“To live in the Borderlands means…

Discussion Questions:

  • What is “Linguistic Terrorism”? How does it occur?
  • In which ways is language connected to identity?
  • How does life in borderlands/frontiers relate to migration?