“Staking fence rods in my flesh”: Anzaldúa’s Embodied Borderland

In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldúa boldly claims an identity inherently composed of the intersecting elements of Chicana culture, internalizing the complexities of the US-Mexico borderland. As Smith and Watson explain, “the cultural meanings assigned particular bodies affect the stories people can tell,” (53) and, by engaging their experiences through embodiment, “writers “engage, contest, and revise laws and norms determining the relationship of bodies to specific sites, behaviors, and destinies” (54). For Anzaldúa, the conflicted relationship between the elements of her culture are not only reflected in her personal experience but also physically ingrained into her being, forming a deep part of her “American” self.

In envisioning the physical border dividing her homeland Anzaldúa sees a physical wound on the earth that is echoed in her own body. As a “1,950 mile-long open wound/ dividing a pueblo, a culture,/ running down the length of my body,/ staking rods in my flesh,” the border represents  a divisive external force that severs essential elements on both sides of the land and of the self from each other (24). Anzaldúa continues embodying the struggles of her culture as she describes a trip to the dentist when her “wild tongue” refuses to be still, pushing out the invasive equipment in her mouth (75). Like the dental apparatus, Anglo-English in her mouth proves to be an invader that must be pushed out. By envisioning an everyday event such as a dentist visit as a representation of the conflict between her will to maintain her culture Anzaldúa again reveals the extent to which she has internalized the physicality of the cultural strife surrounding her.

Furthermore, Anzaldúa embodies the difficulties of communicating her identity through writing in a dramatic fashion. Portraying losing control of her body as part of her creative process, Anzaldúa’s work and her body become one unit: “To be a mouth–the cost is too high–her whole life is enslaved to that devouring mouth. Todo pasaba por esa boca, el viento, el fuego, los mares y la Tierra. Her body, a crossroads, a fragile bridge, cannot support the tons of cargo passing through it” (96). Ultimately, as both a vessel for her creative efforts and her fight for Chicana identity, Anzaldúa completely absorbs and embodies the elements of her surroundings in order to more completely communicate her self to her readers.


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