Anzaldua’s autobiography, Borderlands, alludes to the existence of a place with people that feel alienated by their own cultures and the dominant culture. Indeed, the findings and theories in the book are particularly applicable in today’s world where thousands of people have multiple cultural backgrounds. Having come from two cultural background I find myself at a similar crossroad as the author and at a place of both and somewhere in between. First, I have witnessed Chinese culture having spent some time in the country with the other part taking part of the American culture. Ultimately, I do not conform or fit into either of the cultures fully thus making me some sort of an outcast of both cultures. Although I am now living in the United States, it is not my dominant culture and cannot replace the Chinese culture. Similarly, I fail to integrate into the Chinese culture as I have American values and I am also considered to be white. The fact that I have no single place that I can describe as my home and the lack of a separate culture for people from multiple backgrounds makes me have my own borderland.
Perhaps the existence of a unique borderland in my life has shaped key aspects of my being including values and norms. As a result of having experienced two cultural backgrounds, I have continually defined my personal sphere and shaped my values to conform to the different experiences (Anzaldua, p. 4). In particular, I share aspects of both Chinese and American culture through religious and political values. Further, my understanding of gender values as well as economical and linguistic aspects is widened having interacted with people from different backgrounds. I appreciate the value of having multiple cultural identities that cannot be confined within a simple definition of race or ethnicity. Indeed, I can study hard and succeed in academics in a society that believes I am too brown for education. The very essence of multiple identities is not abnormality but a better understanding of the world perspectives. By embracing education, I have decided to break down these borders while identifying with a new political ideology. In addition, I also identify with unique sexual values where I respect people’s choices with regard to their sexuality and gender. It is not in me to ridicule other people for their personal life choices.
The theories discussed in the book also reflect my personal borderland with relation to such aspects as religion and linguistic. Indeed, I am a person who does not associate with a single religious grouping having witnessed multiple religions. My personal take on religion is that we all should respect each other’s religious beliefs without considering our views more superior. By having multiple religious cultures, I have broken down borders on religion and opted to identify with all religions (Thoreau, p. 92). In terms of gender, I fail to conform to gender identities where the roles of male and female groupings are predetermined, often by men. In my borderland, I envision that roles should be shared in a fair manner such that all genders are treated equally. I have come to learn that it is okay for men and women to undertake similar roles in society without having to face judgment based on their respective genders. I also don’t conform to traditionally held beliefs regarding linguistic and educational dispensations. Accordingly, my borderland appreciates the place of women I academia and their continued contribution to the development of knowledge.
The writer attains a perfect description of the existence of vague and undetermined location that is created through the emotional remnants of an artificial boundary. The use of this approach is particularly significant in understanding the phenomenon as it explores memoir, poetry, myth and research. In the opening poem, visual examples of borderlands are articulated through a firsthand experience of the author. In describing her walk through the physical border, the author explains the feeling of a 139 year old fence that is continually rusted by salty water from the sea (Anzaldua, p. 21). Further, the author applies traditional symbols in describing the place of gender in society. The eagle is used in characterizing the male gender in society while the serpent is used in describing the female gender. The author argues that the representation of females as serpents is an attempt to symbolize the trouncing of feminine powers and the inception of patriarchal powers in America. The understanding of this concept is significant in articulating the place of people like me that do not conform to a single identity and that relate with multiple cultural identities.
The use of different styles and approaches in the book is further proof of the role of memoirs, poems and myth in articulating the place of multiple cultural values in society. In one poem, the author details the location in which her grandmother was abused and her cattle and land were stolen (Anzaldua, p. 38). This articulation confirms myths that women were not considered to be owners of land and property within the traditional American society. In fact, women were the subject of continued gender violence and abuse from their male counterparts including rape and physical abuse. This fact is well documented in a story towards the end of the book where a description of how women were battered and abused is achieved. In the story, the author explores the myth of gender abuse through the painting of a picture of women not being able to visit the bathroom while working. These values, myths and beliefs are quashed in the book through a brave attack by the author to depict their diminishing value in society. Through the interpretations in the text, one is able to visualize the place of people of mixed cultural backgrounds that have no singular identity.
Having a unique borderland is essential in the advocacy of better living in today’s modern society. In fact, having come from diverse cultural backgrounds confers immense gifts in that it encourages the appreciation of people of different cultural values. For instance, the borderlands that I have are built around the principle of inclusion to include people of all values and beliefs. I have no stereotype for any one group of people thus making me comfortable with most people that I come across. In addition, this value helps me to meet more people and interact with their values thus learning from them while impacting on their lives positively. Another gift of borderlands is that it helps me in appreciating my value in society even when I feel I am not inclined towards the dominant society (Dunn, p. 64). Moreover, the existence of a unique borderland in my life presents me with the opportunity of having to study hard in a society that believes that education is a reserve for the white. I now value my identity much more because it defines a person who is too strong to be constructed through a single definition. Ultimately, therefore, the gifts of borderlands are varied and immense and beneficial to the development of all aspects of human beings.
The concepts outlined in the book coupled with my life on the borderlands have shaped my concepts of life and led to the development of new insights on the same. Perhaps the biggest insight is that being an American Chinese means growing up between two cultures. I have learned that life is a collection of contradictions between different social and traditional norms that are not always comfortable for the people. However, these contradictions represent my life and provide a home for me and thousands of other people. The society is also categorized based on different races and social values, something that is shared by people of mixed cultures. The truth of this life is that I represent all the different categories by having grown up in different cultural backgrounds. Further, I have learned that having a mixture of different identities in sexuality, language and ethnicity confers a gift of awareness (Satrapi, p. 73). In this regard, exposure in life makes one have an alert sense to navigate the challenges of an oppressive life. In essence, the existence of Latinas and Chicanas presents ambiguities that are occasioned by the overlapping identities. However, the possession of these ambiguities and contradictions is perfectly normal in life.
The knowledge of the existence of people with multiple cultural backgrounds can only be termed as a blessing in modern life. The only logical step is the acceptance of the normality of contradictions and ambiguities associated with multiple cultural backgrounds. Further, one must embrace their identities by breaking from the limiting borders of cultural values. This step is essential in effecting changes in the personal perception of reality and the way that people view themselves and others. It is important to understand and appreciate that it is okay to have values that are unique and not similar to conventionally accepted norms. Indeed, the possession of different values is not a pointer of confusion in the people but an expression of diversity (Anzaldua, p. 17). It is the society that suffers the most by limiting its categorization of values in dualities that are often expressed in opposing fashion. The place of people of color can only be reclaimed through a domination of values and systems that oppress these people. The people must take charge and rewrite the stories that have been miswritten by others and correct the misconceptions perpetrated with regards to multiple cultural backgrounds.
The autobiography has been a significant addition to my body of knowledge and my understanding of the history and life surrounding my being. In particular, I can now identify the different ways in which I live in my own borderland in cultural, economical and political aspects. Further, it is interesting how the author employs the different aspects of literature including prose and poem in painting a picture of the people that have diverse cultural backgrounds. By having a unique borderland, I have witnessed varied benefits including a better understanding of my persona and an appreciation of the contradictions in my life. Ultimately, the book is overly important in shaping an understanding of the history, community and roles of different people within the society.
Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands: The New Mestiza = La Frontera. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2007. Print.
Thoreau, Henry D. Civil Disobedience. Harrington Park, N.J: 5 x 8 Press, 1942. Print.
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. , 2008. Print.
Dunn, Susan. The Social Contract and the First and Second Discourses: Jean-jacques Rousseau. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. Print.
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