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20090415 Cisneros, and Anzaldúa

Page history last edited by hrberma@... 12 years, 2 months ago



     Sandra Cisneros is a Chicana writer.  A Chicana is a United States born woman who has an ancestry in Mexico.  Cisneros' early life provided many experiences she would later draw on as a writer: she grew up as the only daughter in a family of six brothers, which often made her feel isolated, and the constant migration of her family between Mexico and the USA made it difficult for her to identify a stable home.  Cisneros' work explores the development of Chicana identity, as well as the prospect of being caught between Mexican and Anglo-American cultures. “Woman Hollering Creek,” (1991is about a Mexican woman named Cleofilas, who marries Juan Pedro Martinez Sanchez. After moving to Seguin, Texas from Mexico, Cleofilas' hope of having a happy marriage, similarly to the characters she watches in the telenovelas, is shattered.  


     Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua was a Chicana as well, who was especially known for her feminist writing, and her Chicana identity, similarly to Cisneros.  She too lived a life with dual identities, however regardless of the oppression she faced in the united States, she was still able to receive a college degree from Pan American University and a masters degree from the University of Texas at Austin.  Her book, Borderlands/La Frontera (1987), has received much praise, and is printed interchangeably today in Spanish and English.  Her book is essentially a group of essays and poems exploring identity, each pertaining to Anzaldua's experience as a Chicana, as well as a lesbian. 




"But it is not enough t stand on the opposite river bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal, white conventions. A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator of violence. The counterstance refutes the dominant culture's views and beliefs, and, for this, it is proudly defiant. All reaction is limited by, and dependent on, what it is reacting against. Because the counterstance stems from a  problem with authority-outer as well as inner-it's a step towards liberation from cultural domination. but it is not a way of life. At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes." 

- the writer has a tolerance for ambiguity (like Pynchon)

- through both the practice of code-switching and the figure of the mestiza, we find the possibility to fix these original gaps she's referring to

- binaries

     - ex. up/down; in/out; male/female; white/black

     - the first (up,male, white) are privileged, while the second only makes sense in opposition to the privileged


p. 2941 "The loss of a sense of dignity and respect in the macho breeds a false machismo which leads him to put down women and even to brutalize them. Coexisting with his sexist behavior is a love for the mother which takes precedence over that of all others. Devoted son, macho pig. To wash down the shame of his acts, of his very being, and to handle the brute in the mirror, he takes to the bottle, the snort, the needle, and the fist."

- the writer here is expressing her belief that it is imperative that women support one another in the sexist element

- basically, women should help each other until men figure out their problems

- it's a cycle: shame of his brutal acts only furthers the mistreatment of women


p. 2951 "So, if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity - I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself. Until I can accept as legitimate Chicano Texas Spanish, Tex-Mex and all the other languages I speak, I cannot accept the legitimacy of myself. Until I am free to write bilingually and to switch codes without having always to translate, while I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak Spanglish, and as long as I have to accomodate the English speakers rather than having them accomodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate."

- the writer is expressing her desire to be capable of code switching freely and the pressure to speak in one language or the other. 

- this code switching allows people who speak the same two languages to interchange the two freely. This creates a group identification: those who can actively engage in code-switching are considered a part of the group, while others are considered outsiders.

Key Terms:


Chicana / Chicano: A pejorative, ethnic term (not racial) that refers to Mexican Americans living in the borderlands who are members of the lowest social class.


Mestiza: A term used throughout the Spanish empire that refers to a person with mixed ancestory –- specifically European and Native American (Aztekian) ancestry. A Mestiza is a Chicana/o plus Indian blood. Mestiza, unlike Chicana, is a term that addresses the concept of race.


Code Switching: A process which allows two or more people who speak the same multiple languages to switch back and forth during conversation. It can happen at sentence breaks, or even produce hybrid words. Code switching helps people supplement speech between languages –- it's useful in the sense that one may start to realize there are concepts that exist in other cultures that don’t exist in one's own culture. Code switching speaks to a particular group, it's a borderland practice, and it identifies people with a common background.


Chicana Women: there are three understandings:

1.  La Virgen de Guadalupe: the virgin of Guadalupe

2.  La Chingada: "the raped one"; "the fucked one"; the virgin whore

3.  La Llorona: the woman who cries


Comments (7)

Apoorwa Thati said

at 3:14 am on Apr 17, 2009

hey guys i put in a quote .. we still need a summary

Allix said

at 4:35 am on Apr 17, 2009

guys? it's 4:33 AM and barely anything is on here. i am sorry to post this, and don't want to be rude, but can i get some help here?

i have a class before american lit and i cannot work on this anymore, not to mention there's nothing for me to edit or revise. :(

where are you??

hrberma@... said

at 9:22 am on Apr 17, 2009

ok I'm sorry guys I just completely forgot about this wiki. I have been working on a presentation for his other class (poetry) and it just slipped my mind. I have added some summary of the works we read and the authors themselves. SHould I try and add anything else?

Allix said

at 9:28 am on Apr 17, 2009

thanks hunter! :)

pdavis5@... said

at 10:00 am on Apr 17, 2009

i've added the quotes... but i'm not sure what page the first one is on... if anyone knows the exact page, that would be fabulous :)

hrberma@... said

at 10:58 am on Apr 17, 2009

Let's take a deep breath...and remember the famous High School Musical song, "We're All in This Together." Wow I need the weekend.

Brian Croxall said

at 11:47 pm on Apr 20, 2009

Your notes for today do a good job of pulling out important passages from Anzaldúa’s text, as well as highlighting most of the terms that I saw as being important in the lecture. Perhaps the only term that is missing is “binaries.” You discuss the importance of this term in the first passage, but you don’t really give the reader a sense of what it means and how we used it in class.

Where your notes aren’t very effective is in the summary. What you’ve provided is primarily a summary of the authors’ biographies. This might have filled a sentence of the summary for each author, but it wasn’t the focus of our class discussion. Some of the topics that I would have expected to see in the summary include the reasons why Anzaldúa insists on writing in English and Spanish (she makes visible a community that has been ignored in the past); to talk about the new consciousness that is made possible by the mestiza (the radical hybridity of the mestiza makes different perspectives simultaneously possible through her tolerance for ambiguity and through her ability to reshape language); the effect of fiction/media on the women in Cisneros’s story; and how Cleofilas breaks out of the possibilities that seem to be fated for her. I recognize that that is a lot for 300 words. And some of this shows up in your analysis of the passages. But those passages could be better explicated in full sentences rather than in bullet points.

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