Anzaldúa was born in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas on September 26, 1942 to Urbano Anzaldúa and Amalia Anzaldúa née García. Gloria Anzaldúa's great-grandfather, Urbano Sr., once a precinct judge in Hidalgo County, was the first owner of the Jesús María Ranch on which Anzaldúa was born. Anzaldúa's mother grew up on an adjoining ranch, Los Vergeles ("the gardens"), which was owned by her family, and met and married Urbano Anzaldúa when both were very young. Anzaldúa is a descendant of many of the prominent Basque and Spanish explorers and settlers to come to the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries. The surname Anzaldúa is of Basque origin.
Anzaldúa began menstruating when she was only three months old, a symptom of the endocrine condition that caused her to stop growing physically at the age of twelve. Anzaldúa eventually underwent a hysterectomy to deal with uterine, cervical, and ovarian abnormalities. Reflecting upon her illness, she announced "I was born a queer."
When she was eleven, her family relocated to Hargill, Texas. Despite feeling discriminated against as a sixth-generation Tejana and as a female, and despite the death of her father from a car accident when she was fourteen, Anzaldúa still obtained her college education. In 1968, she received a B.A. in English, Art, and Secondary Education from Pan American University, and an M.A. in English and Education from the University of Texas at Austin. While in Austin, she joined politically active cultural poets and radical dramatists such as Ricardo Sanchez, and Hedwig Gorski.
After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in English from the then Pan American University (now University of Texas-Pan American), Anzaldúa worked as a preschool and special education teacher. In 1977, she moved to California where she supported herself through her writing, lectures, and occasional teaching stints about feminism, Chicano studies, and creative writing at San Francisco State University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Florida Atlantic University, among other universities.
She is perhaps most famous for coediting This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981) with Cherríe Moraga, editing Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color (1990), and coediting This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation (2002). She also wrote the semi-autobiographical Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987). Her children’s books include Prietita Has a Friend (1991), Friends from the Other Side - Amigos del Otro Lado (1993), and Prietita y La Llorona (1996). She has also authored many fictional and poetic works. Her works weave English and Spanish together as one language, an idea stemming from her theory of "borderlands" identity. Her autobiographical essay, "La Prieta," was published in (mostly) English in This Bridge Called My Back, and in (mostly) Spanish in Esta puente, mi espalda: Voces de mujeres tercermundistas en los Estados Unidos. In her writing, Anzaldua uses a unique blend of eight languages, two variations of English and six of Spanish. In many ways, by writing in "Spanglish," Anzaldua creates a daunting task for the non-bilingual reader to decipher the full meaning of the text. However, there is irony in the mainstream reader's feeling of frustration and irritation. These are the very emotions Anzaldua has dealt with throughout her life, as she has struggled to communicate in a country where she felt as a non-English speaker she was shunned and punished. Language, clearly one of the borders Anzaldua addresses, is an essential feature to her writing. Her book is dedicated to being proud of one's heritage and to recognizing the many dimensions of her culture.
She has made contributions to ideas of feminism and has contributed to the field of cultural theory/Chicana and queer theory. One of her major contributions was her introduction to United States academic audiences of the term mestizaje, meaning a state of being beyond binary ("either-or") conception, into academic writing and discussion. In her theoretical works, Anzaldúa calls for a "new mestiza," which she describes as an individual aware of her conflicting and meshing identities and uses these "new angles of vision" to challenge binary thinking in the Western world. The "new mestiza" way of thinking is illustrated in postcolonial feminism. In the same way that Anzaldúa felt she could not be classified as only part of one race or the other, she felt that she possessed a multi-sexuality. When growing up, Anzaldúa expressed that she felt an "intense sexuality" towards her own father, to animals and even to trees. She was attracted to and later had relationships with both men and women.
While race normally divides people, Anzaldúa called for people of different races to confront their fears in order to move forward into a world that is less hateful and more useful. In "La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness," a text often used in women’s studies courses, Anzaldúa insisted that separatism invoked by Chicanos/Chicanas is not furthering the cause, but instead keeping the same racial division in place. Many of Anzaldúa’s works challenge the status quo of the movements in which she was involved. She challenged these movements in an effort to make real change happen to the world, rather than to specific groups.
Anzaldúa wrote a speech called “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers”, focusing on the shift towards an equal and just gender representation in literature, but away from racial and cultural issues due to the rise of female writers and theorists. She also stressed in her essay the power of writing to create a world which would compensate for what the real world does not offer us.
She died on May 15, 2004 at her home in Santa Cruz, California from complications due to diabetes. At the time of her death, Anzaldúa was working toward the completion of her dissertation to receive her doctorate in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz. It was awarded posthumously in 2005.
Several institutions now offer awards in memory of Anzaldúa.
The Chicana/o Latina/o Research Center (CLRC) at University of California, Santa Cruz offers the annual Gloria E. Anzaldúa Distinguished Lecture Award and The Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars and Contingent Faculty is offered annually by the American Studies Association. The latter, "... honors Anzaldúa’s outstanding career as an independent scholar and her labor as contingent faculty, along with her groundbreaking contributions to scholarship on women of color and to queer theory. The award includes a lifetime membership in the ASA, a lifetime electronic subscription to American Quarterly, five years access to the electronic library resources at the University of Texas at Austin, and $500".
Anzaldúa's published and unpublished manuscripts, among other archival resources, form part of the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. Anzaldúa also maintained a collection of figurines, masks, rattles, candles, and other ephemera used as altar (altares) objects at her home in Santa Cruz, California. These altares were an integral part of her spiritual life and creative process as a writer. The collection is presently housed by the Special Collections department of the University Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Burial: Valle De La Paz Cemetery, Hargill, Hidalgo County, Texas, USA
Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands. Smart and tough and beautiful. An original warrior princess. --Sarah Black
Gloria Anzaldua by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1081983)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digital
Borderlands/La Frontera, Third Edition: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: Aunt Lute Books; 3rd edition (June 1, 2007)
Amazon: Borderlands/La Frontera, Third Edition: The New Mestiza
Cultural Writing. Essays. Latino/Latina Studies. Rooted in Gloria Anzaldua's experience as a Chicana, a lesbian, an activist, and a writer, the groundbreaking essays and poems in this volume profoundly challenged how we think about identity. BORDERLANDS/LA FRONTERA remapped our understanding of what a "border" is, seeing it not as a simple divide between here and there, us and them, but as a psychic, social, and cultural terrain that we inhabit, and that inhabits all of us. This twentieth-anniversary edition features new commentaries from prominent activists, artists, and teachers on the legacy of Gloria Anzaldua's visionary work.
this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation edited by Gloria Anzaldúa & AnaLouise Keating
Paperback: 624 pages
Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (September 22, 2002)
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More than twenty years after the ground-breaking anthology This Bridge Called My Back called upon feminists to envision new forms of communities and practices, Gloria E. Anzaldúa and AnaLouise Keating have painstakingly assembled a new collection of over eighty original writings that offers a bold new vision of women-of-color consciousness for the twenty-first century. Written by women and men--both "of color" and "white"--this bridge we call home will challenge readers to rethink existing categories and invent new individual and collective identities.
Bridging: How Gloria Anzaldúa's Life and Work Transformed Our Own edited by AnaLouise Keating
Paperback: 292 pages
Publisher: University of Texas Press (May 15, 2012)
Amazon: Bridging: How Gloria Anzaldúa's Life and Work Transformed Our Own
The inspirational writings of cultural theorist and social justice activist Gloria Anzaldúa have empowered generations of women and men throughout the world. Charting the multiplicity of Anzaldúa's impact within and beyond academic disciplines, community trenches, and international borders, Bridging presents more than thirty reflections on her work and her life, examining vibrant facets in surprising new ways and inviting readers to engage with these intimate, heartfelt contributions.
Bridging is divided into five sections: The New Mestizas: "transitions and transformations"; Exposing the Wounds: "You gave me permission to fly in the dark"; Border Crossings: Inner Struggles, Outer Change; Bridging Theories: Intellectual Activism with/in Borders; and "Todas somos nos/otras": Toward a "politics of openness." Contributors, who include Norma Elia Cantú, Elisa Facio, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Aída Hurtado, Andrea Lunsford, Denise Segura, Gloria Steinem, and Mohammad Tamdgidi, represent a broad range of generations, professions, academic disciplines, and national backgrounds. Critically engaging with Anzaldúa's theories and building on her work, they use virtual diaries, transformational theory, poetry, empirical research, autobiographical narrative, and other genres to creatively explore and boldly enact future directions for Anzaldúan studies.
A book whose form and content reflect Anzaldúa's diverse audience, Bridging perpetuates Anzaldúa's spirit through groundbreaking praxis and visionary insights into culture, gender, sexuality, religion, aesthetics, and politics. This is a collection whose span is as broad and dazzling as Anzaldúa herself.