Farewell to Gloria Anzaldúa (1942-2004)

Gloria Anzaldúa, one of the best-known Chicana cultural critics and
creative writers, passed away on May 15 from diabetes-related complications.
She was born in Rio Grande Valley of South Texas in 1942. She
completed a B.A. from Pan American University and an M.A. from the
University of Texas, Austin. At the time of her death, she was completing
her Ph. D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She also taught
courses on Chicano Studies, feminist studies, and creative writing in various
Anzaldúa’s work included creative prose and poetry, short stories, autobiographical
narratives, essays on cultural theory and criticism, and children’s
books. Cherríe Moraga recently described her as “hermana/maestra/
visionary sister-writer” and a “a source of profound inspiración in the way
she made writing her life’s warrior work.” Her publications include: This
Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981);
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987); Making Face, Making
Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists-of-Color
(1990), two bilingual children’s books, Friends from the Other Side/Amigos del
otro lado (1993) and Prietita and the Ghost Woman/ Prietita y la Llorona
(1995); Interviews/Entrevistas (2000); and a collection co-edited with
Analouise Keating, this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation
(2002). She was the recipient of numerous awards, such as Before
Columbus Foundation American Book Award, the Lambda Lesbian Small
Book Press Award, an NEA Fiction Award, the Lesbian Rights Award, the
Sappho Award of Distinction, a National Endowment for the Arts Fiction
Award, and the American Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
Borderlands/La Frontera, her most famous book, was recognized as one of
the 100 Best Books of the Century by both Hungry Mind Review and Utne
Reader. In this collection, Anzaldúa explored the constitution of a “new
mestiza consciousness,” adding diasporic, feminist, and queer dimensions to
the long-standing debate on miscegenation as a vital characteristic of Latino
American identities. One of the most significant contributions is her resignification
of the term “homophobia” as a “malestar de mi cultura” that consists
on “Fear of going home. And of not being taken in. We are afraid of being
abandoned by the mother, the culture, la Raza, for being unacceptable,
faulty damaged” (20), and her reversal of the curse on la Malinche —“Not
me sold out by my people but they me” (20-21)— and of the notion of
Chicanos as those who return back to their origins in Aztlán.
Farewell to the artist who redefined home as a displaced personal territory
—“I am a turtle, wherever I go I carry ‘home’ on my back” (21)— and let’s
keep that home she built in her writing forever moving, acquiring new
meanings and opening new paths for students, researchers and community
members interested in Chicano/Latino American and LGBT issues.