Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands was one of the assigned texts in my U.S. Mexico Border class this semester. In this book, Anzaldua writes about borders she encounters between herself and men, other cultures, and even her own culture as a homosexual Mexican-American woman from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. She expresses a deeply planted love for her culture by using personal narrative, poetry, and the unique approach of switching between English and Spanish without warning.
Amongst all of this literary beauty, she directly addresses the shortcomings of the Mexican-American culture. One problem Anzaldua specifically points out is machismo. She bashes machismo by calling out the oppression women experience because of this culturally developed mentality of male superiority.
As a native of the Rio Grande Valley like Anzaldua, I know what it is to live in a community where two worlds collide and make one. Living in a place where strong Mexican influence is easily detectable by seeing the kinds of restaurants operating or by hearing the kinds of languages spoken in schools (Spanish, Spanglish, Tex-Mex), I grew a love for this fusion of cultures. With this love came a sense of duty to defend my culture which typically meant a shut mouth about its flaws. I continually accepted the explanation, “Things are the way they are because that’s how they’ve always been.” I thought if I drew attention to something I thought was wrong with my culture, I would be embarrassing my own kind.
It was not until I read Anzaldua’s book that I realized that did not have to be true. Like a parent would, I could show tough love to my culture by teaching it to acknowledge and learn from its mistakes, instead of biting my tongue about them. The Humanities are frequently studied to learn about populations, experiences, and ideas that may seem to only be relevant in places that are worlds away. Learning about others is of great value. And so is learning from others. But let us remember that the Humanities can always have something to teach us about the worlds that are our own.