Grinding the Bones to Create Anew: Gloria Anzaldúa’s Mestiza Mythology

  • Cassie Premo Steele


In the previous chapters on Anzaldúa, we examined how her writing shows the effects of living in the era after the shattering, when all around us we see broken pieces, epitomized by the oppositions between spirit and body, good and bad, and life and death. Anzaldúa’s vision of healing, as we will see, stems from her status as a survivor of collective, historical trauma, just as Sexton’s and Lorde’s visions came from their specific histories as survivors. We saw in chapters seven and eight that Sexton and Lorde’s visions of healing reconnect the pieces of this traumatic history, and like both Sexton and Lorde, Anzaldúa’s vision includes a revision and revalorization of female figures of cultural mythology.1 Unlike Sexton, however, Anzaldúa does not have to imagine a goddess mythology; instead, she can, as Lorde does, turn to the archeological and historical knowledge of the past for her myths. In this way, her rewriting of these myths serves as a witnessing of the past belief and subsequent erasure of these myths.2


Traumatic History Female Figure Spanish Word Traumatic Past Traumatic Violence 
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  1. 1.
    Ana Castillo, in Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma, writes, “In much the same way that the [White Woman’s Movement] sought an affirmation of womanhood through European goddess worship, the mestiza resurrects her own pantheon of indigenous goddesses, particularly Guadalupe/Tonantzin, and Coatlicue. This desire … is a most necessary process for self-healing … from the devastating blows we receive from society for having been born poor, non-white, and female.” (New York: Plume, 1994), p. 152.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
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  19. 34.
    Cherríe Moraga writes of this particular piece of Anzaldúa’s writing that “the imagery seems to float, disconnected from its point of reference,” which, although intended to be a criticism of Anzaldúa’s writing, is actually a perfect description of Anzaldúa’s effectiveness in conveying the impossibility of reference in traumatic history. Ana Louise Keating seems to understand this when she writes that “Anzaldúa adopts this mythic figure to invent an ethnic specific yet transcultural symbol; … the disorienting prose that Moraga finds so objectionable furthers Anzaldúa’s metaphor, for it replicates the fragmentation that characterizes the Coatlicue state.” See Moraga, “Algo secretamente amado,” The Sexuality of Latinas, ed. Norma Alarcón, Ana Casillo, and Cherríe Moraga (Berkeley: Third Women Press, 1993): 151–156, p. 152; and Keating, Women Reading / Women Writing, p. 35.Google Scholar
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© Cassie Premo Steele 2000

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