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

  • Cassie Premo Steele

Abstract

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

Keywords

Traumatic History Female Figure Spanish Word Traumatic Past Traumatic Violence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  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.
    Roberta H. and Peter T. Markman, The Flayed God: The Mesoamerican Mythological Tradition (San Francisco: Harper, 1992), p. 190. The myth of origin appears on pp. 76–77.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    From Rachel Phillips, “Marina / Malinche: Masks and Shadows,” in Women in Hispanic Literature: Icons and Fallen Images, ed. Beth Miller (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983): 97–114. Cited in Ricks, p. 165.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Miguel Léon-Portilla, ed. with Intro. The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico, trans. from Nahuatl into Spanish, Angel Maria Garibay K. English trans., Lysander Kemp (Boston: Beacon, 1992), p. 35. Cited hereafter as Account.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Bernai Diaz del Castillo, The Conquest of New Spain, trans. J. M. Cohen (New York: Penguin, 1963), p. 85.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    La Malinche’s role as a scapegoat for the Mexican male’s fear of failure is discussed by Jean Franco in Plotting Women: Gender and Representation in Mexico (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), pp. 91–101.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    The similarities between the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe and appearances of the Virgin in Europe are discussed by Enrique Florescano, Memory, Myth, and Time in Mexico: From the Aztecs to Independence, trans. Albert G. Bork and Kathryn G. Bork (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994), p. 143.Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    From Bernadino de Sahagún, Historia general de las cosas Nueva España, 4 vols., ed. Angel Maria Garibay K. (Mexico: Editorial Porrúa, 1956). Cited in Ricks, p. 163.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Tey Diana Rebelledo and Eliana S. Rivero, “Introduction,” Infinite Divisions (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1993): 1–33, p. 31.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    Miguel Léon-Portilla, The Aztec Image of Self and Society: An Introduction to Nahua Culture, trans. J. Jorge Klor de Alva (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992), p. 114. Cited as Aztec.Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Ferdinand Anton, Women in Pre-Columbian America (New York: Abner Schram, 1973), p. 58–59.Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    Gene S. Stuart, The Mighty Aztecs (Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society, 1981), p. 136.Google Scholar
  13. 23.
    Debra D. Andrist writes that for Anzaldúa, “La serpiente entonces no solamente simboliza la natalidad y la función creativa por su aspecto divino, sino que también ofrece una esperanza para el futuro [The serpent then not only symbolizes birth and the creative function by its divine aspect, but also offers a hope for the future]” (245, my translation). See “La semiotica de la chicana: La escritura de Gloria Anzaldúa,” Mujer y literatura mexicana y chicana: Culturas en contacto, II, ed. Aralia Lopez Gonzalez, Amelia Malagamba, and Elena Urrutia (Mexico City; Tijuana: Colegio de Mexico; Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 1990): 243–247.Google Scholar
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    For more on the conceptions of history and time in Aztec civilization, see Tzvetan Todorov, La Conquête de l’Amérique (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1982) and Roberta H. Markman and Peter T. Markman, The Flayed God: The Mythology of Mesoamerica (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992): 164–179.Google Scholar
  15. 29.
    See Buffie Johnson, Lady of the Beasts: Ancient Images of the Goddess and Her Sacred Animals (San Francisco: Harper Row: 1988), pp. 163.Google Scholar
  16. 30.
    See Justino Fernández, Mexican Art (Middlesex: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd., 1965, rev.ed. 1967), p. 33.Google Scholar
  17. 32.
    This can be traced in Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia” and “Negation,” both from General Psychological Theory (New York: Collier, 1963): 164–179 and 213–217; and in Melanie Klein, “A Contribution to the Psychogenesis of Manic-Depressive States” and “Mourning And Its Relation to Manic-Depressive States” both from Contributions to Psycho-analysis 1921–1945 (London: Hogarth Press, 1948): 282–310 and 311–338.Google Scholar
  18. 33.
    Keating calls Coatlicue’s fall in this poem a “decision to jump,” but, as we will see, the fall is not determined to be either suicide or murder. See Ana Louise Keating, Women Reading / Women Writing: Self-Invention in Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Audre Lorde (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996), p. 40.Google Scholar
  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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    Bessel A. van der Kolk, “The Role of the Group in the Origin and Resolution of the Trauma Response,” Psychological Trauma, ed. Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D. (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, 1987): 153–171, p. 162.Google Scholar
  21. 39.
    See Sufi Order of the West, Spiritual Retreat Guide (New Lebanon, NY: Omega Press, 1985). The practice is spelled “La illaha illa ’la hu.” It literally means “There is no god but God.” Thanks to Karen Murphy for sharing this information with me.Google Scholar
  22. 41.
    From J. E. Circot, A Dictionary of Symbols, 2nd ed., trans. from the Spanish by Jack Sage (New York: Philosophical Library, 1971), p. 8.Google Scholar
  23. 42.
    From Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, unabridged, 2nd ed. (Williams Collins, 1980), p. 402.Google Scholar
  24. 44.
    From The New World Spanish-English and English-Spanish Dictionary, ed. Salvatore Ramondino (New York: Signet, 1969), p. 285.Google Scholar
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    The New World Spanish-English and English-Spanish Dictionary, ed. Salvatore Ramondino (New York: Signet, 1969), p. 220.Google Scholar
  26. 47.
    Lourdes Torres, “The Construction of the Self in U.S. Latina Autobiographies,” U.S. Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, ed. Chandra T. Mohanty, Anne Russo and Lourdes Torres (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1991): 271–287, p. 283.Google Scholar
  27. 48.
    Jessica Benjamin, as well, contributes to the understanding of intersubjectivity in the light of loss and destruction in “The Shadow of the Other (Subject): Intersubjectivity and Feminist Theory,” Constellations vol. 1, no. 2 (1994): 231–254.Google Scholar
  28. 50.
    Sidonie Smith, “The Autobiographical Manifesto: Identities, Temporalities, Politics,” Autobiography and Questions of Gender, ed. Shirley Neuman (London: Cass, 1992): 186–212, p. 203. See also Diane L. Fowlkes, “Moving from Feminist Identity Politics to Coalition Politics through a Feminist Materialist Standpoint of Intersubjectivity in Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza,” Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 12:2 (Spring 1997): 105–24, for further discussion of how Anzaldúa’s work presents a theory of the “intersubject.”Google Scholar
  29. 51.
    “Feminism on the Border: From Gender Politics to Geopolitics,” Criticism in the Borderlands, ed. Hector Calderon and José David Saldívar (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991): 203–220, p. 216, my emphasis.Google Scholar

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© Cassie Premo Steele 2000

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