“Una Herida Abierta”: The Border as Wound in Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera

  • Cassie Premo Steele


Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza has been praised as a visionary, ground-breaking work by many.1 Literary critics, Sonia Saldívar-Hull, Ramón Saldívar and Paula Gunn Allen, have all referred to Anzaldúa’s work as a seminal text in both contemporary Chicano/a literary studies and “border studies.”2 The work has likewise been hailed by scholars in other disciplines, such as Carl Gutiérrez-Jones in critical legal studies, Oscar J. Martínez in sociology, Ruth Behar in anthropology, and Ronald Takaki in history; most conclude their works with a reference to her work.3 Why is it that scholars in the humanities and social sciences alike claim her work as exemplary? The answer lies primarily in the figure of the “border” that she uses, a figure that parallels Freud’s figure of trauma as a wound.4 As Anzaldúa shows and as I will explore, the border functions as a marker of an open wound—the marker of a collective traumatic history. Anzaldúa’s work explores the literal U.S.-Mexico border as a wound, as a site of historical trauma that continues to affect the present experiences of individuals and communities. Further, Anzaldúa’s work presents a vision of the figurai Borderlands, sites where there arise positive possibilities for healing from the effects of traumatic events, both individual and collective, both separate and shared.


Traumatic History Traumatic Past Figural Return Critical Legal Study Border Culture 
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  1. 2.
    Sonia Saldívar-Hull, “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. 211; Ramón Saldívar, Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990), p. 218; Paula Gunn Allen, “‘Border Studies’: The Intersection of Gender and Color,” The Ethnic Canon: Histories, Institutions, and Interventions, ed. David Palumbo-Liu (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995): 31–47, p. 45.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
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© Cassie Premo Steele 2000

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  • Cassie Premo Steele

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