For me, your 1987 Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza feels like an ode to healing written to transcend trauma, an “Ode to Self Care” à la Solange Knowles for the Xicanx, Brown, people of the borderlands. Even though your work delves into some of the darkest places created by borders, it also sings healing to the trauma that Xicanx communities have experienced at the hands of colonialism and borders. Through your work, you found light – the mestiza consciousness-and you sang it back into the world for all of us to hear and sing along to. I could never thank you enough for providing me and so many others who can relate to your experiences with such a glorious playbook on healing and the necessary instructions to achieve it.
Thank you for allowing me, like a serpent, to shed all of my internalized hatred for myself and my community. Before you, I was embarrassed about where I came from and the rasquache aesthetic that decorated my grandparents’ home-the bright and mustard yellow colors of our house and its trees adorned with recycled Coke bottle bird feeders. I used to try to hide from others that my grandma, the most amazing cook to have ever existed, sold food plates to make money. I used to be ashamed that I didn’t live in a household with my mother and father and instead lived with my grandparents and aunt. But then you came along.
You have taught me not to be ashamed of myself, to appreciate every single brown face and every mano de harina that I encounter, and you have taught me to love—openly, honestly, and genuinely. By reminding me that I need others to survive these borderlands, you have also pushed me to celebrate myself, my culture, and my community. In doing so, your words have rejuvenated my love for Mexican ingenuity, like the toilets used as flower beds and old tires as pots outside my grandparent’s house. Your words have reminded me that it is a luxury to have experienced life the way that I did— to live with my grandparents so that they could teach me all of their ancestral knowledge like hanging snakes on the fence for rain in the midst of droughts. Your words have taught me to navigate the world, the old and the new, and because of that, I am no longer ashamed. I am now thankful because your words have helped remind me of the purest beauty that exists in the Río Grande Valley.
Gloria, words cannot express how much you have assisted me on my journey of re-discovery. Thirty years following the publication of Borderlands/La Frontera, this book and all of its contents have impacted and changed so many lives, including my own. In fact, just as you predicted, the Valley is not at all how you remembered it—it is better. Although the Valley still faces tremendous challenges and issues, your work has helped so many members of our community heal, love, and commit to fighting for social justice and change.
Because of all of this, it is only fair that I and we in the Valley continue to celebrate, remember, and lift up the knowledge you gifted us through works like Borderlands/La Frontera. It is my hope that by doing so, your work will continue, as was the case with me, to change lives.
With the most love,
If you enjoyed this letter, join The Center for Mexican American Studies at UTRGV at the 11th Annual “El Retorno: El Valle Celebra Nuestra Gloria” event on May 16, 2018, in honor of the life, work, and legacy of Valley native Gloria Anzaldúa (1942-2004).
This event pays homage to her and one of the places she held dear to her heart, El Valle, which is also where she was born and raised. All are invited to meet at 10 AM at Valle de la Paz Cemetery in Hargill, where Gloria Anzaldúa is buried for a brief ceremony/presentation.
From 12-3 PM, the community will gather at the UTRGV Edinburg campus Ballroom for a luncheon and presentation titled “El Valle: 30 Years After Borderlands/La Frontera: Nepantlerxs Comprometidxs con el Conocimiento.” The event will feature local, poets, artists, scholars, and musicians, including music by Roma High School band Conjunto Los Cardenales. We will also welcome back home featured speaker Dr. María Herrera-Sobek, professor of Chican@ Studies & Associate Vice Chancellor For Diversity Equity & Academic Policy at UC Santa Barbara.
This event is sponsored by The Center for Mexican American Studies in collaboration with the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa and El Mundo Zurdo Conference 2018. “El Retorno” began on campus in 2008 and would not be possible without the inspiration of the grassroots Gloria Anzaldúa Legacy Project founded by community members in 2007. All of these events are free and open to the public. For more information or accommodations, please call CMAS at (956) 665-3212.