The Use of Language by Anzaldúa

In the assigned excerpt, Gloria Anzaldúa uses two languages: English and Spanish. It is interesting to notice that the proportion of the languages in the text is not equal. The critical content is written in English, while Spanish is used only for headings, some words such as “tejanas”, and “centito” (Anzaldúa 1987, 10); and quotations of the poems. What is more, not all the lyrics and quotes in Spanish have a translation into English. Apart from that, there are examples where three paragraphs are written in Spanish, and only the final sentence is in English. More precisely, this place could be found at the beginning of the second chapter, “Movimientos de rebeldía y las culturas que traicionan” (Anzaldúa 1987, 37). This peculiarity has particular importance for understanding Anzaldúa s reasons to choose the bilingual strategy.

First of all, Anzaldúa was a Chicana feminist, and the book is concerned with the defense of Chicana women. Therefore, English seems to be used as “the language of feminist assertion” (Anzaldúa 1987, 4), whereas Spanish indicates defiance to the fluently English-speaking patriarchs. Anzaldúas attitude is shaped by the fact that she witnessed how the language was used as an instrument of developing the marginalization and exploitation of Chicanas, Latinos, and Mexicans. The usage of English and Spanish also provides an illustration of the name of the book, which includes the word “borderlands”. Reading a chapter written in two languages creates an impression of presence at the US-Mexico borders where one can hear both mentioned languages in comparison with central parts of either of two countries. Finally, it should be noted that the constant switching between the languages coincides with the change of genres from the autobiographical fragments to historical and political parts and collections of poems.


Anzaldúa, Gloria. 1987. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 2nd ed. SF: Aunt Lute Books.