Gloria Anzaldúa

Photo by K. Kendall, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa shown in 1990 at Smith College, via Flickr.

Chicana, Cultural Theory, Philosophy, Poetry

Gloria Anzaldúa


Dr. Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa had a deep and profound influence on Chicana Cultural Studies through her work as a philosopher, poet, essayist, children’s book author, theorist, and a self-described “tejana patlache (queer) nepantlera spiritual activist.” 

Gloria Anzaldúa was born in her paternal family’s Jesús María Ranch, a ranchería near Raymondville in South Texas to a long-time Tejano family. Upon the death of her father in 1957, her mother Amalia García Anzaldúa moved the family to Los Vergeles, a ranchería where Anzaldua’s maternal grandparents, Rafael and Ramona García helped their daughter Amalia raise her family. 

Anzaldúa attended Texas Woman’s University but graduated from Pan-American College (now the University of Texas–Rio Grande Valley) with a BA in English, Art, and Secondary Education (1969). She taught in area schools and later graduated with an MA in English and Education from the University of Texas in Austin (1972). 

The traditional culture of South Texas, particularly the folklife practices of ranching communities, surface in Anzaldúa’s work from the incisive analysis of cultural practices in her most influential text, Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) to her children’s books. The former, a hybrid genre text, includes poetry, history, songs, and testimonio-like narratives that opens doors to discussions about sexuality, linguistic diversity, violence against LGBTQ and myriad other subjects. Her children’s books contribute to filling a gap in literature for children of Mexican or Latinx origin. Her reimagining of the Llorona tale in Prietita and the Ghost Woman (1995) brilliantly weaves the cautionary tale into an affirming encounter. 

The cultural practices of her community provide her a rich lore to draw from for her spiritual practices. Her work relies heavily on the mythology of Mesoamerican lore and on Mexican traditions. She was steeped in the traditional ranching ethos of the 1950s along the US-Mexico borderland. She draws from that lived experience as a queer tejana to arrive at insights and to develop her ideas. She reflects the popular beliefs and practices while at the same time turns a critical lens toward these in an effort to critique and disentangle the positive from the negative aspects she saw in her own culture. 

A significant intersection of Anzaldúa’s work as a philosopher and thinker post-Borderlands/La Frontera occurred as part of an art retreat she called the Nepantla Workshop held in 1995 at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, California where she and artists Santa Barraza, originally from South Texas, and Liliana Wilson, an immigrant to Texas from Chile, collaborated. Drawing on traditional tales and legends, the three created artwork and engaged in discussions sharing feminist perspectives across borders. Beyond her contribution to Chicanx Studies, she expanded the discussion in Women and Gender Studies as well as Queer Studies.

At the time of her death in May 2004, Anzaldúa was at work on her dissertation in Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her PhD was awarded posthumously in 2005. 

Among her numerous publications of importance to folklore are:

Borderlands/ La Frontera (1987)

This Bridge Called My Back (1981)

Norma E. Cantú

(coming soon)