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Crossing, Trespassing, and Subverting Borders in Chicana Writing


Debora Holler

The border and border-crossing and its significance for the Chicana in a cultural, social, gendered, and spiritual sense are at the core of this book. The three oeuvres selected—Helena Viramontes’ The Moths and Other Stories, Ana Castillo’s The Mixquiahuala Letters, and Norma Cantú’s Canícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera—are eloquent examples of feminist Chicana writers who refuse to allow their lives to be restricted by the gender, social, racial, and cultural border and who portray how Chicana women rebel against the unfair treatment they receive from their fathers, husbands and lovers. Crossing and deconstructing the man-made borders means to leave behind the known territory and discover an unknown land, in the hope of finding a new world in which Chicana women have the same rights as white women and in which they can realize their self, develop a new mestiza consciousness and liberate themselves from patriarchal constraints and religious beliefs. The author shows how the newly won self-confidence empowers the Chicana to explore the opportunities this freedom offers.

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The idea of crossing borders4 evokes images of individuals traversing from one country to another. At the U.S.-Mexico border this means crossing from south to north and north to south, legally or illegally, on a daily basis or just from time to time, to go to work or for leisure. In fact, the border itself is seen more as “a crossroads than a frontier” despite the debates about illegal immigration (Hamnett 11). The experiences of border dwellers and those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border on a regular basis are told in numerous writings and research papers and have become increasingly popular since the establishment of the so-called border studies in the 1960s (Jay, “Border Studies 2). Since then, the study of the border has been carefully researched in several disciplines such as geography, history, political science, philosophy, linguistic and literary studies (Maihold 59). Moreover, the growing pile of books on the topic both in literary and political science studies that are published each year, speak volumes about the great interest researchers have in the U.S.-Mexico border. The US-Mexico border has gained in significance for both the interstate trade as well as the transcontinental trade (Witt 19).

Since the demarcation of the US-Mexico border, stipulated by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, which separates the four U.S. states Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California from the Mexican states Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Sonora, and Baja California, the border has been a sensitive area from a political...

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