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Crossing, Trespassing, and Subverting Borders in Chicana Writing

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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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1 Background to Chicano/a Literature

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The U.S.-Mexico border is a zone of contact and exchange, a place of conflict and debate, a clash of two cultures, a place of wealth and poverty. It stretches over a length of about 1,980 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. In the east, it is limited by the Río Grande, in the West by fences and high concrete walls. With over one million crossings per day at 35 border-crossing points it is the busiest border in the world. At this border, modern global questions such as migration and international trade gain new importance. The extreme contradictions which clash at the border—differences in the standard of living and economic system, politics, language and culture—have made the U.S.-Mexico border a unique and complex research area for geographers, anthropologists, social sciences scientists, literary scholars and linguists which can be compared to a scientific laboratory situation (Maihold 59). Crime, corruption, free trade, urbanization, shortage of resources, environmental problems, border control, death, and migration are just a few of the topics found at the border.

The U.S.-Mexico border is the result of two unequal political power relations which impact on the political, socioeconomic, and cultural circumstances of the borderlands. The borderlands, the ancestral homeland of the Mexicans, were annexed through conquest and colonization by the westward moving United States between 1836 and 1848. The Mexicans living in the southwest became American citizens by virtue of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Carta (Kaup 10). Technically, Mexican Americans...

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