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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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2 Border Theories and Realities

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In this chapter the most salient border(lands) theories currently circulating in academia are presented in a systematic way. Many Chicana authors apply some of these border theories and concepts in their own unique way in their works, which will be shown in the analyzing chapters 4 to 6. In chapter 2, several metaphors are introduced to describe the border between the United States and Mexico, which are followed by a differentiation between the terms border and borderlands. Then the most important characteristics found at borders are outlined and applied to the US-Mexican border(lands). A general point of view on border studies research and border theories development is provided. The application of the border theory, mainly established by Anzaldúa, who serves as a precursor of most border theories applied by Chicana authors, is discussed and the importance of the theme of the borderlands in Chicano/a writing as the inspirational place is approached.

Borders have continuously stimulated people’s imagination and locals as well as scholars have applied a number of metaphors to describe them. Some scholars have attributed the image of the door and the bridge to the border as they both separate and connect (Houtum and Strüver 142). In the essay “Bridge and Door”, Georg Simmel works on the notions of connectedness and separation. He states that bridges are generally seen as constructions that connect two places. Doors, on the contrary, fulfill two functions: they serve both as enclosure from the outside world and as...

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