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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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3 Border-Crossing in Chicana Writing

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The increasing symptoms of border culture which define postmodernity today are visible in Chicana literature as Chicanas break down established borders such as geopolitical, cultural, social, class, ethnic and gendered borders, thus creating a new mestiza culture. And although the U.S.-Mexico borderlands experience is different for every Chicana, they have in common that they rebel and protest against patriarchal, cultural and gendered borders imposed by their culture. In an attempt to cross these and live their own lives, they start writing, thereby trespassing multiple borders, starting by telling the physical border experience and the restrictions and oppressions within their own culture and within the dominant White Anglo Saxon Protestant environment in which they are considered a minority. In contemporary Chicana writing borders and boundaries are blurred, rewritten and integrated to portray the multiple and complex situation of the Chicana woman in Mexican/Chicano/American society. Edna Acosta-Belén points out in “Reimagining Borders: A Hemispheric Approach to Latin American and U.S. Latino and Latina Studies” that

[c]ontemporary postmodern, postcolonial, and feminist theories—with their guiding principles of decentering and deconstructing hegemonic models and their focus on relations between elite and popular consciousness and practice, on transnational crossovers and changing identities, and on discourse and representation—have proven to be quite useful in dealing with the issues of borders and bridges and the constant back-and-forth commuting between the intertwining Latino/a worlds. (257–258)

As can be seen, new contemporary postmodern and feminist concepts and perspectives are presented, and...

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