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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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4 Mestizas Breaking Taboos: Crossing Gender, Social and Religious Borders in Helena Viramontes’ The Moths and Other Stories (1985)


Helena María Viramontes,28 Chicana poet, short story writer, anthologist, essayist, novelist, and educator, is considered one of the most distinguished writers in the Chicano/a literary scene. As a third world feminist, Viramontes approaches important women issues such as women’s limitations imposed on them by marriage and, in particular, mestizas’ limitations within their own community which hinder them to pursue an education and find well-paid jobs. The obligation to act in a certain way and its refusal to do so produce guilt among women and the refusal to such obligation is answered by male violence. This generates a vicious circle from which to escape in order to pursue any career, but especially a literary career, as is the case with Viramontes, is a huge challenge. Viramontes has been very engaged in raising the Chicana voice from neglect to prestige. She not only writes about the Chicana, but in a broader sense focuses on the story of a community of a people, the poor and marginalized, who do not have a voice in the dominant Anglo society.

Viramontes was born on February 26, 1954 in East Los Angeles, California to a working-class family and grew up with eight siblings in a typical Chicano household in the 1960s where the boys were privileged over the girls and girls had to do the household chores. For many years not a single book was to be found in the house, until her father bought an encyclopedia which she devoured with ←121...

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