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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 terms assimilation and acculturation had wide currency for much of the twentieth century in anthropology and ethnography as conceptual means for describing the transformation of one culture as it comes into contact with another. Critical use of the terms implied a unidirectional or asymmetrical process that affected a weaker culture as it became indistinguishable from, or absorbed into, a more powerful culture. The dominant or stronger culture was not regarded as being transformed by such contacts. Acculturation has also been applied to colonial subjects said to have lost their local native or traditional ways of life in the face of stronger hegemonic metropolitan culture. In the USA, the concept of acculturation was applied by anthropologists, ethnographers, and “race” scholars to the processes by which European migrants adapted to the host society, and the term was also routine in ethnographic scholarship up to the 1980s to describe the experiences of historical minorities, notably Native Americans, Chicano/as, and Puerto Ricans. In all of these guises, acculturation functions as a conceptual ally of assimilation, the process by which migrants and minorities become integrated into a host society. […Assimilation as a concept] implied immigrant adaptation to the host society to the point of being indistinguishable from existing populations. In some critical uses, acculturation provides a precondition for assimilation as migrants adapt to and adopt a host society’s social conventions, dominant linguistic modes, and value systems, and also assume a role in economic, political, and educational life. Thus, a person or a particular group...

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