In “Metaphors of a mestiza consciousness: Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera,” it is explained that as a Mestiza (a woman of mixed race) and lesbian feminist, Anzaldua portrays the idea of Mestiza consciousness, which Aigner-Varoz finds to be “‘a new value system with images and symbols’ that may serve to heal the split between ‘white.
.. and colored.
… male and female’ and the hegemonically differentiated ‘us’ and ‘them'” (Aigner-Varoz). Thus, the Mestiza consciousness is utilized by Anzaldua to embrace or validate the experiences and emotions of those that are of “different cultures, races, classes, and sexual orientations” (Aigner-Varoz).
The first instance in which race is even mentioned in “La conciencia de la mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness” appears in the term “Mestiza” itself (Anzaldua 99). Anzaldua introduces the idea of a Mestiza based on her interpretation of Jose Vasconcelos’ work, which explains the “concept of racial mixing and a theory of inclusivity that turn ‘impurity’ into strength and a point of pride” (Koegeler-Abdi). Anzaldua also claims that “from this racial, ideological, cultural, and biological cross-pollinization, an ‘alien’ consciousness is presently in the making—a new mestiza consciousness, una conciencia de la mujer. It is a consciousness of the Borderlands” (99). Therefore, Mestiza consciousness is based on three key factors; “a biological/cultural mestizaje, female awareness, and a borderland experience” (Koegeler-Abdi).
Moreover, Anzaldua argues that a new Mestiza consciousness should be established into current society. She wants this new Mestiza consciousness to “open up the nationalist theories of Chicano identity to the space of the transnational” (Watts). This is because the various, constituting identities that involve a new Mestiza consciousness “contain oppressive elements of a heteronormative, patriarchal, racist society that leaves its imprints on the subconscious self” (Koegeler-Abdi).
Nevertheless, a Mestiza has the power to eliminate “conventional power hierarchies by broadening the concepts of both mestizaje and living-in-the-borderlands beyond geographic, ethnic, psychological, spiritual, and other affiliations” (Koegeler-Abdi). After all, a Mestiza has many racial affiliations that correlate with gender perspectives and sexual identities. In addition, Anzaldua plays on the idea that Mestiza consciousness has to be “attained by all races and by all people (Pérez). In turn, Mestiza consciousness will allow society to create a new culture in which a fair system is put in place to link people of all identities with each other to create equality and sameness, but allow diversity to remain. The mixing of these identities will become a part of life and the idea of “crossbreeding will create a culture of harmony, where love and hope become key.
Moreover, the crossbreeding of cultures occurs, for Anzaldua, in the Borderlands” (Pérez).A unique idea behind a Mestiza and Mestiza consciousness is the toleration of multiple, supposedly contradictive identities. Anzaldua claims that the new Mestiza copes with her surroundings by tolerating contradictions, binaries, multiplicity and ambiguity; “she learns to be an Indian in Mexican culture, to be Mexican from an Anglo point of view. She learns to juggle cultures.
She has a plural personality, she operates in a pluralistic mode… Not only does she sustain contradictions, she turns ambivalence into something else” (Anzaldua 101). Anzaldua creates a large, metaphorical framework in her text to deconstruct the oppressive nature of the Borderlands and society in general. She uses the fact that metaphors can “restructure the collective unconscious through both linguistic and visual means” to her advantage (Aigner-Varoz). Based on her knowledge and experiences of being a Chicana herself, Anzaldua creates detailed, cultural metaphors to create a new Mestiza consciousness. Thus, she “focuses her work on the specificity of being Chicana, but it does not restrict access to a Mestiza consciousness only to Chicanas” (Koegeler-Abdi). In the very beginning of “La Conciencia de la mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness,” Anzaldua emphasizes on the idea that society has to “leave the opposite banks” of the river that divides everyone, and halt any “mortal combats” (Anzaldua 100).
This river essentially acts as a border that separates two different sides, or identity groups. However, for society to move forward, Anzaldua clearly states that the differences between both sides should be embraced instead, and not seen as a reason to cause harm. Thus, through the metaphor of the river, Anzaldua acknowledges that there is indeed a difference between identities, “but simultaneously shows that there are no uncrossable abysses between cultures, ethnicities, or sexual orientations,” since a bridge can be built to cross it (Koegeler-Abdi).Anzaldua’s metaphors also showcase the idea that Mestiz women must choose their own position and role in society, despite there being any contradictory identities that are related to gender or sexual orientation being present. She compares Mestiz women to corn that cross-breed in harsh conditions to ensure reproductive success and survival; Anzaldua depicts the female experience of a Mestiza by stating that “like an ear of corn—a female seed-bearing organ—the mestiza is tenacious, tightly wrapped in the husks of her culture” (Anzaldua 103).
She does this to explicate how greatly connected a Mestiza is to her culture, identity, and community. Not to mention, Chicana daily life is extremely similar to the intricacy of corn, the ways one can use corn, and the tools or ingredients that are used to deal with corn; “we are the grinding motion, the mixed potion, somos el molcajete…We will abide” (103-104).
Thus, Anzaldua “projects the Mestiza identity onto the actual tool to grind the corn and mix the ingredients in the act of making and baking tortillas” (Koegeler-Abdi). Additionally, Anzaldua depicts the various elements and practices of a Mestiza consciousness as unique and individual; “she puts bones, pieces of bark, hierbas, eagle feathers, snakeskin, tape recorder, the rattle and drum in her pack and sets out to become the complete tolteca” (Anzaldua 104). A Mestiza has no set standard for what she is to do and what she is able to do.
Instead, what she does and deems important depends on her own personal needs and aspirations. This relates back to how Mestiz women in particular should be able to choose their own positions in society for themselves, despite any contradictory identities. She should not be victim to racial oppression, patriarchy, or heteronormativity because of any other group or culture. Hence, a self-chosen heritage should be the case. Therefore, the very nature of this metaphor is empowering for Mestiz women, but also for other ethnically-struggling women as well. Not to mention: This complex metaphor, which includes overlapping time periods, notions of nature and civilization, and references to her indigenous heritage, is one of the clearest examples of how Anzaldua’s metaphors reflect her aims… If taken more abstractly, this metaphor can guide others both in how to unearth the forgotten and distorted depths of their heritage-whether they are toltecs, unnamed queer artists, erased women writers, or those of different spiritual beliefs- and in how to choose which elements help them self-define as mestizas.
(Koegeler-Abdi)Furthermore, Anzaldua uses a spatial metaphor for the depiction of a Mestiza by mentioning a “crossroad” (Anzaldua 102). A crossroad is an intersecting point in which different paths meet to merge with each other. In this case, the crossroad represents the social differences between different identity groups. This metaphor essentially claims that at one single point on this crossroad, every identity, gender, and race, coexist with each other and are equal to one another.
However, although all groups are deemed equal at this one spot, the diversity and charm of each culture is still present. Thus, Anzaldua successfully illuminates the idea of multiplicity and ambiguity being present within a Mestiza’s chain of contradictory racial identities, gender-related identities, and/or sexual identities. The crossroad, or “a simple mound of earth,” soon becomes “a mud shrine for Eshu, / Yoruba god of indeterminacy, / who blesses her choice of path” (Anzaldua 102).
The crossroad essentially turns into something holy, which is a shrine for a powerful God called, Eshu. This is able to occur because of a Mestiza’s sacrificial ritual of a chicken. Consequently, Anzaldua uses Eshu to portray the “ambivalent, empowering, and non binary nature of mestizaje… In her personal mestizaje she also draws on Yoruba spirituality; hence, the criteria for what ingredients may be included in a self-chosen mestizaje are definitely beyond ethnic belonging,” gender identity, and sexual identity (Koegeler-Abdi). According to Watts, in “Aztlán as a Palimpsest: From Chicano Nationalism Toward Transnational Feminism in Anzaldúa’s Borderlands,” Anzaldua depicts women and homosexuals as components of her imagined community, which is different from the traditional practices of current society that leave these people “unimagined.” In her essay, Anzaldua claims that she “is all races because the queer of her is in all races” (Anzaldua 102). In turn, she introduces the idea of a possible cultural change in which society is able to provide a sense of belonging or inclusivity for all people, transcending “beyond international borders, races, ethnicities, sexualities, and genders” (Koegeler-Abdi).
Not to mention, Anzaldua uses “queer” to refer to all oppressed identities, and not just Mestiz women (102).Furthermore, Anzaldua asserts that “colored homosexuals have more knowledge of other cultures; have always been at the forefront… have suffered more injustices and have survived them despite all odds” (Anzaldua 107). Thus, Anzaldua clearly expresses that colored homosexuals suffer twice the oppression.
Not to mention, Mestiza consciousness claims that women of color and female lesbians must work together to eliminate heteronormativity and internalized hierarchies of race in order to eradicate structural oppression; “the struggle has always been inner, and is played out in the outer terrains” (109). Anzaldua also claims that white women must also acknowledge their privilege to eliminate oppression when she claims that Mestiz women must say to white society, “we need you to own the fact that you looked upon us as less human, that you stole our lands, our personhood, our self-respect” (107-108).