Gloria E. Anzaldúa grew up in a society ridden with negative preconceived notions of women and homosexuals. A member of the Chicano tribe, a cross-breed between Indian and Spanish heritage that stems back as far as Christopher Columbus’s era of exploration, Anzaldúa lives an extremely turbulent life. She is chastised greatly for making “the choice to be queer” (41), a life decision that “for the lesbian of color, [is] the ultimate rebellion she can make against her native culture” (41). Anzaldúa is extremely proud of her heritage and culture, however, she does not always approve of some of the morals and values that transpire from it. Women in her society have “three directions they could turn: to the church as a nun, to the streets as a prostitute, or to the home as a mother” (39). Growing up in Texas, she frequently witnesses and is aware of the unfair treatment that Mexican women experience while crossing the border into the United States. In an attempt to define the “New Mestiza” throughout its contents, Anzaldúa examines her life and how society perceives her culture.
Anzaldúa experiences, first hand, the injustices that people of her culture encounter as a result of the white people in their society. There is gripping tension that inhabits “the borderlands like a virus” (26), a tension that stems from the exuded power that whites have. Her brother, Pedro, a worker in the fields, was deported back to Mexico at the hands of border patrol. All because “he couldn’t speak English,” which denied him the right to “tell them he was a fifth generation American” (26). Caucasians exude and build themselves up to be of “power,” a power that creates a boundary between the two cultures whom inhabit the land. As a result, Pedro’s life and the lives of his family members were catastrophically transformed.
Anzaldúa believes that “borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them” (25). This creates a dichotomy between “us,” the mestizos, and “them,” the white people in this society. This division between two social groups presents a border that is ever changing. Anzaldúa believes that this divide “is in a constant state of transition” (26), which means that it can very well be altered and redefined. She disapproves of how her culture views women as subordinates to men. Her mother, for example, ensures that “we didn’t walk into a room of brothers or fathers or uncles in nightgowns or shorts. We were never alone with men, not even those of our family” (40). This depiction of women being secondary than men is something by which Anzaldúa seeks to redefine in her new definition of the “New Mestiza.”
The “New Mestiza” is the realm of how people characterize Anzaldúa’s race and culture. She, along with so many before her, have struggled to fit into a society which alienates those who stray from the norm. Along with being a minority, she is also a lesbian; a sexual orientation that does not coincide with the conformity of her culture. Anzaldúa is attempting to include and broaden those who fall under the Mestizo culture.