Postcolonial Society in “Borderlands” by Anzaldua


In the poem “Borderlands,” which is the key work of Gloria Anzaldua, the poetic elements that give the work a special meaning and content deserve to be considered. This author is a distinguished researcher and practitioner of Chicana theory, which studies the intermediate mixed-racial people of the Spanish American community. The poet tries not only to theorize but as well to practically realize the cultural experience of the Chicana people by capturing it in a poem. Anzaldua uses a variety of poetic devices in which the borderlines of this transnational culture and the peculiarity of this cultural experience are expressed at different levels.

Poem Analysis

The first chapter of the poem is an arbitrary mixture of verse blocks and prose text. Anzaldua mixes a poetic statement with a real historical reference that demonstrates the migratory suffering of Mexicans who formed their identity in America. The mixture of free verse and free verse, that is, prose rhythmic verse, demonstrates several aspects. Firstly, in this way the poetic language is liberalized, revealing the whimsicalness of self-expression not associated with the tightness of rhythmic structures. Thus, the author manages to fit an individual poetic language into the broad context of the Chicana culture, making his poetry a part of its history.

To show the postcolonial space, the author chooses a mixture of English and Spanish as the main technique of the poem. The lyrical hero periodically switches from one language to another and this does not bother him, he feels like a carrier of both of them. Anzaldua allows the character to speak in different languages, expressing his thoughts and concerns: “Cuando vives en la frontera people walk through you” (Anzaldua, lines 11-12). Thus, the poet shows that a person of mixed race can exist on the border of two cultures without fully belonging to any of them.

Anzaldua chooses metaphorical devices to explain these thoughts to the reader. Thus, she speaks of the difficulties of life “while carrying all five races on your back” (Anzaldua, line 5). The author makes it clear that it is impossible to ignore part of their identity and history. The metaphor is alcohol and marginalized communities that need help and support. Anzaldua says that they must “resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle” (Anzaldua, line 22). These are impulses that are important to combat to thrive in a postcolonial society.

Cultural identification came to the fore whenever there was a “meeting” of different cultures. In Anzaldua’s work, hybrid identity is an important factor in survival in a frontier country. The author often uses such a literary device as repetition, forcing the reader to become more immersed in their hybrid community. The poet emphasizes this identity with many examples such as “put chile in the borscht” and “eat whole wheat tortillas” (Anzaldua, lines 17-18). Thus, it shows how mixed people’s ideas about cultures and their own identities are.

The personal identity of the characters is extremely blurred and uncertain. Anzaldua uses the image of a stranger to refer to a society in which people of mixed races live. The characters cannot live in harmony with themselves and they are all “wounded, lost in action” (Anzaldua, line 31). The poet describes their identity as a place “where enemies are kin to each other” (Anzaldua, line 27). Due to the impossibility of cultural self-identification, the characters create a third space, in which “you’re a burra, buey, scapegoat, forerunner of a new race” (Anzaldua, lines 13-14). According to the poet, the only way out for these people is to unite in an intersectional society.


Thus, throughout the poem, the theme of the post-colonial community is raised. Anzaldua identifies the Chicana people as estranged and lonely people, using various literary devices to convey her thoughts. These techniques include a combination of various types of verse, interspersing Mexican words, metaphors, and repetition. Using these literary devices, Anzaldua artistically outlines the hybrid identity of each person in their environment.

Work Cited

Anzaldúa, Gloria. “To live in the borderlands means you.” American Identities. An Introductory Textbook, 2005. pp. 316-318.

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