Cultural Control: An Analysis of Cultural Norms’ Oppressive Behavior on Female and Queer Latinos in Anzaldua’s “Borderlands/La Frontera Chapter 1”

Czareena Dotchev

Professor Alvarez

English 255

Mainstream culture views the queer identity through a specific heterosexual lens complicating the identity and classifying individuals into groups by their sexuality rather than allowing for self-determination. Religion and conservative cultures further complicate the situation with ideological restraints. These restraints create an environment where queer individuals seem mysterious and allow for their blatant rejection from normalcy. Anzaldua addresses this specifically when she writes:

For the lesbian of color, the ultimate rebellion she can make against her native culture is though her sexual behavior. She goes against two moral prohibitions: sexuality and homosexuality. Being lesbian and raised Catholic, indoctrinated as straight, I made the choice to be queer ( for some it is genetically inherent). It’s an interesting path, one that continually slips in and out of the white, the Catholic, the Mexican, the indigenous, the instincts. In and out of my head. It makes for loqueria, the crazies. It is a path, of knowledge- one of knowing ( and of learning) the history of oppression or our raza. It is a way of balancing, or mitigating duality.

Anzaldua defines “sexual behavior” as an act of rebellion against “native culture” rather than a personal choice. By classifying sexual behavior as the “ultimate rebellion” the act becomes one of defiance with direct correlation to the break down of societal norms. A person’s sexual behavior as a queer person, an individual of a community, creates tension because of how contrary the queer lifestyle is when juxtaposed against what has been indoctrinated over a lifetime. Since the Catholic community “indoctrinated” her as straight, a prohibition existed in her quest for her own identity.  The Catholic community does not provide the flexibility within its bounds for individuals who do not conform to the heterosexual model. People compartmentalized and situated between their own desires to choose a different sexual identity face the constant barrage of ideas that labels queers as strange individuals in white, Catholic and Mexican circles. This shows that sexuality is an issue that is still under the jurisdiction of the community as a whole. The same experience, that of being marginalized occurs across white, Catholic, Mexican and indigenous communities ultimately leaving the queer community to defend themselves while constantly appearing as outcasts when they choose not to conform to a system that holds power over their bodies. Constantly queer people are tugged between the mental conflicts this “duality” creates.

Culture not only restricts the lifestyles of queer individuals but also the options that are available for women in society. Women in society are held to a different standard than men allowing them fewer options for obtaining their dreams and desires through the application of their talents. Anzaldua presents her theory on how women are made to conform to several paths in their life options by stating:

The culture expects women to show greater acceptance of and commitment to, the value system than men. The culture and the Church insist that women are subservient to males. If a woman rebels she is a mujer mala. If a woman doesn’t renounce herself in favor of the male then she is selfish. If a woman remains a virgen until she marries, she is a good woman. For a woman of my culture there used to be only three directions she could turn: to the Church as a nun, to the streets as a prostitute, or to the home as a mother.

Anzaldua states that there are three career options available to women, all of which are subservient to man. Out of these options a woman is forced to fit herself and forge her life journey accepting that she must be one of these three. Culture and Church are co-conspirators because they “insist” upon roles that make women “subservient to males.” The three options Anzaldua describes are service to the church, service to men, and service to family. Nowhere is there listed the option of serving one’s own goals and desires as an independent woman. Nuns work for the church, which follows the leadership of a man, essentially nuns are married to the religion. Prostitution predominantly capitalizes on the business of selling men sexual services while motherhood is a job where the woman becomes subservient to the persistent needs of her family. Women are considered “selfish” when they pursue careers that do not serve others directly. Anzaldua paints a dismal picture for Latino women, especially for those who are queer and do not fit the role of a subservient “good woman.” What defines a “good woman” Anzaldua says is her sexuality, a restraint on women.


Works  Cited

Anzaldua, Gloria. “Borderlands/La Frontera Chapter 1.” 1987. The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. By Ilan Stavans. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2011. 1502-504. Print.

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