Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands explores the history of culture near the U.S.-Mexico border and her personal struggles with it. The literary work follows an interesting format; the novel is composed of facts about the territory, poems, and personal stories. However, the most interesting and important aspect of the format is the language, or in this case, languages, Anzaldúa composes her book with. Gloria Anzaldúa utilizes a mix of English and Spanish language in Borderlands to strengthen her voice and fight back against the oppression of her own culture.
The combination of English and Spanish language strengthens Anzaldúa’s voice and ethos. For the majority of readers, the entirety of the novel cannot be understood. This is the intent for Anzaldúa, who was shunned for her muddled language, but refused to deter from her true identity. The frustration the reader feels during the unreadable sections is purposely similar to her culture’s frustration with her. Yet, it is this aspect of her writing that makes Borderlands the impactful work of literature is it. Exhibiting her true self against popular sentiment creates an authentic parallel between her life and Borderlands, making the novel an extension of herself.
Anzaldúa’s use of both languages highlights her perseverance and unwillingness to conform to the oppression she faces. Throughout her whole life, Anzaldúa is reprimanded for speaking the “wrong” language. She remembers being beaten at school when she was caught speaking Spanish at recess and was later told by a teacher, a person capable of great influence, “‘If you want to be American, speak ‘American.’ If you don’t like it, go back to Mexico where you belong’” (75). However, her inner strength gives her the ability to speak and write in whichever language she desires. Additionally, Anzaldúa writes that “we use our language differences against each other” (80). In her experiences, language is a means of division. She is told repeatedly that only one language is acceptable. By using multiple in Borderlands, she does not fall prey to the same culture of oppressive languages that made her life much more challenging.
Borderlands effectively explores the impact of the culture surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border on Gloria Anzaldúa’s personal life through the use of both English and Spanish language. By using English and Spanish, and not one or the other, Anzaldúa fights back against the ever-oppressive culture she grew up with and seemingly could never escape. Additionally, she successes at strengthening her voice in making Borderlands an influential read.