Entering Into the Serpent- Gloria Anzaldúa

Gloria E. Anzaldúa was a queer Chicana poet, writer, and feminist theorist. Her poems and essays explore the anger and isolation of occupying the margins of culture and collective identity. Anzaldúa has been awarded the Lambda Lesbian Small Book Press Award, a Sappho Award of Distinction, and an NEA Fiction Award, among others. She is the author of several books of poetry, non-fiction, and children’s fiction. Her book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) and her essay, “La Prieta,” are considered to be groundbreaking works in cultural, feminist, and queer theories. With Cherríe Moraga, Anzaldúa co-edited the landmark anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981).

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New mestiza

“Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity- I am my language. Until I take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.”

A hybrid cross-genre book that combines poetry, history, socio-cultural analysis, spiritual philosophy, and memoir writing. The subversive style of the book exemplifies its theory.


“The actual physical borderland that I’m dealing with in this book is the Texas-U.S., Southwest/Mexican Border. The psychological borderlands, the sexual borderlands, and spiritual borderlands are not particular to the Southwest. In fact, the Borderlands are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy.

I am a border woman. I grew up between two cultures, The Mexican (with a heavy Indian influence) and the Anglo (as a member of a colonized people in our own territory). I have been straddling that Tejas-Mexican border, and others, all my life. It’s not a comfortable territory to live in, this place of contradictions. Hatred, anger, and exploitation are the prominent features of this landscape.”

-Gloria Anzaldúa


Part I: Expanding on the main references

Do Internet research and write down some basic information:

Who are la Vírgen de Guadalupe (Group 1), Malinali/Malinche (Group 2) and La llorona/ La jila (Group 3)?


Breaking down the essay

Rotating small group work:

Create a graphic explanation of Anzaldúa’s arguments. As a new member joins, summarize the work done and let that person’s input into the project.

Group 1

Coatlalonpeuh, She Who Has Dominion Over Serpents

.Describe the elements of Chicanx’s folk catholicism according to Anzaldúa?  Expand on how la Virgen de Guadalupe represents a syncretic religious figure that combines indigenous and catholic spiritual views? (49-53)

Group 2

For Waging War Is My Cosmic Duty: The Loss of the Balanced Oppositions and the Change to Male Dominance

.Discuss Anzaldúa’s take on the “balanced opposition between the sexes”? How the Aztecs war culture produced male dominance in all aspects of life? How “la llorona” and Malinali/ Malinche fit into this narrative? (53-56)

Group 3

Sueño con serpientes and The Presences

.What is the symbolism of the serpent? Describe why Anzalduá thinks of her spiritual experiences as an “other mode of consciousness”? Discuss how institutionalized religion distorts inner knowledge? (56-60)


Part II: Writing Exercise

How Anzaldúa defines “la facultad”? How “la facultad”  relates to her indigenous heritage and her Mexican/Chicana womanhood? Why she argues that marginalized people are usually more connected to their “facultad”? Have you experienced the type of awareness she is describing? (See pages 60-1)

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