The Poet with an Iron Fist
The Story of Gloria E. Anzaldúa, The Voice of Chicanos
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa was born to farm workers in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas on September 26, 1942. After growing up witnessing Spanish speakers being treated poorly by their white counterpart, she began writing about Mexican-American liberation. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from Pan American University and moved to California to teach feminism, creative writing, and Chicana studies. She received a master's degree from the University of Texas, where she taught a course called The Mexican-American Woman. in 1987, She was best known for publishing an autobiographical narrative about exploring her identity as a Chicana lesbian feminist named "Borderlands: The New Mestiza." Anzaldúa won many awards including the Lambda Lesbian Small Book Press Award, the Lesbian Rights Award, and many more. She died while working on her doctorate in literature and was posthumously awarded a Ph.D by the University of California.
How to Tame a Wild Tongue
If a person, Chicana or Latina, has a low estimation of my native tongue, she also has a low estimation of me. Often with mexicanas y latinas we'll speak English as a neutral language . Even among Chicanas we tend to speak English at parties or conferences. Yet, at the same time, we're afraid the other will think we're agringadasbecause we don't speak Chicano Spanish. We oppress each other trying to out-Chicano each other, vying to be the "real" Chicanas, to speak like Chicanos. There is no one Chicano language just as there is no one Chicano experience. A monolingual Chicana whose first language is English or Spanish is just as much a Chicana as one who speaks several variants of Spanish. A Chicana from Michigan or Chicago or Detroit is just as much a Chicana as one from the Southwest. Chicano Spanish is as diverse linguistically as it is regionally.
By the end of this century, Spanish speakers will comprise the biggest minority group in the U.S., a country where students in high schools and colleges are encouraged to take French classes because French is considered more "cultured. " But for a language to remain alive it must be used. By the end of this century English, and not Spanish, will be the mother tongue of most Chicanos and Latinos.
So, if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity - I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself. Until I can accept as legitimate Chicano Texas Spanish, Tex-Mex, and all the other languages I speak, I cannot accept the legitimacy of myself. Until I am free to write bilingually and to switch codes without having always to translate, while I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak spanglish, and as long as I have to accommodate the English speakers rather than having them accommodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate.
I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice : Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent's tongue, my woman's voice, my sexual voice, my poet's voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.