Sid Espinosa: A favorite poem

Borderlands/La Frontera
Gloria Anzaldúa

Many residents of the Bay Area stand with their feet in two cultures.  They are immigrants or the children of immigrants.  I fall into this latter camp.  For some of us, it is hard to express our cultural duality – especially, to people who have not lived through constant questioning about their ethnic identity from both their former countrymen and their new neighbors.  This causes many to feel lost and ungrounded.  Gloria Anzaldúa was an advocate, a passionate writer and someone who, through poetry, brought to life this fence that so many straddle.  May it will help others embrace their crossroads.

Sid Espinosa
Mayor, City of Palo Alto

Borderlands/La Frontera

To live in the borderlands means you

are neither hispana india negra española
ni gabacha
, eres mestiza, mulata, half-breed
caught in the crossfire between camps
while carrying all five races on your back
not knowing which side to turn to, run from;

To live in the Borderlands means knowing

that the india in you, betrayed for 500 years,
is no longer speaking to you,
that mexicanas call you rajetas,
that denying the Anglo inside you
is as bad as having denied the Indian or Black;

Cuando vives en la frontera

people walk through you, wind steals your voice,
you’re a burra, buey, scapegoat
forerunner of a new race,
half and half–both woman and man, neither–
a new gender;

To live in the Borderlands means to

put chile in the borscht
eat whole wheat tortillas,
speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;
be stopped by la migra at the border check points;

Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to

resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle,
the pull of the gun barrel,
the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;

In the Borderlands

you are the battleground
where enemies are kin to each other;
you are at home, a stranger,
the border disputes have been settled
the volley of shots have shattered the truce
you are wounded, lost in action
dead, fighting back;

To live in the Borderlands means

the mill with the razor white teeth wants to shred off
your olive-red skin, crush out the kernel, your heart
pound you pinch you roll you out
smelling like white bread but dead;

To survive in the Borderlands

you must live sin fronteras
be a crossroads.

Gloria Anzaldúa
, from Borderlands/La Frontera


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