Throughout the whole history of humanity, some people were trying to belong to more than one social entity. Generally, this choice was made unintentionally, and such individuals were named “marginals,” which describes them as the intermediary between two social organizations. Starting from the end, Gloria Anzaldúa represents such people in the specific word “crossroad”:
you must live sin fronteras
be a crossroads
Even though this analogy is not clear for the first time, it becomes natural when analyzing the marginals from the road’s perspective. To be more specific, the poem is filled with interesting interpretations of simple definitions that are taken as usual. However, the main point of view is concentrated literally on one person who lives two lives at the moment, balancing between the social organizations that reject him simultaneously. More specifically, three symbols describe the marginalists from the different facets of their identity: Language choice, non-acceptance, and general framing tendencies.
First and foremost, the presence of marginalists’ theories in the poem might be found at the very beginning of the poem. The writer uses English and Spanish alternately, which is a clear symbol of the writer’s language choice. More specifically, the language system directly influences the poem’s perception since many marginals try to find a better life and cross the developed countries’ borders. Eventually, when analyzing the poem from the migrants’ perspective, the language choice recalls the border situation of the U.S. and Mexico, where Spanish-speaking Mexicans are trying to cross the English-speaking United States of America (Goyal 158). As a result of describing the situation using only the language diversity, the author introduced the main character’s portrait, which is similar to herself.
Secondly, when analyzing one of the poem’s most important and unclear literature elements: the conflict. In the situation described by Anzaldúa, the main issue is illustrated through the non-acceptance from both sides of the marginal’s life:
In the Borderlands
you are the battleground
where enemies are kin to each other
On the other hand, only when it comes to conflict resolution, it becomes clear that the main obstacle standing in front of the refuge is the possibility to transmit the individual from one side to another. Applying the problem to the real world, if the person overcomes the issue of transmitting from one side to another, the marginal problem will disappear, and the individual will associate themselves with both social entities (Hernández 3). People should agree with themselves to resolve the transmitting obstacle.
Last but not least, the poem contains a mill description, which symbolizes the personal framing and remaking due to the chosen environment. More specifically, this is one of the hardest challenges for the person from two different social entities due to the only one framing, represented by only one mill, and the author describes it as:
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
The “white teeth” and “olive-red skin” symbolize that personal diversity is neglected by society and framed by a single criterion.
In conclusion, Gloria Anzaldúa described the marginalists and their different life challenges and possibilities. The main issue of such people who try to balance between their two internal worlds and external environments is how to overcome the issue of being rejected everywhere. More specifically, it is first described from the perspective of language, which demonstrates the migration situation between developing and developed countries. Secondly, the personal non-acceptance in the society illustrates the people’s problem of being the refuge everywhere. Finally, the last marginal’s obstacle is the framing tendency that deteriorates both sides of the personal identity due to the environmental wishes and trends.
Anzaldúa, Gloria. “To Live in the Borderlands.” Best Poems, 2018.
Goyal, Yogita. The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature (Cambridge Companions to Literature). Cambridge University Press, 2017.
Hernández, I. F. “Exploring Transnationals and the Borderlands: An Interview with Mary Petron.” Mextesol Journal, vol. 41, no. 3, 2017, pp. 1–6.