Earlier this month I attended a conference titled: “The Feminist Architecture of Gloria Anzaldúa: New Translations, Crossings and Pedagogies in Anzaldúan Thought”. Although I only could attend half of day 2, it felt like an intense, and deeply rooted homecoming.
I first became familiar with Gloria Anzaldúa’s work in 1996, when I was an undergraduate student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. At that time I had been away from my hometown of Salinas, CA for 5 years. I was 24 years old and wrestling with issues of cultural identity, gender roles, academic poverty, romantic partnership, my place in my family and the world outside it. Although I enjoyed new experiences, I felt out of place and conflicted in the mainly White campus. Being that Salinas is an agricultural town, with a predominantly Mexican heritage population, the 5 years away from it left me with mixed feelings of being hungry for new experiences and homesickness for the small things that brought me what comfort.
I was in a Feminist Studies, Cultural Studies class when I was introduced to Anzaldúa’s work. At that time, reading Anzaldúa’s work was both nourishing and challenging, I did not consider myself an academic, but loved learning. Anzaldúa and other feminist authors used words that were unfamiliar to me, and described concepts that felt bigger than what I was ready to understand. Yet somehow, I could feel some sense of familiarity as some concepts did resonate with me, and helped me to name some of the struggles and challenges I was facing as I questioned parts of my “otherness”.
Despite feeling too green to completely understand Chicana feminist texts, I kept their books close to me, taking them with me to every place I relocated to. Anzaldúa and other Chicana feminists writers became older and wiser sisters to me, and over time, I turned to them when I needed a reminder of where I came from, and a connection to a part of me that I was yet to meet. I suppose I subconsciously knew that I would eventually grow into their works, and as a result, grow more into myself.
When I decided to attend the conference this month, it was a complete confirmation that I had indeed grown into, not only knowing, but into living many of the experiences Anzaldúa describes. As I slept that night, I dreamt of earthquakes. An internal experience I am all too familiar with. I often have felt aspects of my internal world crash or adjust against each other, each piece of me trying to make sense of me. This has resulted in seeing pieces of me reflected in various people, places, works of art, and communities. It has mostly left me feeling out of place everywhere. A stranger among strangers and an outsider among outsiders. It seems I have spent my life trying to find people and places where I can see my complete reflection. In failing to find this, I resigned to accepting my outcast nature.
At the conference, I could feel the beginning of something magical happening. The day after the conference, I revisited Anzaldúa’s words and I felt my parts come together, and my whole being finally reflected back to me. It felt like abrazos, like the “whole” I have been searching for. It was blissful and frightening. Too new to feel true.
Like Dorothy about to leave Oz, I wondered why I didn’t understand these lessons all along. The words were there and so close to me for so many years, yet I couldn’t see their deeper application to my life. How much suffering could I have spared myself had I just opened Anzaldúa’s books again? And like Dorothy, I knew that I had to make the journey myself, because I wouldn’t (and didn’t) believe the truth if it was told to me.
Dorothy’s lesson of “There’s no place like home” always sat awkwardly with me for many years. Especially those years where I was deep in my journey away from home (both physically, emotionally, and spiritually). But I understand now that the home she refers to is not the little farmhouse in Kansas, but the home that has been with me all along. Even before my time. It is my birthright, my divinity, my ever-evolving identity, and communion with the divine itself.
It is connecting with my favorite parts, getting to know them, accepting them, loving them. It is coming home to my body, this body that has devoted itself to my very survival.
“With the loss of the familiar and the unknown ahead, you struggle to regain your balance, reintegrate yourself (put Coyolxahqui together) and repair the damage. You must, like the shaman, find a way to call your spirit home. Every paroxysm has the potential of initiating you to something new, giving you a chance to reconstruct yourself, forcing you to rework your description of self, world and your plat in it (reality).” G. Anzaldúa “this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation”
I have studied psychology, indigenous healing, myth, the S/hero’s Journey, shadow and light integration, chakras, dreamwork, the enneagram, and so much more, all in the attempt to make sense of myself of this world. All these have played a significant role in my healing. I wouldn’t be here without them. Re-connecting to Anzaldúa’s work has been both the journey home and the existential glue that fuses these pieces together.
More importantly, it is the fact that she speaks of all these concepts of psychology, existentialism, spirituality, and so on with concepts and language are in my blood. She uses words and concepts that are culturally relevant to me. They are my cultural inheritance and I have had them all along. Re-connecting with Anzaldúa has guided me to re-connecting with myself on a deeper level that no colonization can take away from me, hard as it may try.