Gloria Anzaldúa was instrumental in the Chicana/o Movement as an activist, writer, teacher, cultural and queer theorist, and feminist. She was born in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas in 1942. After receiving her triple Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, art and education from Pan American University in Texas, her writing became a central part of her activism. Her most influential work was “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza,” a mix of biography and theory that includes several literary styles, from poetry to art, in a blend of English and Spanish. “Borderlands,” belongs to a genre all its own: autohistoria-teoría. It is a truly inspirational work. Anzaldúa died of diabetes complications in 2004.
As a part of the Chicano Movement, Anzaldúa noticed the sexism that plagued it. Women were not allowed in positions of leadership within the Movement, despite being crucial to its advancement. Anzaldúa did not think the feminist movement was anymore inclusive, having experienced classism and racism from white feminists. Anzaldúa focused most of her writing on addressing these issues, and in 1981 together with Cherríe Moraga, co-edited “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.”
A celebration to honor the Chicana activist’s life, legacy, and work was done at the 2nd Annual Gloria Anzaldúa luncheon, held at the University of Texas at Austin. UT’s Queer People of Color and Allies (QPOCA), a student organization for the education, empowerment, and visibility of queer people of color, organize the annual luncheon. The luncheon was started because QPOCA students felt Anzaldúa was not sufficiently recognized the way other activists of color were on campus, such as Barbara Jordan or Martin Luther King Jr.
Kim Crosby, a grassroots community educator, brought an inspirational energy to the conference, declaring, “Our anger at injustice is a powerful catalyst for change.”
Recently, the Librotraficante created an Underground Gloria Anzaldúa Library to help raise awareness about the Arizona ban on ethnic studies. Other celebrations of Anzaldúa’s life has taken place across multiple campus, including the creation of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldua.
Anzaldúa’s work and legacy is important because it provided Latinas, especially lesbian/queer Latinas, new levels of visibility. More importantly, Anzaldúa inspired a new generation of Chicanas/Latinas/Tejanas to produce theory, art, and writing that resist oppression. Anzaldúa helped inspire future activists, such as Crosby, to continue theorizing and participating in revolutionary politics.