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Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua 1942-2004.

Internationally acclaimed cultural theorist, creative writer and independent scholar Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua passed away on May 15, 2004, from diabetes-related complications. One of the boldest feminist thinkers and social justice activists of our time, Anzaldua played a major role in redefining Chicana/o, queer and female identities, and in developing inclusive movements for social justice. Her writings give courage and inspiration to many.

It is difficult finding words to adequately convey the multifaceted nature of Gloria and her work. Born on September 26, 1942, Anzaldua was the oldest child of sixth-generation Mexicanos from the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas. She participated in many social movements and groups, including the Farm Workers' Movement and the Brown Berets. Yet she refused to be contained within any single perspective or agenda. As she asserts in "La Prieta," published in 1980 in This Bridge Called My Back:

"I am a wind-swayed bridge, a crossroads inhabited by whirl-winds. Gloria, the facilitator, Gloria the mediator ... Your allegiance is to La Raza, the Chicano movement,' say the members of my race. 'Your allegiance is to the Third World,' say my Black and Asian friends. 'Your allegiance is to your gender, to women,' say the feminists. Then there's my allegiance to the Gay movement, to the socialist revolution, to the New Age, to magic and the occult. And there's my affinity to literature, to the world of the artist. What am I? A third world lesbian feminist with Marxist and mystic leanings. They would chop me up into little fragments and tag each piece with a label."

Although each group tried to control membership by imposing its own demands, Gloria refused their rules without rejecting the people themselves. Instead, she exposed the flaws in this group-thinking and called for broader communities. In recent writings such as this bridge we call home, Anzaldua took this call even further: "Many of us identify with groups and social positions not limited to our ethnic, racial, religious, class, gender, or national classifications. Though most people self-define by what they exclude, we define who we are by what we include--what I call the 'new tribalism'."

A versatile, award-winning author, Anzaldua is best known for Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, a hybrid collection of poetry and prose, which was named one of the 100 Best Books of the Century by both Hungry Mind Review and Utne Reader. Anzaldua's published works also include This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981), co-edited with Cherrie Moraga, a groundbreaking multigenre collection widely recognized by scholars as the premiere multicultural feminist text; and Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists-of-Color.

In all her writings, Anzaldua spoke with raw openness. She drew on her personal experiences to explore diverse political, aesthetic, epistemological and spiritual issues, including oppressions based on class, color, gender, language, physical (dis)abilities, religion and/or sexuality; Chicana, Latina, queer, lesbian, and female sexualities and identities; shamanism; and non-western aesthetics. Although Anzaldua chose to work outside the university system, her writings are taught in many college courses, and her theories have profoundly impacted numerous academic disciplines. Anzaldua's redefinition of Chicana/o identities, her use of code-switching, her explorations of border issues and mestizaje identities and her radical mixture of genres transformed U.S. literature.

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When I met Gloria in 1991, I was struck by her vulnerability and sensitivity to others' alienation and pain. Deeply spiritual and intensely political, she believed in human beings' basic goodness and their ability to change. As I grew to know her, I became increasingly impressed with the ways this faith shaped her work. She used her writing in the service of social justice. In this bridge we call home, our recent multigenre collection calling for new forms of feminist/womanist theorizing, Gloria wrote, "[e]mpowerment comes from ideas--our revolution is fought with concepts, not with guns, and it is fueled by vision. By focusing on what we want to happen we change the present. The healing images and narratives we imagine will eventually materialize." Her words challenge us to adopt more expansive visions for social change.

(For a vibrant illustration of Gloria's impact, see the online altar at http://gloria.chicanas.com).

AnaLouise Keating teaches women's studies at Texas Woman's University. She is the editor of Anzaldua's Interviews/Entrevistas and co-editor with Anzaldua of this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation. At the time of Anzaldua's death, they were co-editing Bearing Witness, Reading Lives: Imagination, Creativity, and Cultural Change.
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Title Annotation:Culture
Author:Keating, AnaLouise
Publication:Colorlines Magazine
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2004
Words:753
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