Being a part of the global community, with its incredible diversity and complicated history of relationships between different groups, is quite challenging, especially for those belonging to minority groups. In her poem “To Live in the Borderlands,” Gloria Anzaldua purports the emotional weight of the struggle that she carries as a woman and a member of an ethnically diverse group. The poem reflects the complexities of the colonialist past that have shaped present-day relationships among people and the challenges faced by women, particularly, women of color, due to the legacy of subjugation, by using metaphor and reinforcing it with alliteration.
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The use of metaphor in the poem allows making the key sentiment and the main meaning of it to become palatable to any reader. In fact, the very title of the poem serves as a powerful metaphor; namely, the concept of living in the borderlands implies being placed in a cross-cultural setting, where the dominant traditions and values may come into harsh conflict with the culture and traditions of the minority group, suppressing them and enforcing the established culture. At the same time, the metaphors in the poem hare also carefully selected to represent the experience of a Latin American woman in the environment that is filled with prejudice and racism. For instance, the lines “the wind steals your voice” represent the experience of losing one’s agency in a setting that reinforces racist and sexist stereotypes, causing women of ethnic minority groups to lose their voice in their community (Anzaldua line 12). Thus, metaphors play a crucial role in conveying the vulnerability of minority women.
Alliteration is also utilized in the poem quite frequently to emphasize the main message and draw the reader’s attention to it. For example, the words “burra, buey,” placed together, appear to misalign with the rest of the line, which does not have any other alliterations of the kind. However, the specified instance of alliteration helps to emphasize the power of the metaphor, pointing to the perception of minority women as lesser human beings. In a similar way, the lines “your heart/pound you pinch you” create the rhythmic pattern that enhances the impact of the poem, allowing the reader to relate to the protagonist closer.
In addition, the introduction of different languages into the poem serves as the means of rendering the confusion that engulfs one after encountering the alien culture and language. Reflecting on the effects that the specified cross-cultural conflict has on the perception of one’s identity, Anzaldua portrays her experience in the following way: “you are neither hispana india negra espanola ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata” (Anzaldua lines 1-2). Thus, the sense of loss experienced when facing a completely unfamiliar environment is rendered perfectly, summarizing the feelings of a minority representative.
With the help of seemingly simple literary tools such as anaphora and alliteration, as well as much more complex metaphors incorporated into the body of the poem, Anzaldua introduces the reader to her experience both as an individual struggle as a collective trauma of the colonialist past. Thus, the poem becomes poignant and meaningful, making the plight of Latin American ethnic groups, as well as other ethnic and racial minorities, vocal and clear. Incorporating the pain and the community trauma of the Latin African American experience, “To Live in the Borderlands” is a fascinating and thought-provoking perspective on the difficulties experienced by Latin American women.
Anzaldua, Gloria. To Live in the Borderlands. PowerPoetry, 1987.