Border Dwelling – A Fascinating and Uncomfortable Calling


Mexican boy at the border

One of the ways I tend to describe my challenged identity to those who want to know who I really am is to say that I am a ‘border dweller, negotiating traffic between opposing realities‘. It is a fascinating position, as you are able to look critically at both realities, and to be enriched  equally by both. It is, however, also a dangerous position, since those who are there are usually shot at from both sides. Yet, to be authemtic, one has to be what one is called to be, as unconfortable as that might sound.

Today I found a very interesting article, written by Robert Hunt, an American Methodist author I usually read with great interest (with a simple search, you may find a few of his texts on my blog, especially on topics related to Palestine and Israel). The article I mentioned here, titled ‘Privilege and Loss of Personnhood‘, ends with a fabulously rich poem in prose by Gloria Anzaldúa, which sumarises well my feelings about what it means to be a ‘border dweller’, be it in Mexican terms, in this case. Here it is:

* * *

To Live In The Borderlands
by  Gloria Anzaldúa

To live in the Borderlands means you
are neither hispana india negra espanola
ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata, half-breed
caught in the crossfire between camps
while carrying all five races on your back
not knowing which side to turn to, run from;

To live in the Borderlands means knowing
that the india in you, betrayed for 500 years,

is no longer speaking to you,
the mexicanas call you rajetas,
that denying the Anglo inside you

is as bad as having denied the Indian or Black;

Cuando vives en la frontera
people walk through you, the wind steals your voice,
you’re a burra, buey, scapegoat,
forerunner of a new race,
half and half-both woman and man, neither-a new gender;

To live in the Borderlands means to
put chile in the borscht,
eat whole wheat tortillas,
speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;
be stopped by la migra at the border checkpoints;

Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to
resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle,
the pull of the gun barrel,
the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;

In the Borderlands
you are the battleground
where enemies are kin to each other;
you are at home, a stranger,
the border disputes have been settled
the volley of shots have scattered the truce
you are wounded, lost in action
dead, fighting back;

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
pound you pinch you roll you out
smelling like white bread but dead;

To survive the Borderlands
you must live sin fronteras.
be a crossroads.

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