The Homeland, Aztlán – ch. 1 Borderlands/La Frontera

This chapter presents the historical (pre and post Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo) and cultural formation of the US-Mexico border and the people who inhabit/compose it. The chapter relies upon repeating imagery of traversing, breaking, forging, and scraping against harsh and indeterminate borders. La Mar delights in breaching/soaking and erasing man-made borders. On land, between the places/spaces/nations/peoples the friction ruptures and the land bleeds. The bodies of los atravesados bleed too. The border, the barbed wire, forged into their spines, hearts, brains.

Shifting borders, trans-national movements, and porous subjectivities (beginning as long ago as the Bering Straits migration) are fundamentally altered by patriarchal power constructions–from Aztecs to Conquistadors to US Gringos. Rhetorical constructions of those in power work to keep the status quo. Suddenly Mexicanos y Tejanos are traitors of the Alamo, English is the official language of law and culture, landowners and fifth generation Americans are illegal, and all are silenced by white superiority.

Crossing back, returning, entering for the first time and again, the mestizos are re-composed again as cucarachas, illegals, mojados, refugees, yet they are also pilgrims in the tradition of the odyssey to Aztlán. Returning to the ancestral homeland–but this is not the land of milk and honey. This is the frontline of Reagan’s unending war on drugs. The battle is a marathon–over the border and through the cultural/political mine field.

The Mexican woman is especially vulnerable. In Mexico they are fodder for the capitalist maquiladoras. On the border, smuggled into cities they are prostitutes and maids. The Mexican women faces a double threat. Like all women, she is prey–vulnerable to sexual violence. Yet she is also vulnerable to the political, social, and cultural realities of an undocumented refugee. Her home is the thin edge of barbed wire–the place between.

Between violence and possibility.


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