“Do work that matters. Vale la pena.” - Gloria Anzaldua
Writer, teacher, and Chicana activist Gloria Anzaluda was born in 1942 in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. She would have celebrated her 75th birthday this year on September 26, but sadly she passed away due to complications from diabetes in 2004. She leaves behind an inspirational legacy and an impressive volume of published work.
A resident of the Texas/Mexico border, Gloria had a foot in both worlds, referring to herself as mestiza, a term common to those who descend from both European and indigenous ancestry. She was fluent in Spanish and English, frequently mingling the two in her work to represent the mixing of cultures along the border, as in her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Through her writing, teaching, and university lectures she made significant contributions to the fields of feminism, cultural theory, and queer theory. Though Gloria faced many obstacles in her life, including serious health issues, economic disparity, and systemic racism, she persevered in her primary passions, writing and social activism. She wanted to change the world through her work, making it a more fair place for women, those who identified as "queer", and non-white people. She introduced terms like "the new mestiza" and "mestiza consciousness" to the lexicon. Her radically inclusive feminism, which sought to include women of all races and sexual identities, became widely known as "spiritual activism" and left a lasting mark on feminism that persists to this day.
Gloria's life proves that even with severe limitations, a determined activist can succeed in changing the world. The impact of her books and lectures changed the face of activism as we know it, and it all started with the decision to speak out. Any student can learn the skills necessary to bring their unique perspective to the world, and a great place to start is in your own school's debate team.