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A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. – Gloria Anzaldúa
I am a border. My body is a borderland. Each day I wake, I carry with me the reality of having a Mestizaje body: both Anglo and Mexican. Mentally and emotionally, I am situated on the border and in the US/Mexican borderlands, specifically Texas, where el río bravo marks nation/state territory. I exist in these always rushing and sometimes violent waters. I always exist in between nations and cultures and languages. It is an inescapable reality, a never-ending borderland.
Life is complicated with a Mestizaje body. Without the sun, my body varies in shades of brown. And, therefore, ways in which my body is read by some give me certain privileges. Yet, when my body is read by others (those of varying colors), I am situated as having a Mestizaje body. Yet, when I speak, I am confusing to certain people. My Tejana accent, the way my mouth speaks and utters both English and Spanish, the way my body speaks its language–each of these moments disrupts the stasis of my world further situating me in the Río Grande, most times without a life vest. This is particularly pronounced in academic spaces and when I am with Latin@ communities. I belong to both, yet do not fit in either space. And, while I become visible to some during these moments, the reality of the/my Mestizaje body remains invisible to most. My Mestizajeness remains invisible to the White culture. I am perhaps read as an ambiguously raced person, but the Other, the White Other, defaults to naming me as a White person. For others, however, I am a light-skinned Mejicana. Invisibility becomes a living, embodied reality.
In many ways, the reality of having a Mestizaje body is the reality of vagueness and invisibility. I am unnatural and exist in between worlds. I am colorless or invisible to the visible world of color around me and remain living life in treacherous river waters as I navigate both the Anglo and Mexican realities. The river in which I reside is in constant transition; it is not home and I do not belong. As a result, I am always in constant transition. I am without a state, without a nation, and only have an invisible body. The Mestizaje body, MY Mestizaje body, has no home, no permanent space to which it belongs. This/my body seeks to take root wherever it is welcome. In this vein, I echo the work of Gloria Anzaldúa, who, in search for a place to be visible and in which to take root, writes: “And if going home is denied me, then I will have to stand and claim my space, making a new culture — una cultura mestiza — with my own lumber, my own bricks and mortar and my own feminist architecture.”
Aimee Carrillo Rowe, in her article entitled “Be Longing: Toward a Feminist Politics of Relation,” speaks of home space as a site of belonging, implicating the politics of location. Home is a location, a particular space from which we relate. That, a “politics of location” is a “politics of relation.” Carrillo Rowe contextualizes this article by locating herself, her physical body–making herself visible in the space where English words are constructed into sentences and sentences become paragraphs resulting in an article. Likewise, in an effort to make my Mestizaje body visible to the larger world, while traversing and attempting to survive this (my metaphorical) river, and in an attempt to become particularly visible to the reading world, in order to find a liminal location from which I can relate and Be-Long, I will locate myself using words.
In many ways, words are a place of home for me. It is a primary place where I am visible to both the Anglo and Mexican worlds. I can shift in between these realities, these cultures, these liminalities. It is a move in becoming a nepantalera, one who exists in between things, realities, worlds, people. I do believe that I regularly construct a home with words. Perhaps even in words. Language wraps my body in ways that allows my body to perform my Mestizajeness. I find a sense of belonging, a home, in the beautiful braided reality of multiple languages, particularly Español y Ingles. For me, for my Mestizaje body, this is the place of napantla, that very particular in-between space where the river, my life, flourishes.
Initially, when I began drafting this narrative, I was sitting in my favorite chair, which is khaki in color. The sun was shining through the windows and there behind me was a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains and a deep blue sky (I am writing from the United States, Denver, Colorado to be precise). Now, however, as I finish this narrative, I am sitting in a Latino/a home, not far from mi casa, where the language of the home is Español and the ethos is welcoming, and I belong here. I belong because the language shifts between English and Español and the interactions are not part of the dominant culture.
In many ways, this transition in writing and the act of writing from different places highlights my everyday life: the always in transition and the never fully be-longing. Likewise, using the metaphor of the river as a site for locating myself, my body, and as a way to highlight the lack of belonging is key. In order to belong, I must first know where my body will land and in which direction my feet will tread. It may not be home, but it is a space for relating. Yet, though a river is visible, and in particular this river that flows between Mexico and Texas, much of the river’s life or activity is invisible, like my Mestizaje body. This concern of invisibility highlights home space and the challenge to belong.
Both Carrillo Rowe and Anzaldúa write about concepts of home, belonging, and space. For Carrillo Rowe, home is a contested space, which reveals the political nature of space and relating. The term that she uses in the above article is “location.” The contested space of home is a political location for the body. The contested nature of space is laden with the politics of identity, too, which thereby implicates our bodies. Identity, she indicates, assumes elements of belonging. Similarly, Anzaldúa writes about the urgency of taking space and building a home. Anzaldúa is prepared to build a new culture rooted in the nature of the Mestizaje body should home be denied her. And, what is profound about the work of Anzaldúa is that she grew up in between different worlds and cultures, navigating the radical differences she encountered. It was surely contested, and it was certainly a challenge to find a space from which she would relate. Both Anzaldúa and Carrillo Rowe incorporate these experiences into their academic work as a way to construct belonging, take space, and contest the dominant paradigm. Looking to them as examples, I am able to see my body become visible and belong, albeit colorless, in a world full of varying color.
The challenge to belong is also political. Connecting my invisible Mestizaje body to a world full of radical differences and color challenges me to put my body into motion, in transition, and to traverse the varying elements of el Río Bravo. It is in this way that my invisibility becomes political and my body’s potential emerges into something valuable. Traversing the river implicates my body in ways unseen. Belonging in between worlds and cultures, that is, being a nepantalera, is the place of movement , transition, and belonging, where the politics of relating are actualized. “Belonging is that movement in the direction of the other: bodies in motion, encountering their own transition, their potential to vary” (Aimee Carrillo Rowe, “Be Longing: Toward a Feminist Politics of Relation”).
Postcolonial Body Performance Narratives (PBPN) by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza