A Mixture of Culturas: The New Mestiza

Mestizaje is commonly known as the mixture of the European race with the Indians living in the Americas, something that began very long ago when the Americas were first being conquered. According to anthropologists on Mestizaje and Indigenous Identities, a majority of the Mexican population is the genetic product of mixing of “Amerindians with Europeans” and mestizaje is a biological fact. However, taking this into consideration then raises another question, which of the two ends is granted the most importance. A mixture in race also involves a mixture in cultures and according to these anthropologists; the European culture was always seen as the better one. “Europeanness” was associated with ideas of progress and modernization. The living indigenous people were seen as a backward and traditional “in need of modernization and progress” but this progressiveness was defined by having whiter skin, thus looking more indigenous became socially degrading (Mestizaje). In other words, mestizos became a combination of the oppressor and the oppressed. As Margaret Cantú Sánchez puts it in A Mestizaje of Epistemologies in American Indian Stories and Ceremony, “today Americans must accept the fact that we are all a mixture of cultures and must learn to accept the struggle with being both a part of the culture of the oppressed and the oppressors.”

This idea brings us to the “new mestizo” because this is a “doubleness experienced through the mixed-race bodies of the mestiza and mestizo, one in which a sense of belonging coexists with an awareness of exclusion” as stated by Rafael Perez-Torres. This is exactly the message that we find in Anzaldua’s the “New Mestiza.” The new mestiza is one that has been created through a mixture of cultures and “borderlands” that she finds it difficult to associate with just one. Cradled in one culture, sandwhiched between two cultures, straddling all three cultures and their value systems, la mestiza undergoes a struggle of flesh, a struggle of borders, an inner war” (Anzaldua, 100). The new mestiza develops a tolerance for contradictions and ambiguity. “She learns to be an Indian in Mexican culture, to be Mexican from an Anglo point of view” and she develops a plural personality because nothing is rejected, and she learns to sustain the contradictions seen in the different cultures (Anzaldua 101).

The new mestiza is far more complex today than back when the term mestiza first came to be. In today’s society the new mestiza is much stronger, the struggles are still there but it is dealing with these struggles and learning to find an identity between these contradictions in culture and beliefs that the new mestiza creates her personality. A mixture of cultures presents a struggle, but it also presents a uniqueness in one’s identity, because while the new mestiza struggles to define herself, she also has that power to mold out of these learned contradictions what she desires.

Additional resources:
Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 2007. Print.

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