Gloria Anzaldua (1942-2004) was a famous feminist writer, teacher, and political activist. How to Tame a Wild Tongue is a title of one chapter from the Borderlands/La Frontera book, written by her. In this chapter, the writer talks about her life in Chicana at the time when there was much controversy over the immigration to the US when Latinos living in the United States were struggling to find their national identity and preserve their language to speak it freely without shame and fear.
Ana Castillo, another Chicano writer, remarked that to be Chicano in the US that time meant to be a dark-skinned marginal, who was treated like a stranger in his own home and expected to perform the dirtiest work, not demanding anything in return from the society in which Chicano dragged his own existence. Hispanic immigrants in the United States were mentally tortured under the domination of English language and culture, turning into something that was neither English nor Spanish, but a mixture of both languages. G. Anzaldua targets readers who shared their experience in finding their clear personality for the better understanding of Chicano’s life.
Reading the first few paragraphs, the author stresses how it is important for a person to keep his language and his way of speaking. The reader discovers that forcing someone to speak only one foreign language is nearly impossible. Being bilingual, the author tells about her own experience and about her preferences to Spanish, her mother language, or to be more precise, Chicano Spanish. She loved speaking Spanish and wanted people around to speak Spanish but she remembered the school time when she had been sent to the corner of the classroom by her English teacher when all she was trying to do was to tell how to pronounce her name in the Spanish way. The author says: if you want to be American, speak American and if you don’t like it, go back to Mexico where you belong to.
The Borderlands/La Frontera book tells about the concept of the border not only as a geographic space but as a place of the identity resistance and political positioning. The author constantly reflects the silenced moments of the history kept by Chicana women – a new political order, an alternative identity that defined a new subjectivity and gave different ways of conceiving the history and meaning of the border. On one hand, Anzaldua develops a redefinition of the Chicano national identity, founded on the myth of Aztlan, offering a new concept of the Chicano woman with heterogeneous, marginal and indigenous heritage, a lesbian woman living on the border between Mexico and the US, whose identity is built on the basis of her struggles and her multiple racial, linguistic and historical origins. On the other hand, she considers the border as a political and intellectual position, as a place to negotiate about marginal and alternative subjectivities and sexualities. Anzaldúa redefines the geographical boundary, which limits and excludes, to conceive a feminist cartography to invoke a more inclusive feminism and Chicano identity.
Thanks to the great contribution of Gloria Anzaldua, a new Chicano consciousness, and a new subjectivity has appeared – a political, social and woman self-awareness that starts from feminism to invite us to think about the categories (borders) that define and constrain us and which we have internalized to delimit our differences. Her new concept fights against sexism and machismo and offers to break with the sexual oppression, racial differences and exclusionary definitions, which restrict women, their identities, and sexualities. It also seeks to build a culture of the future harmony: Chicano culture, a collective consciousness in which not only Chicanos can find their identities, but all those who have limited subjectivities.
The formal autobiography was considered as an exclusively male genre because it promoted a conception of the human being with his individuality and separation, devaluing the personal and community interdependence. Anzaldua seems to offer the recovery of the personal and community interdependence and to leave aside the individual self-estimation that prevails in traditional autobiographies. In addition, Anzaldúa’s strategy in Borderlands continues to be adopted by the minorities of the sixties and seventies who could rescue their own history. The autobiography, being a marginal genre itself, contained in itself an unofficial culture, a history that questions the traditional history and the very conception of the history.
A society such as Gloria Anzaldúa described in her chapter “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” cannot be easily influenced or changed if the society is still living on its territory or close to it. It is in this type of settings that futility manifests the most. Once a society or a group of individuals are taken away from their territory they will, unknowingly, become heavily influenced if not entirely changed when it happens to their language, culture and history no matter how proud they are.
In her book, the author discusses the cultural and gendered impacts of the language itself. From an early age, girls were taught not to talk too much, not to talk back and not to ask questions. In Northern parts of Mexico and Southern parts of the United States, the female plural was excluded from the Spanish language, leaving women to fall under the masculine plural. Many Latinos living in these parts of the world are ruining their Spanish language by letting yourself influenced by the English language. They are criticized and blamed for learning or speaking English, the language of the oppressors, thus being treated as a traitor by their own people. Chicano Spanish was considered by the purist and by most Latinos as deficient, a mutilation of Spanish.
In this chapter, Anzaldúa discusses some examples of how the Spanish language changed and evolved in this part of the world since the first Spanish colonization. A combination of different languages, Spanish, English and Native American sounds and words were combined to develop by the present days into Chicano Spanish. But because of these combinations, the Chicano language was viewed as a “bastard” form which is neither Standard Spanish nor Standard English. It was considered by other Hispanics that the language of poorer quality and Chicanos felt uncomfortable in expressing themselves. Anzaldúa sees that this is the point that needs to be changed. The attack on the Chicano’s native language needs to be stopped because if a person has a low estimation of other’s native tongue, he also has a low estimation of other people. The author states that language is part of the ethnic identity and should be something one can find pride in. The ethnic identity, to the author’s opinion, has twin skin – the person and his language. Until the person isn’t proud of his language, he cannot take pride in himself.
In conclusion, Gloria Anzaldúa’s story “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” proved to be a convincing argument because she is the voice of the Chicano people living on both sides of the border. She narrates about her own experience being a “Chicana” in the United States where all the pressure of forgetting her language was put on her shoulders for many years. Anzaldúa’s writing style is very poetic. She uses a lot of imagery to impress her readers and also to let Non-Latin American people learn more about the life of Chicanos who are known so little by outsiders.