There is a border in the United States among culture and language. This border between language and culture also exists outside of the United States. There are over 5000 languages in the world, which can lead to cultural differences, discrimination, and borders. Author of How to Tame a Wild Tongue, Gloria Anzaldua, talks about these borderlands or "la Frontera". The idea of these borderlands is that it is a place where the culture or person—referred to as "mestiza" or mixture—is fully equal to and distinguished from the cultures that are combined to make it. In Anzaldtia`s work, she discusses the discrimination she faces within different language groups. In How to Tame a Wild Tongue, Anzaldua describes her experiences as a young woman in the United States being discriminated against by both her culture group and Americans. Anzaldua accomplishes this by writing in two languages: English and Spanish.
The powerful and relatable sense of discrimination is accomplished by Anzaldua writing in both English and Spanish. Anzaldua was raised in southern Texas and is a native Spanish speaker. For a reader who is not a native Spanish speaker, it is difficult to read Anzaldua’s work which creates frustration among the reader. As a reader who does not speak any form of Spanish, I became frustrated that the text was not entirely in English. Writing in both English and Spanish creates a juxtaposition: they are both languages with a standard format for speaking and writing, however they are two very different languages.
Because they are similar yet different, putting the languages together for an audience that is does not speak both English and Spanish creates a disdain for the writer or their writing and creates the very discrimination against language that Anzaldua writes about. Anzaldua writes, “Ahogadas, escupimos el oscuro. Peleando con nuestra propia sombra el silencio nos sepulta” (Anzaldua 529). Loosely translated, this excerpt talks about the tradition of silence that people who speak a different language have grown accustomed to due to others’ lack of understanding their language. Silencing another cultural group’s language is a form of discrimination, which was accomplished by the reader who does not speak Spanish. By translating the text to read in English rather than reading it in Spanish, or vice versa, the language is lost.
Anzaldua introduces the idea of linguistic terrorism in her writing. Anzaldua has said that she speaks seven languages: standard English, working class and slang English, standard Spanish, standard Mexican Spanish, North Mexican Spanish dialect, Chicano Spanish, Tex-Mex, and Calo. Notice, that all of the seven languages are variations of two languages: English and Spanish. Anzaldua speaks these variations of English and Spanish as a way of feeling comfortable and at home by using language. The different forms of Spanish were developed by different Chicano cultures, although one has been clearly superior to the rest. This use of
different Chicano languages against other Chicanos has lead Anzaldua to believe that she was inferior. In a critical response by Lea Ramsdell, Ramsdell explores the motif of language among Latino writers in the United States, including Gloria Anzaldua. Ramsdell speaks on Anzaldua’s experience of finding her language written in literature. Ramsdell writes, “By seeing that her language could be written as well as oral, she felt that she herself was validated” (Ramsdell 175). Anzaldua’s idea of linguistic terrorism is that offending a person’s language is similar to offending the person. This metaphor of linguistic terrorism illuminates the constant battle for validation of one’s worth. By using the word “terrorism” to describe the attacks on her language she faced epitomizes the discrimination against language.
In an interview with Ann Reuman for the Study of the Multi-ethnic Literature of the United States, Anzaldua discusses her novels. Anzaldua was asked about misrepresentation and appropriation of her metaphor of borderlands and how it makes her feel as the author. Anzaldua tells about her intentions of the borderlands metaphor and how it is written for people to be able to form their own ideas from it. Anzaldua says, “...was to open up the concept of ‘mestizaje,’ of the new mestiza and hybridity, to be non-exclusive, to be inclusive of white people and people from other communities” (Anzaldua 6). The idea of la Frontera is for two cultures to be equal to each other yet acknowledge the differences. For Anzaldua, she effectively demonstrates the differences between two cultures, but does not show how they can be equal. Most of her narrative is dedicated to how she was discriminated against by Americans and other Chicanos. The acceptance or the neutrality between two cultures was not expressed. The best way that she demonstrates the acceptance of two cultures is when describing her finding of music and literature made by her cultural group.
In How to Tame a Wild Tongue, Anzaldua uses the languages English and Spanish to illustrate the discrimination that is placed on cultures just by way of language. Although she speaks English and Spanish, the differences in dialect among Spanish and English speakers create a division within these cultural groups to create their own culture based on dialect. This juxtaposition of English and Spanish leads the reader to ultimately experience the same discrimination. Also, her use of the metaphor “linguistic terrorism” effectively demonstrates her struggle to gain validity with cultural groups. However, following her concept of borderlands, neither accepting nor declining either culture, she does not effectively demonstrate the benefits of borderlands by discussing her battles.