Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Serpent Theme in "Borderlands, La Frontera" continued...

        While La facultad is the ability to sense fear and deeper realities, the Coatlicue state is the period in time in which one is becoming more isolated, void of distractions and becoming more knowledgeable and conscious. “Those activities or Coatlicue states which disrupt the smooth flow (complacency) of life are exactly what propel the soul to do its work: make soul, increase consciousness of itself. Our greatest disappointments and painful experiences- if we make meanings out of them- can lead us toward becoming more of who we are” (68). It is also important to note that the serpent is connected to the Coatlicue state in more than one way. Firstly, as seen in the last poem, Anzaldua uses the belly of the serpent to represents  the actual place in which Coatlicue takes place. However, secondly, Coatlicue was a very powerful female deity that was popular before the masculine Azteca-Mexica culture greatly reduced the number of female deities. Sometimes described as the Goddess of birth and death, Anzaldua also describes Coatlicue as: “Simultaneously, depending on the person, she represents: duality in life, a synthesis of duality, and a third perspective- something more than mere duality or a synthesis of duality” (68). In this way, Coatlicue is an important figure within the Chican@ movement. Coatlicue brings together life and death, the serpent and the eagle much in the same way Chican@s are trying to exist in the Borderlands, in between two worlds. Coatlicue, and the serpent theme, are “a symbol of the fusion of opposites” (69). 

Focusing again on that dark shining thing, we can see Anzaldua is trying to illustrate this relationship between Gloria and Coatlicue. The stanza in which Gloria is born the last line is- “sensing that something was missing” (45).  This “sensing” refers back to la facultad, and the ability to be more conscious and open for change. After Gloria is separated from her pain by being reborn through the coatlicue state she encounters the black and “numinous thing” (48). Now in a complete shift, it is no longer just Gloria and Coatlicue: “Here we are four women stinking with guilt/ you for not speaking your names/ me for not holding out my hand sooner” (51-53). I believe the “four women” Anzaldua is referencing is La Virgen de Guadalupe, La Llorona, La Chingada and Gloria. The theme of the serpent is still present in Guadalupe. By the end of the poem all four women seemed to have woven themselves into one indistinguishable voice.

The last stanza helps to portray the way in which one becomes at one with the beasts. The first line says, “I know you are the Beast”, but then the second line goes on to say that you are also the prey. In this way one can become one with the Beast. Anzaldua often said, “Let the wound caused by the serpent be cured by the serpent” (72). Everyone from “the midwife” to “that dark shining thing” is prey to the Beast. Ultimately the last line of the poem reiterates the idea of the Coatlicue state and the image of the serpent as “the fusion of opposites”.

Anzaldua, Gloria. Boderlands, La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 3rd. San Fransisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2007. Print. 

that dark shining thing
   You've shut the door again
   to escape the darkness
   only it's pitch black in that closet.

   Some buried part of you prevailed
   elected me to pry open a crack
   hear the unvoiced plea
   see the animal behind the bars
   of your eyelashes.

I am the only round face,
Indian-beaked, off-colored
in the faculty lineup, the workshop, the panel
and reckless enough to take you on.
I am the flesh you dig your fingernails into 
mine the hand you chop off while still clinging to it
the face spewed with your vomit
I risk your sanity
and mine.

I want to turn my back on you
wash my hands of you
but my hands remember each seam
each nail embedded in that wall
my feet know each rock you tread on
as you stumble I falter too
and I remember
he/me/they who shouted
push Gloria breathe Gloria
feel their hands holding me up, prompting me
until I'm facing that pulsing bloodied blackness
trying to scream
from between your legs
feel again the talons raking my belly.
I remember hating him/me/they who pushed me
as I'm pushing you
remember the casing breaking
flooding the walls
remember opening my eyes one day
sensing that someone was missing.

Missing was the pain, gone the fear
that all my life had walked beside me.
It was then I saw the numinous thing
it was black and it had my name
it spoke to me and I spoke to it.

Her we are four women stinking with guilt 
your for not speaking your names
me for not holding out my hand sooner.
I don't know how long I can keep naming
that dark animal
coaxing it out of you, out of me
keep calling it good or woman-god
while everyone says no no no.

I know I am that Beast that circles your house
peers in the window
and that you see yourself my prey.

   But I know you are the Beast
   its prey is you
   you that dark shining thing
   I know it's come down to this:
   vida o muerte, life or death.

In the first stanza it seems as though the narrator is trying to simulate the Coatlicue state, however unlike the previous poem discussed, instead of the image of the serpent, the narrator is in a closet. Instead of trying to come to terms with the darkness, she is trying to “escape”. Furthermore, also in the previous poem, when the narrator first falls down to the belly of the serpent she does not cast a shadow and thinks lights are shining on her from every direction. In this poem the darkness seems more flat, lacking the energy represented by the serpent. By the second indented stanza it is evident that the other “person” has come to help the narrator escape from the closet. The two obviously have a strong bond because of their ability to communicate nonverbally. By the sixth stanza we are finally revealed the narrative voices: Gloria and the Serpent Goddess, Coatlicue. In an ultimate image of union of characters and identities, Gloria is born from the “pulsing bloodied blackness” and “talons” of Coatlicue (36, 39). After the birth there is a shift in the balance of their relationship. Now Gloria is pushing Coatlicue in the same way that “him /me/they” pushed her.
               Similar to the modern Chican@, the history of Coatlicue is one that has been influenced and censored throughout the years by different groups. “The male-dominated Azteca-Mexica culture drove the powerful female deities underground by giving them monstrous attributes and by substituting male deities in their place, thus splitting the female Self and the female deities. They divided her who had been complete, who possessed both upper (light) and underworld (dark) aspects” (49). Due to that division, the stereotypical depictions of women as either the chaste La Virgen or la Chingada the puta became very culturally engrained.  However, the serpent is reintroduced with the story of Guadalupe. Guadalupe told Juan Diego her name was Maria Coatlalopeuh, which Anzaldua translates the last name from Nahuatl to mean: “the one who is at one with the beasts” (51). 

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