Internationally recognized cultural theorist, creative writer, and independent scholar Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa was born on September 26, 1942 in Raymondville, Texas, to Urbano and Amalia Anzaldúa. She worked in a wide variety of genres, including poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, anthologies, and children’s books. One of the first openly lesbian Chicana writers, Anzaldúa played a major role in redefining Chicana/o, queer, feminist, and female identities, and in developing inclusionary movements for social justice. Her theories of mestizaje, the borderlands, and the new mestiza, as well as her code-switching, have had an impact far beyond the field of Chicano/a studies. Her insistence on community and coalition-building united feminist concerns with issues of race, gender, class, sexuality, health, and spirituality. Anzaldúa also played a formative role in the development of Queer Theory.

The eldest child of four, Anzaldúa was raised in South Texas. She spent her earliest years on Jesus María, a ranch settlement in the Rio Grande Valley. During this time, her family lived on the various ranches on Jesus María, and one year traveled to West Texas, where they worked as migrant farmers. When she was eleven, the family moved to Hargill, Texas in order to provide the children with greater educational opportunities. Anzaldúa’s intimate knowledge of the South Texas landscape, gained through working on various farms and ranches in order to help with expenses, coupled with her awareness from an early age of the Valley’s legacy of racial discrimination and Tejano land dispossession, influenced her work profoundly. An avid reader as a child, Gloria began experimenting with writing through journal entries, poetry, and short fiction while still in high school. She graduated from Edinburg High School in 1962, and enrolled in Texas Woman’s University that fall. Unable to pay tuition beyond the first year, she withdrew, worked for two years, and began attending Pan-American University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English in 1969.

Anzaldúa taught pre-school, special education classes, and high school for several years in the Valley, while also attending summer graduate classes at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned her master’s degree in English and Education in 1972. She then served as a liaison between migrant camps and school officials in Indiana, and it was during her time there that she began her writing in earnest. In 1974, Anzaldúa decided to return to the University of Texas at Austin to continue her graduate studies at the doctoral level in literature. During these years, Anzaldúa also worked with a variety of political groups, including MECHA, farm worker protests, and feminist organizations and consciousness-raising groups. While at UTA, Anzaldúa taught a course called “La Mujer Chicana” and realized the profound lack of published materials by and about U.S. women of color. This awareness was the first step in her decision to edit the anthology which would later become This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Resolving to dedicate herself and her life to her writing, she moved to San Francisco, where she juggled a number of temporary jobs in order to devote time to her writing. Two years later, after experiencing discrimination at a writing workshop, Anzaldúa formulated the call for papers for her groundbreaking anthology of women-of-color writing. She had also recently met Cherríe Moraga at a Feminist Writer’s Guild meeting held at Old Wives Tales Bookstore; a few months later, she asked Moraga to co-edit the anthology.

The 1980s were a prolific period for Anzaldúa’s poetry and fiction, as she moved from San Francisco to New York and attended various writers’ retreats and workshops. She also began to travel around the country doing her “gigs,” or speaking engagements, as recognition of her work mounted after the release of This Bridge Called My Back. Much of her writing between 1984 to 1986, including a small portion of her extensive poetry and a parts of a manuscript entitled “La serpiente que se come su cola,” ultimately found its way into Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, which was published in 1987.

In 1988 Anzaldúa was accepted into the Ph.D. program in literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. While teaching a women’s studies class at UCSC, she assembled a course reader that became the basis for the anthology Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras, published in 1990. In 1991, she began work on her dissertation. Tentatively titled “Lloronas–Women Who Wail: (Self)Representation and the Production of Writing, Knowledge, and Identity,” this dissertation focused on consciousness, writing, knowledge production, identity, resistance and agency, especially as these issues impact Chicana/mestizas and other “post-colonial cultural” women. However, the demands of her professional life as a writer and speaker, together with the diagnosis of Type I diabetes in the early 1990s, compelled her to put aside her graduate work for the time being. During the mid 1990s, she published two children’s books, Friends from the Other Side/Amigos del Otro Lado and Prietita and the Ghost Woman/Prietita y la llorona, and drafted several others. Throughout her life, Anzaldúa gave approximately 100 interviews. Noting that interviews were, like writing, an important part of communicating, she published in 2000 with AnaLouise Keating the collection Interviews/Entrevistas, which included selected interviews from 1982 to 1999. In 2001, Anzaldúa returned to her doctoral work. Rather than continue with the dissertation she had drafted in the early 1990s, she entirely revised her dissertation project, incorporating previously published essays and writing several new chapters. Again collaborating with Keating, she published the highly anticipated anthology, this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation, in 2002.

Throughout her successful career as a writer, theorist, and activist, Anzaldúa continued to teach, which she loved to do. She taught formally through Vermont College’s Adult Degree Program in the 1980s, several writer-in-residence and visiting professor appointments, and through Women’s Voices, a creative writing workshop at UC Santa Cruz. She also taught and collaborated more informally, organizing writing groups for women of color. Her book on the writing process was one of many projects she was working on when she passed away.

Anzaldúa received many honors and awards during her lifetime, including the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award for This Bridge Called My Back, the Lambda Lesbian Small Book Press Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Award, the Lesbian Rights Award, the Sappho Award of Distinction, and the American Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award. Borderlands was named one of the 38 best books of 1987 by the Library Journal, and was selected by the Utne Reader for inclusion in their Loose Canon, a list of 150 works that “broaden, deepen, or define the experience of being alive.” The Utne Reader also featured her as one of their Utne Visionaries of 1996. She was awarded her Ph.D. in literature, posthumously, by the University of California Santa Cruz.

Gloria Anzaldúa died on 15 May 2004 at her home in Santa Cruz, California, due to diabetes-related complications.

Works Referenced:

  • Anzaldua, Gloria. Interview with Karin Ikas. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 1987. By Gloria Anzaldua. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1999. 227-246.
  • – – -. Interviews/Entrevistas. Ed. AnaLouise Keating. New York: Routledge, 2000.
  • – – -. Introduction. Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Foundation, 1990.. xv-xxviii.
  • Keating, AnaLouise. “Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa.” ColorLines (Fall 2004): 42.
  • Keating, AnaLouise, and Randy Conner. “Rest in Peace, Gloria.” Making Face, Making Soul: a Chicana feminist homepage. 16 Oct. 2004. 30 Aug. 2006.


This biographical sketch is taken directly from the home website of Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa Papers’s, an archive housed in the Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, University of Texas Libraries, the University of Texas Austin.