To live in the Borderlands means you are neither hispana india negra española ni gabacha, ° eres mestiza, mulata,° half-breed caught in the crossfire between camps 5while carrying all five races on your back not knowing which side to turn to, run from; To live in the Borderlands means knowing that the india in you, betrayed for 500 years, is no longer speaking to you, 10that mexicanas call you rajetas, ° that denying the Anglo inside you is as bad as having denied the Indian or Black;
Cuando vives en la frontera ° people walk through you, the wind steals your voice, 15you’re a burra, buey, ° scapegoat, forerunner of a new race, half and half—both woman and man, neither— a new gender;
To live in the Borderlands means to 20put chile in the borscht, eat whole wheat tortillas, speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent; be stopped by la migra ° at the border checkpoints;
Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to 25resist the gold elixer beckoning from the bottle, the pull of the gun barrel, the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;
In the Borderlands you are the battleground 30where enemies are kin to each other; you are at home, a stranger, the border disputes have been settled the volley of shots have shattered the truce you are wounded, lost in action 35dead, fighting back;
To live in the Borderlands means the mill with the razor white teeth wants to shred off your olive-red skin, crush out the kernel, your heart 40pound you pinch you roll you out smelling like white bread but dead;
To survive the Borderlands you must live sin fronteras ° be a crossroads.
2–3 neither . . . mulata neither Hispanic Indian black Spanish woman nor white you are mixed, a mixed breed.
3 gabacha a Chicano term for a white woman.
10 rajetas literally, “split,” that is, having betrayed your word (author’s note).
13 Cuando . . . frontera when you live in the borderlands.
15 burra, buey donkey, oxen (author’s note).
23 la migra immigration officials.
42 sin fronteras without borders.