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introduction
In an interview in 1994, Gloria Anzaldúa noted that one goal of her
writing was to ‘‘look at who constructs knowledges, realities, and informa-
tion and how they control people’s identities through that construction.’’∞
Anzaldúa’s understanding of how external forces shape and influence
perceptions of Chicanas and U.S. Mexicanas speaks to the power of repre-
sentation. Her e√orts to expose circumscribing images and false histo-
ries, along with those of other Chicana writers and artists, constitute one
element in the struggle for individual and community definition. Another
important element entails the agency of self-representation, what Cherríe
Moraga calls ‘‘the right to passion,’’ the right of every Chicana and Mexicana
to define herself and ‘‘love herself as both female and mestiza.’’≤
The process by which women recover passion and come to power often
involves recognizing the power of others to circumscribe women’s lives
through physical force and socially regulating ideas. The oral, written, and
visual texts discussed in this book eloquently testify to struggles for self-
empowerment and to an awareness of oppressive conditions a√ecting
Chicanas and U.S. Mexicanas. The narratives depict women impassioned
to speak up and act out against forces that create and maintain limiting
gender roles, control and violate female sexuality and bodies, and perpetu-
ate racist stereotypes and discrimination. At the same time, the narratives
portray everyday, ordinary human beings, Chicanas and U.S. Mexicanas
who maintain and negotiate, as well as contest, the forces that attempt
to confine them. This book emphasizes how the storytellers themselves
make meaning of their worlds and the complexities, contradictions, and
varied experiences that characterize their existences.≥
Their narratives re-
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