|Anzaldúa was born in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas on September 26, 1942, to Urbano Anzaldúa and Amalia Anzaldúa née García. Gloria Anzaldúa's great-grandfather, Urbano Sr., once a precinct judge in Hidalgo County, was the first owner of the Jesús María Ranch on which she was born. Her mother grew up on an adjoining ranch, Los Vergeles ("the gardens"), which was owned by her family, and she met and married Urbano Anzaldúa when both were very young. Anzaldúa was a descendant of many of the prominent Spanish explorers and settlers to come to the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and also had indigenous descent. The surname Anzaldúa is of Basque(Spanish) origin.
Anzaldúa began menstruating when she was only three years old, a symptom of the endocrine condition that caused her to stop growing physically at the age of twelve.As a child, she would wear special girdles fashioned for her by her mother in order to disguise her precocious sexual development. Her mother would also ensure that a cloth was placed in Anzaldúa's underwear as a child in case of bleeding. Anzaldúa remembers, "I'd take [the bloody cloths] out into this shed, wash them out, and hang them really low on a cactus so nobody would see them.... My genitals... [were] always a smelly place that dripped blood and had to be hidden." She eventually underwent a hysterectomy to deal with uterine, cervical, and ovarian abnormalities. Reflecting upon her illness, she announced: "I was born a queer."
When she was eleven, her family relocated to Hargill, Texas. Despite feeling discriminated against as a sixth-generation Tejana and as a female and despite the death of her father from a car accident when she was fourteen, Anzaldúa still obtained her college education. In 1968, she received a B.A. in English, Art, and Secondary Education from Pan American University, and an M.A. in English and Education from the University of Texas at Austin. While in Austin, she joined politically active cultural poets and radical dramatists such as Ricardo Sanchez, and Hedwig Gorski.
After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in English from the then Pan American University (now University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), Anzaldúa worked as a preschool and special education teacher. In 1977, she moved to California, where she supported herself through her writing, lectures, and occasional teaching stints about feminism, Chicano studies, and creative writing at San Francisco State University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, Florida Atlantic University, and other universities.
She is perhaps most famous for co-editing This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981) with Cherríe Moraga, editing Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color (1990), and co-editing This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation (2002).
She also wrote the semi-autobiographical Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987). She was close to completing the book manuscript, Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality, which she also planned to submit as her dissertation. It has now been published posthumously by Duke University Press (2015).
Dates: September 26, 1942 - May 15, 2004
Occupation: poet, writer, activist, theorist, teacher
Known for: pioneer of Chicana/lesbian/feminist theory
Additionally, her work Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza was recognized as one of the 38 best books of 1987 by Library Journal and 100 Best Books of the Century by both Hungry Mind Review and Utne Reader.