Critique And Reformulation
While social analysts agree that mestizaje has recuperative properties for Mexican Americans and that it successfully challenges Paz's diagnosis of a mixed nation as pathological, the neoindigenous emphasis can be ironically similar to Western distortions of native peoples, as both rely on a timeless, primordial culture. Chicano/a social critics such as Norma Alarcón and Chon A. Noriega point out that this use of mestizaje constructs a "pure" origin and relies on a static and unchanging past. The essentialist disposition of mestizaje, particularly the romantic neoindigenous perspective, clashes with the reality of Native American experiences as well as indigenous social and political struggles throughout the Americas. Furthermore, as Chicana feminists point out, an essentialist view of Mexican-origin people in the United States also distorts differences and inequalities within said communities. Chicana feminist challenges to patriarchy and homophobia helped to develop the critique of essentialism, and this had a lasting effect on the contemporary notion of mestizaje.
In her foundational book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987), Gloria Anzaldúa fleshes out and complicates mestizaje. Performing a postmodern style that mixes autobiography, poetry, mythology, historical document, and documentation into theoretical proclamation, she problematizes conventions of race, nation, sexuality, and gender, drawing attention to fluidity within identity rather than a singular subject position. According to Anzaldúa, mestizaje is the demystification of social boundaries and territorial borders. Thus conceived, the spaces between cultures and nations are porous and flexible. However, it is not just her acknowledgment of internal complexities that makes a mestiza consciousness significant. Anzaldúa does not imagine distinctions in opposition to each other but acknowledges concurrent identities, shifting strategies, and capacities for change.
The reformulated concept is more successful at challenging the premise of white racial superiority, purity, and essentialism. Mestizaje is a source of creativity, survival, and triumph. Unlike Mexican and Chicano cultural-nationalist formulations of mestizaje, Anzaldúa acknowledges all combinations and the places of contradiction that can result. Always synthesizing, mestizaje is a force of movement, combination, and transformation. Her own thinking about mestizaje fuses with the Nahuatl concept of nepantla (middle place or place of passage), thereby adding the potential for agency within the concept.