Chicana Literature & 20th Century

Newspaper clipping of Professional Women's Club

Newspaper clipping from Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas), Sun, Oct 05, 1975 · Page 10.

In the mid-20th century, more U.S. women began working outside the home, entering the labor force, and investing in their education. Chicana literature emerged from the cultural, social, and political struggle to acknowledge race, ethnicity, immigration, gender, and class.

  • 1970 - Female authorship is closely correlated with the broader feminist movement, including more women joining the U.S. workforce and investing in their education.
  • 2000 - By 2000, U.S. men (80%) and women (81%) had nearly equal rates of high school completion. The rates of some college attainment were also leveling out between genders.
  • 2020 - U.S. women comprise the majority of book authors and the majority of college graduates. They also represent around 70% of high school valedictorians every year.

Education has historically served a critical role among women writers, including Chicana authors. Gloria Anzaldúa, Emmy Perez, and Norma E. Cantú are themselves educators as well as highly educated.

Gloria E. Anzaldúa.

Photograph of Gloria Anzaldúa (1942–2002).

Faculty profile picture of Emmy Perez

UTRGV faculty profile photograph of Emmy Pérez.

Photograph of Norma Elia Cantú

Photograph of Norma Elia Cantú.

Photograph of Sarah Rafael García

Photograph of Sarah Rafael García.

Gloria Anzaldúa

Gloria Anzaldúa lived her early life on the ranchos of Jesus Maria and Los Verjeles before her family relocated to Hargill. She graduated Valedictorian of Edinburg High School (1962) and later taught at PSJA schools (1969 - 1973) while she worked on her graduate degree in the summers. She moved to CA in 1977 to pursue her doctorate at UC-Santa Cruz.

One of the first openly lesbian Chicana authors, Anzaldúa attracted critical notice for her scholarly research, books, folk tales, poetry, and political activism. She is best known for her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) and for popularizing theories relating to the "in-betweenness" of borderlands and mestizaje, including culture, race, gender, language, and spirituality.

Emmy Pérez

Emmy Pérez is a graduate of Columbia University (MFA) and the University of Southern California (BA). She has taught in Texas borderland institutions since 2000 (UTEP and UTPA/UTRGV). Pérez is a full professor of creative writing at UTRGV. She has also led community-based creative writing projects and taught poetry writing in juvenile and adult detention centers.

Her work is highly acclaimed and her list of accolades is lengthy. Notably, Pérez is a USA Fellow 2022 and Texas Poet Laureate 2020 and the author of the poetry collections With the River on Our Face and Solstice. A collection of her new and selected poetry is forthcoming from TCU Press.

Norma Elia Cantú

Norma Elia Cantú was born in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas and raised in Laredo, Texas. Cantú holds a doctoral degree from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has served as faculty of Texas A&M International, UT-San Antonio. and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Cantú was named Murchison Professor in the Humanities at Trinity University in 2016.

Cantú focuses on issues of borders and boundaries whether in academic disciplines or the geopolitical borderlands of the U.S. and Mexico, all through a Chicana feminist theoretical lens. She writes poetry and prose in what she calls “creative autobioethnography,” Cantú writes, “I passionately believe that words have power and that literature has the potential to create the change we need. I work with my students to use the power of their stories and their words to create a better world for all sentient beings.”

Sarah Rafael García

Sarah Rafael García founded CuentosMobile, “a compilation of mobile stories and contemporary art collaborations...” Her CuentosMobile bio reads, “Sarah Rafael García is an author, community educator, and performance ethnographer born in Brownsville, Tejas, and raised in Santa Ana, California. First generation everything...”

Rafael García took up writing as a teenager, using journaling as a tool for self-reflection to explore her emotions and identity as a Chicana. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University.

Rafael García also founded art programs to create spaces for BIPOC artists and writers, including Barrio Writers, LibroMobile, and Crear Studioher community, which collectively established the LibroMobile Arts Cooperative (LMAC).

Women Writers & Poets
Chicana Literature & 20th Century