A Fresh Pedagogical Consciousness Towards Tolerating Ambiguities for Children: Gloria Anzaldúa’s Prietita and the Ghost Woman (1995)

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Yay İ. C.

13th Eurasian Conference on Language & Social Sciences, Daugavpils, Latvia, 5 - 06 February 2022, pp.169-170

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Daugavpils
  • Country: Latvia
  • Page Numbers: pp.169-170
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


Since the publication of her groundbreaking study, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987), a huge catalogue of critical analyses have been published in numerous academic articles, theses, and collaborated anthologies on the renowned Gloria Anzaldúa, granting her a well-deserved status in the field of Border Studies for almost four decades now. However, there is relatively less amount of output on her storybook for children titled Prietita and the Ghost Woman (1995), in which the late Anzaldúa has collaborated with the painter Maya Christina Gonzalez with the goal of encouraging children to look beneath the surface of what things seem to be in order to discover the truths that may be hidden, as she claims it in the book’s epilogue. Moreover, this bilingual text is also a homage to the female folk healers of Mexican and by extension, Chicano culture of the U.S. Southwest, known in the Spanish vernacular as “Las Curanderas”. In fact, this magical story is decidedly an extension of the author’s genre-defying project that she initiated back in the late 1980s, where she has urged principally for tolerating ambiguities against the polarizing, or the binary mode of thinking endemic to Western rationale. Bearing in mind that forthcoming generations would inevitably effect necessary cultural and social transformations towards the healing of the planet, Anzaldúa aims at creating literature for children as one the most essential steps of social activism to dismantle symbolical and man-made borders all around. Thus in this illustrated story book, the author revisits the infamous legend of “La Llorona” from Mexican folklore so as to render a somewhat distinct portrayal of the ghostly image of the crying woman. In many alternating versions of the story, the traditional llorona theme generally revolves around the image of a mother, who in a moment of frenzy slaughters her children and throws the bodies in the river. When she comes to her senses, the mother commits suicide to be eternally condemned to wander through the river banks, searching for her lost children with her cries echoing in the night. However, in her retelling of this Mexican variant of the Lilith or Medea image, Anzaldúa now reinterprets the story through the eyes of a strong-willed child protagonist named Prietita, who is commissioned by a knowledgeable folk healer to find a rue plant in the woods for her sick mother. In the end, Prietita’s quest during the nocturnal darkness turns into a powerful journey of growth with the aid of a gleaming figure of a ghostly woman who helps her to find the remedy and guides her out of the woods. Laden with mural-like images of U.S. Southwestern flora and fauna as well as other cultural motifs, Gonzalez’s illustrations in the book further highlight Prietita’s phantasmagoric quest for self-discovery, which culminates in a new perspective for the age-old “good woman” vs. “bad woman” dichotomy. With selected passages and images from the book, the present study aims at laying bare the devices of how Gloria Anzaldúa creates a new pedagogy for children to develop fresh consciousness against the totalizing view of binaries.