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Castillo, Ana

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States

Bernadette Marie Calafell

Castillo, Ana 

(b. 1953),

writer. Born in Chicago on June 15, 1953, Ana Castillo is a prominent and prolific Chicana novelist, poet, and theorist. Regarded as one of the central writers in creating a body of work that speaks to the experiences of Chicanas, she has often been credited with helping create and legitimate the corpus of Chicana literature as a distinct field. Castillo attended Chicago City College then earned a bachelor of arts in art from Northwestern Illinois University in 1975. She earned a master of arts in Latin American and Caribbean studies at the University of Chicago in 1979 and followed with a PhD in American Studies at the University of Bremen in Germany.

Since 1977, Castillo has authored, edited, and translated more than fifteen books focused on Chicana archetype, history, myth, sexuality, magical realism, Third World feminism, and indigenism. Among her poetry collections are Otro canto (1977), The Invitation (1979), Women Are Not Roses (1984), My Father Was a Toltec: Poems (1988), My Father Was a Toltec and Selected Poems, 1973–1988 (1995), and I Ask the Impossible: Poems (2001). In addition, she has authored four novels, The Mixquiahuala Letters (1986), Sapogonia: An Anti-Romance in 3/8 Meter (1990; an uncut version was released in 1994), So Far from God (1993), and Peel My Love Like an Onion: A Novel (1999). Castillo authored a book of short stories, Loverboys (1996), and edited two volumes of essays, The Sexuality of Latinas, with Norma Alarcón and Cherríe Moraga (1993), and Goddess of the Americas/La diosa de las Américas (1996). She and Norma Alarcón translated the groundbreaking anthology This Bridge Called My Back, Writings by Radical Women of Color, originally edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, into Spanish as Esta puente, mi espalda: Voces de mujeres tercermundistas en los Estados Unidos (1988). Castillo's other works include the children's book My Daughter, My Son, the Eagle, the Dove: An Aztec Chant (2000) and the collection of original essays Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma (1994). Castillo's work has been included in numerous anthologies, newspapers, Web sites, and magazines. Along with Norma Alarcón, Castillo founded the literary journal Third Woman.

Castillo has garnered much recognition, including the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, a Carl Sandburg Award, a Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, a Sor Juana Achievement Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her private and public papers have been preserved in the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She was a writer in residence in English and Latin American and Latino and Latina studies at DePaul University. She has one son, Marcel Ramon Herrera.

Castillo's writings are central to furthering Chicana feminist epistemology and more specifically Xicanisma or Third World feminist stances that disrupt black and white binaries and erase Chicanas from mainstream discussions of race and ethnicity. This “Mexic Amerindian” feminism further builds upon projects begun by the Chicana feminists Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, whose works disrupt static notions of race and identity. Castillo, like these other Chicana feminist writers, has sought to move toward a transnational feminist politics that displaces the human-made Mexico–United States border by focusing on the borderlands or third space and the experiences of what Castillo has terms brown, indigenous, or countryless women. Castillo argued that indigenous women have largely been ignored and historically and socially disenfranchised both by the dominant culture and by white feminist movements and the masculine-driven Chicano movement. Castillo's Xicanisma or transnational feminism transcends borders and nationalities as it focuses on experiences and the effects of difference and marginalization resulting from colonialism, mestizaje (mixed-race identity), racism, classism, and sexism. These effects or feelings of difference allow communities to move beyond demarcations bound by nationality, race, class, and culture to larger transcultural identifications and communities. Castillo's work largely centers on empowering the voices, history, and experiences of third world indigenous women, whose creativity has been silenced and appropriated by sexist cultures through racism, oppression, and psychic oppression.

Similar to work by other feminists of color, such as the black feminist and scholar Patricia Hill Collins, who wrote about black women's history of intellectualizing in the everyday, Castillo's work through the reclamation of indigenism seeks to disrupt and subvert dominant paradigms of theorizing in academia by placing theory and practice within the realm of everyday women's lives and experiences rather than in the ivory tower. The Chicana literary scholar Tey Diana Rebolledo (1995) observes that Castillo's novels not only challenge theory and practice but also act as forms of autoethnography or personal narrative through their privileging of the stories of Chicanas as told by Chicanas. Laura Gillman and Stacey Floyd-Thomas, in their essay “Con un pie a cada lado/With a Foot in Each Place: Mestizaje as Transnational Feminisms in Ana Castillo'sSo Far from God” (2001), observe that the novels are political acts because they write into existence silenced narratives. This Chicana-centered narrative told through the voices and experiences of Chicanas led academics such as Rebolledo and Alvina Quintana to call Castillo an ethnographer or interpreter of Chicana culture.

In reclaiming indigenism, Castillo focuses on recovering Chicana spirituality and power through the reexamination and reinterpretation of lineages of historical archetypes and matriarchy in Chicana and Chicano cultures. In chapter three of Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma, Castillo examines what she terms the ancient roots of machismo by linking Islamic beliefs or heritages with the Spanish Catholicism brought to Mexico during its colonization. In addition to tracing these lineages, Castillo examines the subordination of women's power and sexuality through the manipulation of religious icons, mythologies, and histories. Castillo analyzes precolonial belief systems to unearth histories of matriarchy and mother goddess worship that were transformed into patriarchal structures of power via colonialism and the Catholic Church, specifically through the use of the patron saint of Mexico, the Virgen de Guadalupe, and the Mexican Eve figure, Malintzin Tenépal, translator and lover of Hernán Cortés. Castillo rejects the images of these women as passive or submissive, as reinforced by Mexican intellectuals such as Octavio Paz and further cemented in the rhetoric of the Chicano movement, instead seeing them as active agents of change and empowerment. Furthermore, in celebrating these figures Castillo calls for the larger embracing of Chicana sexuality historically regulated by them as symbolic virgin and whore. The reclaiming of female creativity, power, and matriarchy begins with the embracing of Chicana sexuality as a way to remove the vestiges of colonialism. As Alarcón, Castillo, and Moraga note in the introduction to The Sexuality of Latinas, Latina sexuality has often been hidden or distorted within the rhetoric of the family, and for many women, understandings of sexuality come through experiences of sexual violence. The family, accountable to the larger rhetoric of the church, is the point for socialization of female sexuality. Castillo argues that the family reflects larger patriarchal tendencies that place women in the role of serving men in their desire to serve God. As a result of these patriarchal practices within religious rituals, Castillo argues, women are spiritually and sexually oppressed. She contens that replacing the image or guiding principle of the Father with the Mother or a matriarchal center would create a more nurturing society.

Castillo's creative works and her essays are well regarded for her strong feminist or woman-centered politics and her imaginative writings that reflect the various experiences and political identifications of Chicanas in the United States. The critic Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak argues that Castillo's novels, often characterized as using elements of magical realism popularized by the Latin American writers Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende, has helped to create a unique Chicana literary style that decenters patriarchal biases inherent in literary forms such as the family saga. Using postmodern theories and methods, Castillo has enacted and enabled a third space that negotiates cultures while simultaneously challenging Eurocentric assumptions about the writing of fiction. Thus, Castillo has been a driving force for Chicana feminists through the political themes in her writings and in her cultural and political activism.

See also Alarcón, Norma; Anzaldúa, Gloria; Catholicism; Literature; Moraga, Cherríe; Poetry; and Sexuality.


Ana Castillo. Web site www.anacastillo.comFind this resource:

    Castillo, Ana. I Ask the Impossible: Poems. New York: Anchor Books, 2001.Find this resource:

      Castillo, Ana. The Invitation. San Francisco: A. Castillo, 1979.Find this resource:

        Castillo, Ana. Loverboys: Stories. New York: Norton, 1996.Find this resource:

          Castillo, Ana. Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994.Find this resource:

            Castillo, Ana. The Mixquiahuala Letters. Binghamton, N.Y.: Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1986.Find this resource:

              Castillo, Ana. My Daughter, My Son, the Eagle, the Dove: An Aztec Chant. New York: Dutton Books, 2000.Find this resource:

                Castillo, Ana. My Father Was a Toltec: Poems. Albuquerque, N.Mex.: West End Press, 1988.Find this resource:

                  Castillo, Ana. My Father Was a Toltec and Selected Poems, 1973–1988. New York: Norton, 1995.Find this resource:

                    Castillo, Ana. Peel My Love Like an Onion: A Novel. New York: Doubleday, 1999.Find this resource:

                      Castillo, Ana. Sapogonia: An Anti-Romance in 3/8 Meter. Tempe, Ariz.: Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1990.Find this resource:

                        Castillo, Ana. So Far from God. New York: Norton, 1993.Find this resource:

                          Castillo, Ana. Women Are Not Roses. Houston, Tex.: Arte Público Press, 1984.Find this resource:

                            Castillo, Ana, ed.Goddess of the Americas/La diosa de las Americas. New York: Riverhead Books, 1996.Find this resource:

                              Gillman, Laura, and Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas. “Con un pie a cada lado/With a Foot in Each Place: Mestizaje as Transnational Feminisms in Ana Castillo's So Far from God.Meridians2 (2001): 158–175.Find this resource:

                                Merman-Jozwiak, Elisabeth. “Gritos desde la frontera: Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisneros, and Postmodernism.Melus25 (2000): 101–118.Find this resource:

                                  Paz, Octavio. The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico. Translated by Lysander Kemp. New York: Grove, 1962.Find this resource:

                                    Quintana, Alvina E.“Ana Castillo's The Mixquiahuala Letters: The Novelist as Ethnographer.” In Criticism in the Borderlands: Studies in Chicano Literature, Culture, and Ideology, edited by Héctor Calderón and José David Saldívar. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991.Find this resource:

                                      Rebolledo, Tey Diana. Women Singing in the Snow: A Cultural Analysis of Chicana Literature. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1995.Find this resource:

                                        Trujillo, Carla, ed., Chicana Lesbians. Berkeley, Calif.: Third Woman Press, 1991.Find this resource:

                                          Bernadette Marie Calafell

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