Ana Castillo


Ana Castillo

Chicana poet and writer Ana Castillo was born and raised in Chicago, but has
spent most of her writing career studying her Mestiza heritage. In her first
novel, The Mixquiahuala Letters (1986), Castillo explores the relationship
between two women who travel to Mexico in search of a better understanding of
their place in both the U.S. and Mexican societies. The novel, written in the
form of letters between the two women, is considered the landmark novel that
made Castillo a leading Chicana feminista writer, winning the American Book

Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Castillo's interest in race and
gender issues can be traced through her writing career, culminating in Massacre
of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma, published in 1994. In this collection of
essays, Castillo explores the notion of Xicanisma, a term she herself created in
order to give name to the struggles of Brown women in the racially polarized

U.S. In the U.S., much debate of racism becomes constructed in a Black-White
paradigm, leaving little room for others. In Massacre of the Dreamers, Castillo
explores the Chicana feminist movement of the 70's and where that movement is
headed. Castillo notes that U.S. history, especially, seems to neglect the
struggles of Mexico and the indigenous peoples who became involuntary migrants
into what is now the Southwestern U.S. By exploring the history of Mexico and

Central America, Castillo hopes to integrate ideas about the patriarchy and
oppression of these societies with that of the United States, looking at how

Brown women must cope in both societies. Castillo was schooled in Chicago for
the most part, attending the Chicago City College for two years before entering

Northwestern Illinois University. Here, she received her B.A. in art. After
receiving her degree in 1975, Castillo moved to Sonoma County, California to
teach. In 1977 she moved back to Chicago and earned an M.A. in Latin American
and Caribbean Studies at the University of Chicago. Throughout this period of
time, Castillo was not only writing, but was also an activist -- something she
still continues to be. In 1986 Castillo moved back to California and taught at
various colleges. She eventually found herself at the University of Bremen in

Germany where she earned her Ph.D. in American Studies. Not only is Castillo a
noted poet and novelist, she has edited many works with other Chicana-Latina
writers including Cherrie Moraga and Norma Alarcon. It was with Alarcon and
others that Castillo co-founded Third Woman, a literary magazine, for which she
is a contributing editor. Her most recent publication, La Diosa de las

Americas/Goddess of the Americas, is an anthology about the Virgin of Guadalupe
with Castillo as editor. Castillo proclaims herself a "devotee" of the

Virgin of Guadalupe who is considered the Mother Goddess in Mexican, Mestizo,
and Mexican-Indian societies, but largely ignored by the patriarchal Catholic
church. It is the Catholic church and patriarch that led Castillo to incorporate
sexuality as one of the main themes in her writing. Because the Catholic church
does not condone sex unless it is for the sole purpose of having a child, many
women in Catholic cultures, including much of Latin America, lose a segment of
their "self" by being denied their sexuality. Castillo believes that
women have lost their sense of self on many levels, including psychologically,
physically, and spiritually, and need to reclaim themselves. Castillo herself
does this through her writing and activism.

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