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  • Tearing Down Walls and Building Bridges
  • Melba Joyce Boyd (bio)
A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000–2010 by Cherríe L. Moraga. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. Pp. 280, 9 illustrations. $84.95 cloth, $23.95 paper.

Today I sang the blues maybeon account I don’t knowlas rancheras by heart,like her mom usetu singwhen the cocina’s americano silencey el ajo de steamingfrijol sent longinga thousandmilessouth.

—“MeXicana Blues” (51)

I expect A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000–10, to become yet another landmark publication by Cherríe L. Moraga. Its challenging themes and expansive contexts are both reflective and reflexive, as she reconsiders historical moments relative to past struggles and current challenges. She honestly revisits personal relationships, political objectives, and a wide range of philosophical concerns and aesthetic dimensions to plot strategic considerations for a more liberated future. To that end, she has compiled a collection of writings that span the first decade of the twenty-first century.

An award-winning, multitalented writer, Moraga employs prose and poetry in a complementary format. Though this work is primarily in English, language is likewise characteristically employed in the “Xicana Lexicon” (6–7), which integrates Spanish at particular moments to convey a bilingual [End Page 159] perspective and consciousness that cannot be fully facilitated in English. Exquisitely illustrated by Celia Herrera Rodriguez, the text was written within a multicultural context wherein Moraga quotes other writers and includes a range of perspectives as she critiques historical circumstances and political situations. She states, “I have always viewed my work as a writer in general and a playwright in particular within the context of an art of resistance or a literature toward liberation” (35).

Xicana Codex was published in 2011, whereas Mesoamerican ancestors predicted 2012 as the “final epoch of the world.” This ending has been sensationalized as a subject in disaster films and other popular misinterpretations. In the prologo, Moraga states,

Countering such apocalyptic scenarios is, on the one hand, the less dramatic but more politically useful position that Mesoamerican calendric predictions are being realized daily in the ongoing violence resultant of more than five hundred years of continued colonization and its legacy of slavery, misogyny, and environmental indifference. On the other hand, the emergence of a new “Sun” (epoch) as predicted by the Maya also foretells a much more benevolent final outcome, if we can fulfill its mandate. It is a whimsical promise, a cosmic contract for a fundamental change in human consciousness.


This introductory paragraph is essential to understanding not only the purpose of the book, but also the aesthetic creed of Cherríe Moraga. She identifies how ruling powers design and defend divisive walls of obstruction, and, at the same time, she refocuses the audience’s eye on an alternative historical and cultural frame of reference. This mandate became manifest in the groundbreaking publication, This Bridge Called My Back (1981). It is important to note Moraga’s literary stature and the international reception of This Bridge, which is a recurring reference in her latest book, Xicana Codex. The former work contains writings by women of color to expand literary scenarios and to advance conversations between and beyond racialized identities. Moraga foregrounds the first chapter in her latest book with a quote from Audre Lorde’s poem “Litany for Survival” (1978), and then elaborates on her reluctance to begin a new foreword for the new edition of This Bridge on the afternoon of 9/11: “My hesitance was fleeting, for one fact remained unalterably true: the conditions of invasion, war, and terrorism have existed for people of [End Page 160] color in this hemisphere since the mistaken arrival of Columbus to our shores” (16).

In Xicana Codex, Moraga references her trip to a divided Germany to illustrate how societies construct physical borders for ideological demarcations. She draws an analogy between the mapping of space during the “Cold War” and perceptions of divisions during the current “War on Terror”:

The conflation of capitalism with democracy was never noted, let alone questioned. I often wonder what world maps in the U.S. classroom might look like today if...


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pp. 159-167
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