Commodifying Food and Maintaining Culture Along the Border in Ana Castillo’s The Guardians

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Anthony Salazar


The land between Mexico and the United States has a long, historical pattern of racial,
economic, and cultural tension provoked by conquests since the sixteenth century. The most
recent tension, however, centers on the border between both countries, which, in turn, challenges
the notion of nationality and identity. Ana Castillo tackles the tensions north of the border in
her fictional work, The Guardians, by chronicling the lives of a broken family, barely surviving
the harsh lands of la frontera. Regina, presented as the main character, and her nephew, Gabo, live
near the border and mourn the disappearance of her brother, Rafa, who was last seen traveling from
Mexico to the United States. While the key concern pertains to the loss inflicted by missing and
dead relatives, the characters’ mourning is the direct effect of living within the harsh environment
of the border. Though upfront examples exist throughout the novel, solely examining food speaks
heavily on the subtle changes and tensions these characters face, as well as their determination
to preserve their families’ traditions. Food, though not uncommon in literature, provides a haven
for immigrants and minorities who are oppressed by dominant cultures. They use food to preserve
and embrace their traditional recipes when living in unfamiliar lands. Castillo acknowledges the
grim productions of food in the novel by invoking empathy through these characters’ lives. In The
Guardians, food is therefore used to exploit precarious lives, provide a means of commodity, and
preserve culture among Chicana/os living near the border.

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How to Cite
Salazar, A. (2021). Commodifying Food and Maintaining Culture Along the Border in Ana Castillo’s The Guardians. Humanities Bulletin, 4(1), 202–214. Retrieved from