Redemption through Anzaldua’s Feminine Landscape in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada In Borderlands/La Frontera, Anzaldua describes women as being tied to the landscape. According to Anzaldua, the Nahuas prayed to Tonantsi, an aspect of the ancient goddess Coatlicue (“Serpent Skirt”), “to ensure their health and the growth of their crops” (49). The feminine becomes the provider of her people through the landscape; the serpent symbolizing “the soul (as the earth, the mother)” (27). In The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Pete forces Mike Norton to make a journey to receive redemption for the murder of Melquiades[c1] . However, the landscape becomes more than just a setting through which the two men pass. Norton’s journey can take place in no other setting but the feminine landscape. Anzaldua’s feminine landscape provides Norton with redemption, enabling him to discover his soul/identity. Anzaldua describes her people’s exile from the land stating “we were jerked out by the roots, truncated, disembowled, dispossessed, and separated from our identity and our history” (30). Without the land, her people lost their identity -- their sense of self and their souls. Norton lacks an identity in the beginning of the film. He mechanically acts on everything, acting with little display of emotion, even in his relationships and interactions with others. The other border patrol agents are even unwilling to identify him as the killer of Melquiades. He has no real sense of self or emotion. He in effect seems to lack a soul, caring only for himself and little for others, and lacking any form of identity[c2] .
When Anzaldua’s people are forced to live outside of their homeland they become “faceless, nameless” and “invisible” (33). Anzaldua implies not only their loss of land through her people’s exile, but the loss of their mother. Earlier in her novel, she creates a relation between the soul, underworld, earth, and feminine (27). Thus, the exile of her people creates more than just a loss of land, but a loss of who they are. If the same becomes true of Norton, he is incapable of discovering himself outside of the landscape/the feminine. He lacks meaning and an identity in life because he was never exposed to the feminine. When Pete kidnaps him, it forces Norton to face the unknown and journey on the road to redemption. Pete forces Norton to live within the definition of the landscape, and makes him come to terms with the feminine which he has always turned his back on. Norton’s lack of respect for the feminine creates an unhealthy relationship with his wife. He is emotionless in every interaction with her, and uses her only for his own personal enjoyment. He is supposed to be patrolling for illegal immigrants in the desert, but instead sits and reads sexually explicit magazines. When he does encounter a group of illegal immigrants, he abuses one of the Mexican women. By lacking respect for the feminine, Norton separates himself from his identity, his mother, his soul. The landscape offers him a way to return to the feminine. Through the landscape, he is able to receive redemption and regain his soul. However, he must make a Quixote-like journey through the feminine landscape to experience what he has neglected all his life. The rejection of the feminine causes Norton pain and suffering throughout his journey. His crossing into Mexico is marked by a near death experience as he is dragged across the Rio Grande, nearly drowning. His refusal of the feminine causes the feminine to reject him. At one point in the film, Norton seeks refuge in a cave, a womb-like structure that should provide shelter. However, rather than being safe, a rattle-snake bites Norton. The feminine attacks him due to his rejection of her, and he once again faces death. Anzaldua portrays the feminine as something to be revered and respected. She states: “The female, by virtue of creating entities of flesh and