Rediscover Rudolfo Anaya: mythmaker, master storyteller, American original
“The godfather and guru of Chicano literature.” –Tony Hillerman
A writer powerfully attuned to the land and history of his native New Mexico, Rudolfo Anaya (1937-2020) is one of the giants of Latino literature. Over the course of a remarkable and acclaimed literary career, Anaya redefined the American experience for generations of readers.
Anaya broke new ground with his 1972 novel Bless Me, Ultima
, a mythic work that captures the richness and complexity of history, community, and place in the American Southwest. Set just after World War II, Bless Me, Ultima
revolves around the young boy Antonio and his quest to understand his identity and the demands of his future. Although his mother’s heart is set on his entering the priesthood, Antonio is drawn to the charismatic Ultima, an elderly curandera
or healer who embodies the ancient wisdom of the pre-Columbian past.
The 1979 novel Tortuga
draws on Anaya’s experience of suffering and recuperation after a diving accident as a teenager. Its hero, nicknamed “Tortuga” because his body cast encases him like a turtle’s shell, grapples with the realities of bodily pain as he discovers that true healing is spiritual as well as physical. The story reverberates with local folklore about a mountain, also called Tortuga, home to a sleeping spirit who will one day awaken and journey onward to the sea. Weaving these threads together, Anaya creates, in the words of editor Luis Alberto Urrea, “a tapestry inside of which he was encoding an entire history of our very souls.”
In the 1992 novel Alburquerque
(restoring the “r” to the city’s original name), a young Mexican American boxing champion discovers that his white biological mother had given him up for adoption at birth, and he must now reevaluate everything he thought he was. The winner of a PEN West Fiction Award, the novel brims with emotionally powerful characterizations, political commentary, humor, and lyrical writing that reveals Anaya to be, once again, an indispensable American fabulist.