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Rudolfo A(lfonso) Anaya Biography

Rudolfo A. Anaya comments:

Nationality: American. Born: Pastura, New Mexico, 30 October 1937. Education: Albuquerque High School, graduated 1956; Browning Business School, Albuquerque, 1956-58; University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, B.A. in literature 1963, M.A. in literature 1968, M.A. in guidance and counseling 1972. Career: Teacher, Albuquerque public schools, 1963-70. Director of Counseling, 1971-73, associate professor 1974-88, professor of English, 1988-93, and since 1993, professor emeritus, University of New Mexico. Lecturer, Universidad Anahuac, Mexico City, Summer 1974; teacher, New Mexico Writers Workshop, Albuquerque, summers 1977-79. Associate editor, American Book Review, New York, 1980-85. Since 1989 founding editor, Blue Mesa Review, Albuquerque. Vice-president, Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, 1974-80. Awards: Quinto Sol prize, 1971; University of New Mexico Mesa Chicana award, 1977; City of Los Angeles award, 1977; New Mexico Governor's award, 1978, 1980; National Chicano Council on Higher Education fellowship, 1978; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1979; Before Columbus Foundation award, 1980; Corporation for Public Broadcasting Script Development award, 1982; Kellogg Foundation fellowship, 1983; Mexican Medal of Friendship, 1986. D.H.L.: University of Albuquerque, 1981; Marycrest College, Davenport, Iowa, 1984.



Bless Me, Ultima. Berkeley, California, Quinto Sol, 1972.

Heart of Aztlán. Berkeley, California, Justa, 1976.

Tortuga. Berkeley, California, Justa, 1979.

The Legend of La Llorona. Berkeley, California, Tonatiuh-QuintoSol, 1984.

Lord of the Dawn: The Legend of Quetzalcoatl. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1987.

Alburquerque. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1992.

Zia Summer. New York, Warner, 1995.

Jalamanta: A Message from the Desert. New York, Warner, 1996.

Rio Grande Fall. New York, Warner Books, 1996.

Shaman Winter. New York, Warner Books, 1999.

Short Stories

The Silence of Llano. Berkeley, California, Tonatiuh-Quinto Sol, 1982.

Uncollected Short Stories

"The Captain," in A Decade of Hispanic Literature. Houston, Revista Chincano-Riqueña, 1982.

"The Road to Platero," in Rocky Mountain (St. James, Colorado), April 1982.

"The Village Which the Gods Painted Yellow," in Nuestro, January-February 1983.

"B. Traven Is Alive and Well in Cuernavaca," in Cuentos Chicanos, revised edition. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1984.

"In Search of Epifano," in Voces. Albuquerque, El Norte-Academia, 1987.


The Season of La Llorona (produced Albuquerque, 1979).

Who Killed Don Jose? (produced Albuquerque, 1987).

The Farolitos of Christmas (produced Albuquerque, 1987). NewYork, Hyperion, 1995.

Screenplay (documentary)

Bilingualism: Promise for Tomorrow, 1976.


The Adventures of Juan Chicaspatas. Houston, Arte Publico Press, 1985.


A Chicano in China. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1986.

Flow of the River. Albuquerque, Hispanic Culture Foundation, 1988.

The Anaya Reader. New York, Warner, 1995.

Maya's Children: The Story of La Llorona, illustrated by Maria Baca. New York, Hyperion Books for Children, 1997.

Farolitos for Abuelo, illustrated by Edward Gonzales. New York, Hyperion Books for Children, 1998.

My Land Sings: Stories from the Rio Grande, illustrated by AmyCordova. New York, Morrow Junior Books, 1999.

Roadrunner's Dance, illustrated by David Diaz. New York, HyperionBooks for Children, 2000.

An Elegy on the Death of Cesar Chavez, with illustrations by GasparEnriquez. El Paso, Texas, Cinco Puntos Press, 2000.

Contributor, Muy Macho: Latin Men Confront Their Manhood, edited by Ray Gonzales. New York, Anchor, 1996.

Contributor, The Floating Borderlands: Twenty-Five Years of U.S. Hispanic Literature, edited by Lauro Flores. Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1999.

Contributor, Saints and Sinners: The American Catholic Experience through Stories, Memoirs, Essays, and Commentary, edited by Greg Tobin. New York, Doubleday, 1999.

Editor, with Jim Fisher, Voices from the Rio Grande. Albuquerque, Rio Grande Writers Association, 1976.

Editor, with Antonio Márquez, Cuentos Chicanos. Albuquerque, New America, 1980; revised edition, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1984.

Editor, with Simon J. Ortiz, A Ceremony of Brotherhood 1680-1980. Albuquerque, Academia, 1981.

Editor, Voces: An Anthology of Nuevo Mexicano Writers. Albuquerque, El Norte-Academia, 1987.

Editor, with Francisco A. Lomeli, Atzlan: Essays on the Chicano Homeland. Albuquerque, El Norte-Academia, 1989.

Editor, Tierra: Contemporary Short Fiction of New Mexico. El Paso, Texas, Cinco Puntos Press, 1989.

Foreword, Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, edited by Joseph C. Tardiff and L. Mpho Mabunda. Detroit, Gale, 1996.

Translator, Cuentos: Tales from the Hispanic Southwest, Based on Stories Originally Collected by Juan B. Rael, edited by José Griego y Maestas. Santa Fe, Museum of New Mexico Press, 1980.


Manuscript Collection:

Zimmerman Library, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Critical Studies:

"Extensive/Intensive Dimensionality in Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima " by Daniel Testa, in Latin American Literary Review (Pittsburgh), Spring-Summer 1977; "Degradacion y Regeneracion en Bless Me, Ultima " by Roberto Cantu, in The Identification and Analysis of Chicano Literature edited by Francisco Jimenez, New York, Bilingual Press, 1979; Chicano Authors: Inquiry by Interview edited by Juan Bruce-Novoa, Austin, University of Texas Press, 1980; The Magic of Words: Rudolfo A. Anaya and His Writings edited by Paul Vassallo, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1982; article by Anaya, in Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series 4 edited by Adele Sarkissian, Detroit, Gale, 1986; Rudolfo A. Anaya: Focus on Criticism edited by César A. González-T., La Jolla, California, Lalo Press, 1990 (includes bibliography by Teresa Márquez); Keep Blessing Us, Ultima: A Teaching Guide for Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya by Abelardo Baeza, Austin, Texas, Easkin Press, 1997; Conversations with Rudolfo Anaya, edited by Bruce Dick and Silvio Sirias, Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 1998; A Sense of Place: Rudolfo A. Anaya: An Annotated Bio-Bibliography by Cesar A. Gonzalez, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1999; Rudolfo A. Anaya: A Critical Companion by Margarite Fernandez Olmos, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1999.

(1995) I was born and raised in the eastern llano, plains country, of New Mexico. I spent my first 14 years in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, a town bisected by the Pecos River and Highway 66. My ancestors were the men and women of the Rio Grande Valley of the Albuquerque area who went east to settle the llano.

The llano was important for grazing sheep, and yet there were along the Pecos river little farming communities. My mother's family comes from such a small Hispanic village, Puerto de Luna. The most important elements of my childhood are the people of those villages and the wide open plains, and the landscape.

In my first novel, Bless Me, Ultima, I used the people and the environment of my childhood as elements of the story. Like my protagonist, Antonio, my first language was Spanish. I was shaped by the traditions and culture of the free-wheeling cow punchers and sheep herders of the llano, a lifestyle my father knew well, and was also initiated into the deeply religious, Catholic settled life of the farmers of Puerto de Luna, my mother's side of the family.

The oral tradition played an important role in my life. I learned about story from the cuentistas, the oral storytellers. It is a tradition one often loses when one moves into print, but its elements are strong and as valuable today as they have been historically. I want my literature to be accessible to my community, and I want it to reflect the strands of history which define us.

Because the Mexican American community has existed within the larger Anglo American society since the 19th century, and legally since 1848, our place in the history of this country is unique. We have a long history in the southwest, in the western United States. That history is generally not well known. Cultural identity is important to us as a way to keep the values and traditions of our forefathers intact.

In the 1960s the Mexican Americans created a social, political, and artistic movement known as the Chicano Movement. As a writer, I was an active participant in that movement. My second novel, Heart of Aztlán, deals with themes in the Chicano Movement. The novel explores a return to Mexican mythology. Chicano artists and writers like me returned to Mexican legends, mythology, and symbolism to create part of our Chicano expression.

When I was 16 I hurt my back and stayed a summer in a hospital. In Tortuga, I explored some of the consequences of that stay. The hero of the story is a young man who must find some redemption in suffering. The mythopoeic forces which had influenced my first two novels also are at work in the healing process which the protagonist must undergo.

Western writers reflect their landscape. We cannot escape the bond we have to our environment, the elements, especially water. As a Chicano writer I am part of a community which for the first time in our contemporary era has produced enough literary works to create a literary movement. Prior to the 1960s western literature was written about us, but seldom by us. Now the world has a truer insight into our world; the view is now from within as more and more Chicano and Chicana writers explore their reality.

Recently my work has taken a turn, and I have written my first murder mystery, Zia Summer. Although the form has certain requirements, often called the formula of a murder mystery, I have found the genre an interesting way to communicate my ideas. As an insider into Nuevo Mexicano (New Mexico) culture, I explore the cultural history of the region. I want my work to reflect the values of those ancestors who have lived in the Rio Grande Valley for so many centuries.

I am very interested in the spiritual values that are my inheritance, both from the Spanish/Mexican heritage and from the Native American side. As a mestizo, a person born from these two broad streams (or more correctly, from many inheritances), I want to create a synthesis, a worldview. I use the murder mystery genre as a tale of contemporary adventure, but the story within is laden with the cultural depth and richness that is our way of life. Ancestral values are the substratum of my work, as they have always been. I hope this new type of "adventure" fiction creates a mirror for our contemporary journey, a point of discussion of our world view.

This turn in my writing has been most enjoyable. The page-turning quality of the murder mystery allows me to have fun. Yes, fun. A writer should enjoy his work in spite of the cost. Each one of us suffers his own pain. But the new form also has a serious intent. It still allows me the deeper exploration that is part of my search for meaning.

An example of this continuing journey of knowledge is a novella called Jalamant, the Prophet, which I wrote in 1994. The continuing clarity of the worldview I was exploring in the murder mystery series became strong enough to require a coalescing in this philosophical work.

So nothing is lost to the writer. There is a pattern, and the communication to the reader continues in new forms.

* * *

Rudolfo A. Anaya is best known for a trilogy of novels published during the 1970s. Although Bless Me, Ultima ; Heart of Aztlán ; and Tortuga offer separate worlds with different characters, there are suggestions and allusions in the second and third novels that loosely connect the three works.

Bless Me, Ultima, a first-person narrative, details the childhood and coming of age of young Antonio Marez, a boy who grows up in the rural environs of Las Pasturas and Guadalupe, New Mexico, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Behind almost every experience and adventure Antonio undergoes there is Ultima, a "cuarandera" who comes to live with the Marez family at the start of the novel. She is a miracle-worker who heals the sick through her extensive knowledge of the herbs and remedies of the ancient New Mexico settlers. Guided by her unseen but pervasively felt presence, Antonio moves through a series of incidents that show him the greed, evil, and villainy of men. The novel is significant mainly because it introduces characters and a type of writing not seen before in Chicano literature.

Heart of Aztlán, despite winning the Before Columbus Foundation American Book award, fared less well than its predecessor. The main character is Clemente Chavez, a farmer who loses his land at the start of the narrative and is forced to move into a barrio in Albuquerque. In the city, the Chavez family see their teenage children lose themselves in drugs, sex, and violence. Prompted by a desire to preserve his family, Clemente undertakes a soul-searching quest for an identity and a role for himself and the Chicanos in the barrio. The writing here is noticeably more labored than in Ultima. The book ends with a Chicano march against the oppressive Santa Fe Railroad, an attempt to provide a fictive analogue to the Chicano consciousness-raising efforts of the 1970s.

In Tortuga, Anaya engagingly captured life in a sanitarium for terminally ill teenagers. There is plenty happening in this labyrinthine ward in the desert, and the novel shows that Anaya is particularly adept at plausibly instilling life, vigor, and reasons to live into characters abandoned by society.

Anaya has also published work in other genres. For some time he has been interested in using the media to advance the interests of Spanish-speaking American citizens, and in 1976 he wrote a screenplay, Bilingualism: Promise for Tomorrow, which was produced as a documentary and aired on prime-time television. He is a tireless promoter of Chicano and other ethnic literatures and has edited a number of anthologies.

The Adventures of Juan Chicaspatas is something of a departure: a 48-page mock-heroic epic poem that employs the same type of search motif used in Heart of Aztlán. Anaya's tone and attitude here are quite different from that of his earlier work. In Heart of Aztlán, he was seriously engaged in creating a language appropriate to rendering one character's quest for self-definition, but Juan Chicaspatas (liter-ally, John Smallfeet) is written in the language of the "vatos locos," or crazy barrio Chicanos who jest at virtually everything. In passing, Anaya pointed out that there are "many tribes of Chicanos," which suggests that there are different languages as well. The prime message of the sixteenth-century Aztlán goddess is: "Go and tell your people about Aztláan. Tell them I live. Tell them the españoles will come and a new people will be born. Tell them not to become like the tribes of the Anglos, and remind them not to honor King Arthur. Tell them their Eden and their Camelot are in Aztlán. Their covenant is with the earth of this world." Anaya's message had not changed, but now the appeal was made not to the more middle-class Chicanos as in the earlier work, but in a language closer to that of Alurista and Sergio Elizondo, two other writers who take great relish in Chicano slang.

A writer given to prodigious output, Anaya in the late 1990s produced two novels for adults (Rio Grande Fall and Shaman Winter) as well as numerous books for children, along with nonfiction works and contributions to anthologies.

—Marco Portales

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