Latino Literature in America

By Bridget Kevane | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

The Fiction of Rudolfo Anaya: Bless Me, Ultima (1972)

Rudolfo Anaya was born in 1937 in Guadalupe County, New Mexico. He was one of seven children who were raised as Catholics and who spoke Spanish in their home in the small eastern village of Santa Rosa. When he was fifteen, Anaya’s family moved to Albuquerque, where he graduated from high school in 1956. He received his B.A. in English from the University of New Mexico, and a master’s in guidance and counseling in 1972, also from the University of New Mexico. Despite his education, Anaya states emphatically that he is a self-taught writer, never having taken a writing course. He attributes his passion for writing to the “old and wise viejitos [elders]” (“In Commemoration” 10), who taught him the magic of words and stories: “Now the words lie captured in ink, but the magic is still there, the power inherent in each volume. Now with book in hand we can participate in the wisdom of mankind” (“In Commemoration” 10). Enthralled by the words of the oral stories that were passed down to him, Anaya became passionate about learning to read the written word. His parents encouraged him to learn English, and Anaya found magic, too, in the English language: “I, who was used to reading my oraciones en español (sentences in Spanish) while I sat in the kitchen and answered the litany to the slap of my mother’s tortillas, I now stumbled from sound to word to groups of words” and to the world of reading (“In Commemoration” 10). From this moment on Anaya would spend most of his time in the town library, a single room above the town’s fire department, where he discovered infinite worlds to explore and where he also found “shelter and retreat” (“In Commemoration” 12).

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