Rudolfo A. Anaya’s Use of Mesoamerican Mythology and Southwestern Folklore in his New-Mexican Trilogy

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Yay İ. C.

International Eurasian Conference on Educational & Social Studies 2, Odivelas, Portugal, 27 - 28 August 2022, pp.156-157

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Odivelas
  • Country: Portugal
  • Page Numbers: pp.156-157
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


The preset study deals with Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya’s New Mexican trilogy which is comprised of the author’s acclaimed debut novel Bless Me Ultima (1972), followed by Heart of Aztlán (1976) and Tortuga (1979). Renowned as the “father” of Chicano novel, Anaya has garnered such an honorary status in the world of belles-lettres during the heyday of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement (ca 1965-1975), a period of intense strife for American citizens of Mexican lineage, demanding socio-economic equality and cultural recognition in the United States. Anaya’s fiction is laden with a Jungian mythic perspective, catered by his Mexican roots that date back to the pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica; the longstanding tradition of U.S-Southwestern folklore and ancient legends of the region; and the aspects of Magical Realism imbued with the art of oral storytelling established in Latin American literary heritage. In an interview Anaya claims that Chicano literature reflects the mythos of the people, and the writings speak to the underlying philosophical assumptions which form the particular worldview of a culture. Here, Anaya is not only referring to the formal aspects of the written word, but rather to an artist’s ideological stance which should be guided by culture, history, language, native mythology. With that in mind, Bless Me, Ultima depicts a seven year old Chicano boy growing up in New Mexico in the early 1940s who is guided by an old shamanic curandera (female healer) named Ultima. This visionary sage changes the boy’s life by introducing the boy into to the esoterica of nature and the enigmatic world of tribal ritual and the occult that stretch back to the mythical epochs of the ancient peoples of the region prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the New World. Heart of Aztlán follows another Chicano boy’s journey with his family’s move from the rural setting, previously presented in Bless Me Ultima to an urban one to highlight the working-class issues which Chicano laborers face. In his autobiographical novel Tortuga, Anaya examines the emotional development and recovery of another Chicano boy who is encased in a full body cast at a hospital for paralyzed children. In all of these novels, which follow the traditional formula of a bildungsroman, the author presents the central importance of a young male protagonist; the importance of archetypal characters such as seers, mentors, and shamanic figures; the use of cultural symbols related to Chicano culture all joined by the geographical setting of U.S. Southwest in general. The present study concludes with the view that in the midst of the turbulent 1960s and against the industrial and technological ways of an Anglo-American dominated worldview, Rudolfo Anaya presented an alternative humanizing praxis based on indigenous philosophies, a nostalgic respect for the land, and a spiritual optimism in the harmonious unity of all creatures.