Rudolfo Anaya expresses the Chicano identity

Rudolfo Anaya. Photo Credit: Peter Norby

By Mariah Baca/ NM News Port

New Mexico-born novelist Rudolfo Anaya recognizes the Chicano identity through his writing, despite significant barriers he faced, according to new research from a UNM scholar.

Anaya attended UNM, earning a bachelor’s degree in American literature and a master’s degree in guidance counseling. He became an American novelist and educator whose fiction expressed his Chicano identity. 

Fatima Del Angel Guevara, a doctoral candidate in anthropology, has been studying a new collection of Anaya’s archives that UNM received about two years ago. 

“Rudolfo really understood Chicano identity. He lived it every day and wanted to express that through his work,” said Guervera. 

She presented her findings, “Rudolfo Anaya and the Chicano Identity in the Southwest”, April 5 in the Frank Waters room at the Cen­ter for South­west Research and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions.

In Angel Guevara’s presentation, she explained how Anaya recognizes his Chicano identity in his words, novels, and interviews. Angel Guevara explained how Anaya experienced different forms of censorship because people thought his work wasn’t professional.  

The Chicano identity acknowledges Indigenous and Spanish heritage through diverse practices, languages, and symbols, which haven’t always been seen as socially acceptable. 

The first novel Anaya published was “Bless Me, Ultima” in 1972, which reflected Indigenous and Spanish heritage. 

In the archives, Angel Guevara found that Anaya had a hard time publishing “Bless Me, Ultima” as publishing companies rejected it and viewed his work as unprofessional.

When “Bless Me, Ultima” was finally published it still faced censorship issues according to Angel Guevara’s findings. In 1981 the New Mexico Bloomfield School Board burned the novel, and it was banned in Colorado, California, and Arizona. 

Angel Guevara stated during her presentation that Anaya, was against censorship because it’s not only a way of erasing words but also erasing other forms of identities. 

“All we want is inclusion, all we want is to be part of the American democracy, all we want is to have our young people read their history in their schools,” said Anaya.

Angel Guevara ended her presentation by giving recognition as to how important Anaya thought it was for children to have knowledge about the Chicano identity. The children’s books he wrote expressed that. Some examples of those books were The “First Tortilla”, “The Santero’s Miracle”, and “How Chile Came to New Mexico“. 

Rudolfo Anaya is considered one of the founders of Chicano literature, which makes him an important part of Chicano identity and New Mexico history.