Rudolfo Anaya’s celebrated work and seminal novel “Bless Me Última” just turned 40 this year. The book was first published in 1972, and was groundbreaking in its portrayal of Latinos, and contribution to Chicano literature.
Not only that, it’s the best selling Chicano novel of all time. The story follows a boy named Antonio as he grows up, and his political in the sense that it describes Latino culture and struggles in New Mexico in the mid-20th century.
Aztlán Reads noted about the book:
The basic story is narrated by Antonio Márez, who is only six years old at the novel’s beginning. He is a child torn between ways — between the Lunas –his mother’s Catholic farmer family and his father’s wild vaquero background; between Spanish, the language of home and English, the language of education; between the Catholic religion and the traditional earth religions of the curandera and his native ancestors. Though Ultima, the curandera who comes to live with the family at the story’s beginning, Tony becomes entangled in a series of battles between good and evil, personified in the struggle between Ultima and three evil witches and their father. He is also witness to three deaths which change him and cause him to question all he has faith in (except for Ultima) and realize he must define his own faith.
Perhaps what makes this anniversary even more notable is the struggle Anaya experienced in trying to publish it. because the book incorporates English and Spanish words and basically created its own genre, Anaya spent years trying to find a publisher. He finally found his publisher in 1972, seven years after he started writing the book.
Anaya Basically created an entirely new genre when he wrote this book. He has said that he struggled in doing so, because he had no one to mentor him, or any other bodies of work to help guide his own. I first read this book when I was a young girl, and it was the most engaging and personal piece of literature I had read up to that point. I had never experienced literature about people like me. And while I didn’t really understand Antonio’s world — since I didn’t know any curanderas, nor did I grow up in a rural area — that being a Latino could be so normal blew my mind.
So congratulations to Anaya, if you haven’t read this book, I recommend it to you. Here’s a video of Anaya from Latinopia.Latinopia]