Critical Evaluation

Rudolfo Anaya is one of the most acclaimed Chicano writers. Certainly, his first novel, Bless Me, Ultima (1972), garnered a large, positive critical reception. It was the first Chicano novel to be a best seller and remains the most read and most studied of Anaya’s works. Bless Me, Ultima was the first of a trilogy that includes Heart of Aztlán and Tortuga (1979). The first and third novels of the trilogy are narrated from a young boy’s point of view; Heart of Aztlán has a more diffuse narrative line. The three novels share the presence of a seer, or spiritual guide, whose influence is essential to the main characters, and they share mythic underpinnings as well.

Heart of Aztlán traces one year in the life of the Chávez family as they sell their land and move to the city. Family members react differently to the strange, often hostile urban setting. Clemente loses his job and heads down the path to self-destruction. His family seems to disintegrate around him. Juanita and Ana work to help support the family and quickly become much more independent than tradition allows. Clemente’s wife, Adelita, seems to flourish while he withers. Benjie becomes a drug user and seller. Only Jasón seems relatively unaffected, but a local gang threatens him as well.

Intertwined in the family’s struggle to understand and cope with an alien environment is the workers’ struggle for fair labor...

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