Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya, son of Martin and Rafaelita Mares Anaya, was born on October 30, 1937, in Pastura, a small farming village in the eastern part of New Mexico. At sixteen, Anaya suffered a near-fatal spinal injury while diving into a shallow irrigation ditch, but he still managed to attend school in the neighboring town of Santa Rosa and ultimately, after his family relocated in 1952, in the barrios of Albuquerque. As a child, Anaya loved listening to the folktales, legends, and historic narratives of his grandparents. From 1956 to 1958, he attended the Browning Business School, but, finding the prospect of an accounting career unrewarding, he transferred to the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, where he earned a B.A. in English in 1963. Within the university environment, Anaya first questioned his own cultural identity: a Latino for whom English was a second language suddenly surrounded by a culturally diverse community. He would later recall being disturbed by the absence of literature devoted to the Mexican American experience.
From 1963 until 1970, Anaya taught in the Albuquerque public schools but devoted his evenings to his own writing. During this time, he completed both an M.A. in English (1968) and an M.A. in guidance and counseling (1972) from the University of New Mexico. In 1971, he left the public school system to become the director of counseling at the University of Albuquerque. He remained at this job for two years until the publication of his first novel.
His first novel, Bless Me, Ultima, was published in 1972 after considerable difficulty finding a publisher interested in a story that blended realism with mysticism, including a magic healer and a wicked witch. It tells the story of the relationship between Antonio, a young boy growing up in a small New Mexico village, and Ultima, his grandmother and spiritual guide, who helps him to understand his experiences. The book proved an enormous critical and commercial success and was translated into several languages. Bless Me, Ultima received the Premio Quinto Sol Award, Anaya’s first national...
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