(Masterpieces of American Literature)

In Alburquerque, Anaya uses the old name for the city, arbitrarily changed, according to tradition, by a nineteenth century English-speaking train stationmaster in a move that Anaya sees as indicative of cultural intolerance. A former Golden Gloves boxing champion and now a first-year student at the University of New Mexico, Abrán González, is inexplicably summoned to the deathbed of renowned local painter Cynthia Johnson. She tells him that she, a wealthy Anglo, is in fact his biological mother. She dies, however, before revealing the name of González’s father, only that he was Mexican. González must suddenly confront radical questions of his mixed identity—in the barrios, he had always been proud of his Mexican heritage. With the help of his mother’s nurse, the saintly Lucinda, he resolves to track down his father.

To help in his efforts, González agrees to return to the ring in a glitzy promotional fight designed to promote the mayoral campaign of the wealthy and influential Frank Dominic, who cagily promises to use his considerable influence to help González find his father. Dominic quickly emerges as a shady politico without any authentic cultural identity and loyal only to soulless materialism and ruthless self-promotion. The defining issue in the upcoming vote centers on delicate negotiations with the Pueblo Indians for their land (and specifically their access to water) as part of Dominic’s grandiose plans for urban development. Inadvertently enmeshed in the divisive campaign, González comes under...

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(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Alburquerque is Anaya’s exploration of the ethnically and culturally diverse world of New Mexico in the 1990’s. The book focuses on the conflict between the heritage of the past and the challenges to it posed by economic growth unscrupulously promoted by developers and politicians. In its structure, the novel parallels a young man’s search for the identity of his father to the city’s search for a sense of community amid divisive political and ethnic tensions. Anaya’s spelling of the city’s name in the title reflects the city’s history; according to legend, a gringo stationmaster dropped the first “r” from the town’s name “in a move,” Anaya says, “that symbolized the emasculation of the Mexican way of life.”

Near death from cancer, Cynthia Johnson, a highly respected New Mexico painter, sends for Abrán González, a former Golden Gloves boxing champion who is now a college student, telling him that he is the son she gave up for adoption twenty-one years ago. Intensely proud of his Mexicanness and of the culture of the Barelas barrio where he was reared by his adoptive parents, Abrán is shocked to learn that he has an Anglo mother and naturally wants to know who his father is. By the time he arrives at the hospital, however, Cynthia is too weak to speak, and she dies without revealing the identity of her lover, a secret she confided to no one, not even her parents. Abrán turns for help and companionship to Lucinda Córdova, a nurse who had been close to Cynthia during her final days and to whom he is deeply attracted. Together, they begin a search for the identity of Abrán’s father.

This quest takes Abrán first to one of Cynthia’s high school classmates, Frank Dominic, who is now a wealthy lawyer running for mayor on a platform of legalized gambling and commercial development. Dominic promises to use his resources to find Abrán’s father, but only if Abrán agrees to return to the ring for a fight to be held as a part of an elaborate celebration Dominic has scheduled to kick off his...

(The entire section is 838 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Anaya, Rudolfo. Interview by R. S. Sharma. Prairie Schooner 68 (Winter, 1994): 177-187. The interview focuses on the meaning of Chicano writing and literature. Anaya specifies which cultural tradition he prefers readers associate him with, and comments on Chicanismo as a bilingual culture and the Chicano literary movement as a cultural trend. Provides useful background for any study of Anaya’s work.

Augenbraum, Harold. Review of Alburquerque, by Rudolfo A. Anaya. Library Journal 117 (July, 1992): 119. Calls the novel “an archetypal quest for the father” and says that though “at times melodramatic, the work has an intense spirituality that ultimately makes it mesmerizing.”

Cazemajou, Jean. “Mediators and Mediation in Rudolfo Anaya’s Trilogy: Bless Me, Ultima, Heart of Aztlán, and Tortuga.” In European Perspectives on Hispanic Literature of the United States, edited by Genvieve Fabre. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1988. This important article provides background for an understanding of the place of Alburquerque in the context of Anaya’s earlier novels. Cazemajou sees “myth, not militancy,” as Anaya’s major literary tool and argues that Anaya’s romanticism enables him to avoid the “pitfalls of naturalism that await most minority writers.”

Clark, William. Rudolfo Anaya: The Chicano Worldview. Publishers Weekly 242 (June 5, 1995): 41-42. In this revealing interview, Anaya discusses his personal background, career history, and the books and novels he has written, including Alburquerque. Explores the groundbreaking novel Anaya has provided to a whole generation of Latino writers.

Jussawalla, Feroza. Review of Alburquerque, by Rudolfo Anaya. World Literature Today 68 (Winter, 1994): 125. Jussawalla presents a brief plot synopsis of Anaya’s novel and compares it with Anaya’s previous work, Bless Me, Ultima. Although Jessawalla believes that Alburquerque does not “measure up to Ultima’s greatness,” he nevertheless finds the story compelling and touching.

Publishers Weekly. Review of Alburquerque, by Rudolfo A. Anaya. 239 (May 25, 1992): 36-37. Sees the novel as an “explosive study of political patronage and the search for ethnic roots,” a “touching love story woven into a tale of treachery,” and a penetrating analysis of “the social and economic dislocations squeezing the American Southwest.”