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...
(The entire section is 630 words.)