Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 178
Heart of Aztlán is the second story in a trilogy that takes place in the 1950s in the community of Guadalupe, Mexico. The story covers spiritual healing, socio-political struggles, and Chicano empowerment. In this book, the Chavez family moves to a barrio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they encounter Crispin,...
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- Critical Essays
Heart of Aztlán is the second story in a trilogy that takes place in the 1950s in the community of Guadalupe, Mexico. The story covers spiritual healing, socio-political struggles, and Chicano empowerment. In this book, the Chavez family moves to a barrio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they encounter Crispin, a spiritual leader who provides meaning and guidance in people's lives.
The Chavez family has gone through its fair share of troubles, such as having a drug-addicted son who is later murdered. The father, Clemente, is an alcoholic who has lost his job, and he has two daughters who are prostitutes. The oldest brother has had to find work, and the middle son is in charge of the family and guides his mother.
Crispin helps Clemente adjust to new life in the city and embark on a magical and spiritual journey. He also helps the Chavez family and the community realize they are at the mercy of powerful railroad interests. At the end of the story, Chavez finds meaning and leads a march against his former bosses.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 454
Heart of Aztlán is Rudolfo Anaya’s second novel of a trilogy that includes Bless Me, Ultima (1972) and Tortuga (1979). It is a psychological portrait of a quest for Chicano identity and empowerment. It is the story of the Chávez family, who leave the country to search for a better life in the city only to discover that their destiny lies in a past thought abandoned and lost.
The story is carried by two major characters, Clemente Chávez, the father, and Jason, one of the sons. Jason depicts the adjustments the family has to make to everyday life in the city. Clemente undergoes a magical rebirth that brings a new awareness of destiny to the community and a new will to fight for their birthright.
The novel begins with the Chávez family selling the last of their land and leaving the small town of Guadalupe for a new life in Albuquerque. They go to live in Barelas, a barrio on the west side of the city that is full of other immigrants from the country.
The Chávezes soon learn, as the other people of the barrio already know, that their lives do not belong to them. They are controlled by industrial interests represented by the railroad and a union that has sold out the workers. They are controlled by politicians through Mannie García, “el super,” who delivers the community vote.
In Barelas, Clemente also begins to lose the battle of maintaining control of the family, especially his daughters, who no longer believe in his insistence on the tradition of respect and obedience to the head of the family. The situation gets worse when Clemente loses his job in the railroad yard during a futile strike.
Clemente becomes a drunk and in his despair attempts to commit suicide. Crespín, a magical character who represents eternal wisdom, comes to his assistance and points the way to a new life. With Crespín’s help, Clemente solves the riddle of a magical power stone in the possession of “la India,” a sorceress who symbolically guards the entryway to the heart of Aztlán, the source of empowerment for the Chicano.
Clemente’s rebirth takes the form of a journey to the magical mountain lake that is at the center of Aztlán and Chicano being. Reborn, Clemente returns to his community to lead the movement for social and economic justice. It is a redeeming and unifying struggle for life and the destiny of a people.
The novel ends with Clemente physically taking a hammer to the Santa Fe water tower in the railroad yard, a symbol of industrial might, before coming home to lead a powerful march on his former employers.