(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Heart of Aztlán is the second novel in a trilogy begun with Bless Me, Ultima and concluded with Tortuga. Each of the novels involves a seer, a spiritual guide to help the characters deal with the problems they face and to help structure the spiritual wholeness, peace, and harmony that bring them understanding of their identity and purpose. In Heart of Aztlán, this spiritual guide is Crispin, a blind poet who enters the life of the Chavez family as they encounter the hostile environment of the Albuquerque barrio.

The story takes place in 1950, when the family moves from the small rural community of Guadalupe to the barrio of the big city. There they encounter many problems, and each faces these differently. The family’s eldest son manages to find work, but the youngest son becomes a drug addict and is eventually killed. The middle son, like his father, reveres the land they have left and cannot make the adjustment to new surroundings. Because his father becomes an alcoholic, the middle son must take over the leadership of the family. The women, who are portrayed stereotypically, face equal hardships. Two daughters become prostitutes, and the mother must take orders from her middle son. This is the family situation when Crispin enters.

Crispin’s arrival brings changes, especially to the father, Clemente, who has not been able to cope with the technology, religion, or capitalism of the city. Crispin helps...

(The entire section is 429 words.)

Heart of Aztlán Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

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...

(The entire section is 454 words.)

Heart of Aztlán Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Clemente Chávez is happy living in Guadalupe on his own land, but the lack of work there forces him to sell his property and move his family to Albuquerque to be near his brother Roberto. On their first day there, Clemente and his family are welcomed to the Albuquerque neighborhood of Barelas. Clemente and his son Jasón meet many men from the barrio, including Crispín, the man with the blue guitar.

The next morning, Roberto takes Clemente with him to the railroad yard to find work. Clemente’s wife, Adelita, sends Jasón to the yard with a lunch for her husband. Jasón heads toward the water tank that dominates the skyline. It reads “Santa Fe” (which means “holy faith”). A stranger takes the food from Jasón, returning only what he does not want. Still searching for his father, Jasón witnesses a man’s death: A man named Sánchez is killed instantly when a huge railroad hook hits him in the head. The sound of a siren responding to the accident reminds Jasón of an Indian legend about the song of life and death. He remembers Crispín’s blue guitar and rushes to him, asking him to play that song to save Sánchez, but Sánchez is beyond help. A wake is held for the dead man, and Jasón attends. There, he first sees Sánchez’s lovely eldest daughter, Cristina.

Clemente finds work immediately at the railroad yard, replacing the dead man. For a time, the Chávezes’ life goes well, but then a worker named Lalo tries to organize a wildcat strike to protest conditions at the railroad yard and the corrupt union shop. Though not involved, Clemente loses his job.

Soon after, the whole family goes to a dance at the community center to celebrate the wedding of a local woman to a wealthy gringo. Outside the dance, Jasón and his brother Benjie get involved in a dispute. Benjie has been selling drugs for a neighborhood gang, but he is unable to pay the gang members the money he owes them. Two gang members, Frankie and Flaco, threaten him. After Flaco pulls a knife, Jasón intervenes and disarms him; men rush out of the dance to break up the fight.

Not long after the dance, Jasón and his friends are invited to a party at the home of a girl named Cindy whose parents are away. Cindy, the blonde daughter of a lawyer, lives at a country club and has a crush on Jasón. Jasón sees Cristina at the party with her childhood friend Sapo, who has just been released from prison after serving time for killing someone during a gang fight. Ignoring the concern of his friends, Jasón approaches Cristina. She introduced him to Sapo, and tensions arise, so Cristina asks Sapo to take her home. The party over, Cindy tries to persuade Jasón to stay with her, but he refuses.

On the last Sunday of summer. Jasón wants to play baseball, but Sapo, Frankie, and Flaco confront him. Jasón is prepared to fight them with his friend Willie, but when Sapo pulls out a zip gun, they realize they must run. Jasón kicks Sapo’s gun hand, breaking it, and the two boys run away. Two shots are fired, but no one is hit. Sapo turns his anger on Flaco, putting the gun to his head. He pulls the trigger, but the gun does not go off.


(The entire section is 1291 words.)