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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.

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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.


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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 him to find the spiritual strength to see things clearly. Eventually, Clemente becomes a barrio leader. Anaya is working with social and political issues in this novel, and he leaves many parts of the story line confused as he makes a statement about the exploitation of human beings.

The end of the novel is intended to be uplifting but has been seen as, rather, confusing and unsatisfying. The people, along with Clemente, “shout without fear.” Even though they are not afraid, they have not succeeded in achieving the spiritual wholeness suggested by the appearance of the seer Crispin. Anaya uses a mixture of dreams and symbols to suggest such events as the death of the youngest boy, Benjie, and their place in the universe. As a whole, however, these also do not fit together.

Anaya himself said that his novel was an experiment in combining elements from myth with socioeconomic themes from barrio life. The resulting novel covers too much too simplistically. Even though Heart of Aztlán gives a picture of conditions facing Mexican Americans in the 1950’s, Anaya was clearly not comfortable treating contemporary issues so directly.


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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 entire section contains 1061 words.)

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