*Guadalupe. Small agrarian New Mexico community in which the central character, Clemente Chávez, is spiritually connected to his land: “His soul and his heart were in the earth.” His family have lived on this same land for generations, so it is literally the “roots of his soul.” As he is leaving his homeland, Clemente represents a problem that all Mexican Americans face when they leave their land in search of better economic opportunities in the cities: Without the land the relationship man created with the earth would be lost, old customs and traditions would fall by the wayside, and the people would be like wandering gypsies without a homeland where they might anchor their spirit.
Clemente’s family not only leaves the physical land behind, they leave their spiritual connection behind them, too, and this loss will create enormous conflict in their lives. To ameliorate their feelings of being uprooted, they make a symbolic attempt to take the land with them by filling a coffee can with rich dirt from their garden.
*Albuquerque. New Mexico’s largest city, the setting in which the novel’s main action occurs. After leaving their home in Guadalupe, the Chávezes make their home in the Barelas barrio in downtown Albuquerque. This city is literally and figuratively “in a new time and in a new place.” In this communal environment, the family at first feels accepted through the...
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