Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 344
Heart of Aztlán by Rudolfo Anaya is the second installment of a trilogy, which includes Bless Me, Ultima and the final novel, Tortuga. In Heart of Aztlán, Anaya portrays the struggles of a newly-immigrated Mexican family in New Mexico. The author also attempts to analyze the social, economic and domestic issues faced by Mexican immigrants in the 1950s Southwest.
However, many critics felt that Anaya's attempt at the latter was incomplete or lacking in focus. The characters evoke sympathy on the surface and each one seems to represent an archetype of the human psyche. One brother becomes a drug addict and later dies, whilst the older son succeeds in finding work.
The protagonist, Crispin, enters the lives of the family members as a stranger who wants to help them find spiritual enlightenment. His character resembles the wise sage trope found in other works of fiction in which an outsider offers guidance to the locals.
Perhaps this is where the critics feel Anaya diverted from the orthodox narrative, in which the author tried to combine mystical prose with social commentary, with the latter falling flat due to emphasis on the former.
Some critics also argued that the women in the novel were portrayed as a stereotypical Mexican women, in which the mother becomes submissive towards her middle son, who is very similar to his father in terms of characteristics, and the daughters work as prostitutes. However, this familial dynamics was typical among newly-immigrated Mexican families in the middle of the 20th century. The Hispanic family during this time period, though displaying reverence to the matriarch, were still very much patriarchal.
In the end, when the father and others "shout without fear," there is no definite indication that the family have truly conquered their fears, sadness, or feelings of alienation in a country, but rather simply shows a cathartic expression of what they had bottled up inside them after the youngest son's death. In this regard, one questions whether Crispin--who is the family's Jesus Christ, their supposed savior—was truly successful in his mission.