Heart of Aztlán

by Rudolfo Anaya

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Heart of Aztlán by Rudolpho Anaya chronicles the movement of a Chicano family to a city from a rural area. This is representative of the many rural farmers in the 19th century—especially African Americans and Mexican Americans—who moved closer to cities.

Before they leave, the family sells their land to re-settle in a barrio outside of Albuquerque. Clemente, the father, is frustrated at how little he is being paid for his land in Guadalupe.

"There's no justice in dealing in land," Clemente shook his head. "You offer me Judas money for my three acres, for a home I built from this very earth with my bare hands, for a well blasted a foot at a time out of the hard earth so that I might have water for the jardín and the animals--You offer me nothing, just enough to pay off my debts, then there is nothing left." ... He tried to understand the necessity of selling the land, to understand that the move would provide his children a new future in a new place, but that did not lesson the pain he felt as the roots of his soul pulled away and severed themselves from the earth which had nurtured his soul. (3)

Clemente and his sons are reluctant to leave their land. Clemente's reluctance will contribute to his difficulty settling in his new barrio. A blind man named Crispin comes to the aid of the family, which is struggling with the move in various ways. Clemente turns to alcoholism, and his son Benjie becomes involved with drugs. Crispin is a seer that sings in the rail yard where Clemente worked. He rescues Clemente after he nearly kills himself while drunk. Later, Crispin describes the power of Aztlán:

Aztlán was a floating continent that settled north of Mexico when the earth was young. There are seven springs on the sacred mountain, and the Indians call this the sipapu, the place of origin. The rays of the sun penetrated the dark waters of those sacred lakes and from their intercourse the people emerged. That is why there’s so much power in that place; it is the source. (123).

Crispin continues to mentor the family. By the novel's end he has saved Clemente from despair (and suicide) and turned Clemente into a pillar of the community in Albuqueque.

Time stood still, and in that enduring moment he felt the rhythm of the heart of Aztlán beat to the measure of his own heart. Dreams and visions became reality, and reality was but the thin substance of myth and legends. A joyful power coursed from the dark wombed-heart of the earth into his soul, and he cried out, I AM AZTLÁN! (131)

Crispin, the benevolent guide, has led Clemente to discover the power within himself.

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