Heart of Aztlán

by Rudolfo Anaya

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Heart of Aztlan raises the theme of the problem of cultural inheritance and transmission in a multicultural, neoliberal world of porous borders and internationally mobile labor that tends toward cultural anomie and dissolution.

The story opens with the Chavez family selling the last of their land (peasant agriculture was decimated by cheap American agricultural exports after the signing of NAFTA) and moving to a barrio in New Mexico. Here they learn they remain subject to economic and social forces apparently still beyond their control (the union and railroad).

The father, Clemente Chavez, is also losing out to powerful new social forces in his struggle to maintain the leadership of his own family. Now exposed to American culture, some of his children increasingly reject his demand for obedience and deference as head of the household. The downward spiral quickens as Clemente loses his railroad job in a failed strike and descends into alcoholism and suicidal despair.

Crespín, a magical being, now enters the story and begins to steer Clemente on a hero's journey of self-discovery and renewal. Clemente, with this new spiritual guidance, solves the mystery of a magical stone held by the sorceress who blocks the entryway to the heart of Aztlán, the source of regeneration for the Chicano people.

Clemente’s spiritual path to regeneration leads him to a magical mountain lake that is at the core of Aztlán and Chicano identity. Clemente's spiritual rebirth brings a new awareness to him of his destiny and the destiny of la Raza. Armed with a new will to fight, Clemente returns to his community to drive the movement for social and economic justice by leading a march on his former employers.

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