Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 594
“Iliana of the Pleasure Dreams” is the last story in Tierra: Contemporary Short Fiction of New Mexico (1989), a book edited by Anaya that also contains stories by writers such as Tony Hillerman, Ed Chavez, and Patricia Clark Smith. The story illustrates Anaya’s methods in his short works. In the preface, he tells about the tierra, the land, of New Mexico, which is “an ingredient which dictates the natural pace of the stories in this collection” and “nourishes our creativity.” The story of a beautiful, newly married young woman, Iliana, is set in a rural mountain valley. Anaya combines realistic details of the land with the details of Iliana’s dream to tell an initiation story that ends with people in harmony with the earth and themselves.
One summer night, Iliana awakens from a dream in which she is running across a field of alfalfa toward a beautiful young man. The dream is very real, and she quietly moves toward the window to contemplate its meaning while looking at the night landscape. Anaya describes this scene so that the details of the breeze and the crickets in the landscape mesh with the dream. Iliana thinks of her early life with her strict religious aunts, her timidity with her shy, silent husband, and her uneasiness about the pleasure that was so real in her dream. She recalls her intention to confess her dream to the priest, but on the way to the church, trees seem to overwhelm her like the arms of men. The landscape is the connection between the dream life and the real world.
The next day, Iliana and her husband, Onofre, go to the church to see a miracle, the face of Christ, which reportedly has appeared on the wall. As the young couple drives to the church, Anaya again describes the earth and the landscape. Iliana is excited and surrenders herself to the mood of tense expectation. She smells the damp, rich earth and remembers the horse she used to ride.
Iliana goes with her aunts to pray, remembering the pleasure of her dream as she kneels. Anaya describes the images again. The smells of the mountains, the prayers of the women—all are entangled. As Iliana prays to see the image on the wall, her dream image appears, and she sees not Christ but the man of her dreams. She is overwhelmed, and as she faints, she visualizes the rolling clouds, the red color of the earth, and the man.
When she awakes, it has grown cooler and darker, and Iliana wonders about what she saw, whether it was the devil tempting her or the answer to the dream. She cannot find Onofre right away and runs into a field of fragrant purple alfalfa, almost like her dream. This time, she sees the man in the field; it is her husband. Both confess that they did not see the face of Christ on the wall, but both have realized the meaning of their separate dreams. As they stand together, they speak of the dreams and the need to share them. They understand the meaning of dreams and go home, to new awakenings for each other and to their life connected to the land.
All through the story, the colors, shapes, and textures of the landscape blend into the texture of Iliana’s life. The future relationship of the two young people will harmonize with that landscape, because the land nourishes the human spirit. By synthesizing the details of dream and reality, Anaya successfully communicates this creative energy throughout the story.
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