Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya (ah-NAH-yah) was born in the small village of Pastura, New Mexico, in 1937 to Martin and Rafaelita (Mares) Anaya. His father was a laborer. Anaya’s inspiration to become a writer came at an early age when he listened to his family telling stories.
After graduating from the University of New Mexico in 1963, Anaya taught in the public schools for seven years. He earned an M.A. in English in 1968 and an M.A. in counseling in 1972. He became director of counseling at the University of Albuquerque from 1971 to 1973, leaving that position to teach in the Department of English at the University of New Mexico, where he remained until he resigned that position to devote all of his time to writing in 1993.
Anaya’s first novel, Bless Me, Ultima, published in 1972, is an autobiographical work, a Bildungsroman that depicts a formative period in the life of the main character, Antonio. The mysterious healer Ultima is at the heart of this novel, in which the seven-year-old boy Antonio is searching for a spiritual foundation and values that will enable him to better cope with a world racked by conflict, violence, and death. Disenchanted with a Catholicism that seems dogmatic and harsh, he learns from the aged Ultima, a curandera (healer), an alternative outlook on life that includes a love of nature, a belief in the supernatural, and the need to choose good over evil.
Anaya has revealed that the disenchantment with Catholicism that Antonio...
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