Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As with his classic novel Bless Me Ultima (1972), Rudolfo A. Anaya explores in “The Silence of the Llano” the relationship between place, culture, and the Latino individual in the New Mexico of the early to mid-twentieth century. Anaya’s fascination for this time and region has two origins. First, this is the landscape of his childhood, for Anaya grew up in the desolate prairie lands near Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Second, this is the era when this region began to lose its uniqueness because of the transformations caused by technology and the modern world. It is significant that Rita’s rapist arrives by automobile, a harbinger of twentieth century change and its dangers.

At the story’s opening, Anaya establishes the twin forces of land and culture. He writes how the llano’s oppressive vastness creates a silence that steals human souls. To escape this silence, the ranchers go to town just to hear the old men gossip in front of Las Animas’s general store. They also go there for the healing of the soul through the priest and the healing of the body through las curanderas, or folk healers, like Doña Rufina.

Thus the dual influences of the rugged land and the rural, Catholic-Spanish civilization shape the young rancher Rafael, as they did most Hispanic men and women of mid-twentieth century northern New Mexico. Early on, Rafael learns the tough lesson of the llano’s cruelty when his parents die in a blizzard and he...

(The entire section is 498 words.)