NM elected officials pay tribute to famed author Rudolfo Anaya
LAS CRUCES - Rudolfo Anaya, a writer who helped launch the 1970s Chicano Literature Movement with his novel “Bless Me, Ultima,” a book celebrated by Latinos that became required reading in many New Mexico schools, has died at 82.
Anaya’s niece, Belinda Henry, said the celebrated author died Sunday at his Albuquerque, New Mexico, home after suffering from a long illness.
Literary critics say Anaya’s World War II-era novel about a young Mexican-American boy’s relationship with an older curandera, or healer, influenced a generation of Latino writers because of its imagery and cultural references that were rare at the time of its 1972 publication.
Anaya moved to Albuquerque with his family when he was about 16. But he was born in Pastura and raised in Santa Rosa. His mother's family lived in Puerto de Luna, 11 miles southeast of Santa Rosa. He has fond memories of those towns and those early years.
On Tuesday, following news of the author's death, several elected officials and lawmakers weighed in on the cultural impact of Anaya's work in New Mexico and the writer's legacy.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a statement reading:
I am deeply saddened today to hear of the death of Rudolfo Anaya, one of New Mexico’s greatest artists, a seminal figure in our state’s rich literary history. Through his indelible stories, Rudolfo Anaya, perhaps better than any other author, truly captured what it means to be a New Mexican, what it means to be born here, grow up here and live here. His life’s work amounts to an incredible contribution to the great culture and fabric of our state – not only through his prodigious literary contributions but through his decades as an educator at the University of New Mexico.
“I am especially grateful to have had the opportunity to sign legislation creating “Rudolfo Anaya I Love to Read Day,” highlighting children’s literary education, and to have been able to celebrate that commemoration with his family. While his passing is a great loss for New Mexico, his life and his work was an incredible gift, not just to New Mexico but to the world. His words and stories will be treasured forever. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.
Congressman Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, issued the following statement:
“New Mexico is mourning the loss of our beloved friend and brother, Rudolfo Anaya, whose work touched the lives of countless Americans. Mr. Anaya left an indelible mark on Chicano literature and on New Mexico – and his work reflected his love for New Mexico’s cultures and traditions. I’m honored to own a signed copy of ‘The Farolitos of Christmas,’ which illustrates how farolitos and luminarias came to be a favorite holiday tradition.
“Mr. Anaya dedicated his life to inspiring others, including as an educator at Albuquerque Public Schools and the University of New Mexico. He was also recognized for his life’s work by President Barack Obama with the National Humanities Medal. As we grieve this loss, let us turn to his writings to help us celebrate his legacy. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and all those who turned to him for inspiration.”
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Congresswoman Deb Haaland, D-NM, posted the following statement celebrating beloved New Mexico author:
“Rudolfo Anaya captured New Mexico in a way that no one else can. He transported readers to the llano or the streets of Albuquerque. We’ve lost an incredible storyteller. I’m sending prayers to his family and to every New Mexican who grew up reading his stories. We will all feel this loss.”
Read more:Airwaves: Catching up with Rudolfo Anaya
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, D-NM, issued the following statement.
“Rudolfo Anaya was a legendary New Mexico author and long-time educator who helped so many New Mexicans take pride in the rich cultural heritage of our state. On a personal level, his novel, Bless Me, Ultima, was an important part of the experiences and events that led my wife Julie and I to settle in Albuquerque.
“I know he will be missed by his family, the countless people he mentored and taught, and everyone who had the pleasure of reading his books and recognizing themselves in his characters. My thoughts are with his family in this time of mourning. I am certain I join so many others in our state in remembering and honoring this quintessential New Mexican.”
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller shared a handwritten note he'd received from Anaya:
Las Cruces City Councilor Gabriel Vasquez remembered Anaya as "one of my favorite authors:
Russell Contreras of the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Keep reading:Beloved NM author Rudolfo Anaya passes away at 82