The Big Read Blog (Archive)

The Heart and Soul of New Mexico

Washington, DC


Entering New Mexico, by HotShot2 via flickr

Again, this month on The Big Read blog, we'll be looking at the role region and landscape play in select novels and poems.

Just as humans have bodies and souls, places too have physical terrain and particular spirits. In Bless Me, Ultima, readers are immersed in the raw beauty and rich culture of New Mexico, whose presence shapes the story as much as any of the book?s characters.

The novel?s backdrop is the fictional town of Guadalupe, which Ultima author Rudolfo Anaya based on his own childhood home of Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Dripping with the beauty of the ?sun-baked llano,? ?hills of juniper and mesquite and cedar clumps,? blooming yucca, and singing mockingbirds, the Southwest comes to life through Anaya?s descriptive powers.

But at the heart of the novel is the spiritual struggle of young Antonio, who tries to reconcile his Catholic faith with the mysteries and magic represented by Ultima, a traditional healer. In our radio show, Anaya talks about how these influences have deep roots in his native region.

?What we call the Rio Grande corridor here in New Mexico is also a very spiritual corridor. It has the bedrock of the Pueblo Indians, Navajo, Apache, into that come the Spaniards and the Mexicans with their Catholic religion. Later on Anglo America comes in. And so you have a fascinating kind of laboratory, a kind of place where these cultures are mixing, learning from each other, and quite often in conflict.?

To  learn more about Rudolfo Anaya and Bless Me, Ultima, please visit The Big Read website.

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