Anaya, Rudolfo (1937- ), American novelist and short-story writer, whose best-known work, Bless Me, Ultima (1972), is one of the most celebrated novels of Hispanic literature. Anaya was born in the rural village of Pastura, New Mexico, and while he was growing up in the area, he became familiar with the practices of traditional Hispanic farming and ranching, which would become the subject of many of his narratives. Anaya was educated at the University of New Mexico and subsequently taught in public schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He joined the faculty of the English department of the University of New Mexico in 1974, and he retired from teaching in 1994.
In Anaya’s novel Bless Me, Ultima, the protagonist, a boy named Antonio, must find his place in the society of the American Southwest by choosing between two competing family heritages: the indigenous farming traditions that are followed by his mother’s side of the family, and the Spanish-influenced ranching practices of his father’s side. Antonio’s choices represent two different ways of viewing humanity’s relationship to the natural world. He must also decide whether knowledge should come through religious or secular (nonreligious) experience. Antonio follows a mystic quest through the real dangers in the world around him as well as through the mysteries of his own puzzling dreams. His mentor throughout this quest is Ultima, a wise old faith healer. In 1971 Bless Me, Ultima won the Premio Quinto Sol, the major award at that time for Chicano literature in the United States. Largely based on the popularity of this novel, Anaya was given the City of Los Angeles Award in 1977 and the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence and Achievement in Literature in 1980.
In most of his works, Anaya is concerned with instinct and intuition as guides to humanity’s understanding of the universe. He shows the importance of these guides in the context of plots, characters, and symbols drawn directly from the Hispanic culture of New Mexico. Anaya’s other books include the novels Heart of Aztlán (1976); Tortuga (1979); The Legend of La Llorona (1984); and Alburquerque (1994; the name spelled to reflect the original Spanish spelling of Albuquerque, New Mexico), and the short story collection My Land Sings (1999).