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Remembering Chicano Author Rudolfo Anaya

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Writer Rudolfo Anaya has died at 82. His books were fundamental to the Chicano literature movement. NPR's Mandalit del Barco has this reflection.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Rudolfo Anaya - Rudy Anaya, as he was known - inspired generations of Chicano writers. His 1972 novel, "Bless Me, Ultima," written in Spanish and English, was filled with Mexican American images and cultural references. It was a story of a 6-year-old New Mexican boy in the 1940s and his mentor, a curandera, or healer, named Ultima.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLESS ME, ULTIMA")

MIRIAM COLON: (As Ultima) It is alive, like all things - the trees, the rocks, the river.

LUKE GANALON: (As Antonio) Can it speak?

COLON: (As Ultima) Yes.

DEL BARCO: "Bless Me, Ultima" was made into a movie in 2013, starring Miriam Colon.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLESS ME, ULTIMA")

GANALON: (As Antonio) She's not a witch.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, yelling)

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

DOLORES HEREDIA: (As Maria) Oh, my God.

DEL BARCO: Like the character Ultima, Anaya's book was misunderstood by those who accused it of heresy and profanity. It was censored and banned, even burned over the years. In 2012, Anaya spoke to Latino USA.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RUDOLFO ANAYA: They think that by getting rid of books, they will erase our history, our culture, our literature. And that's just not going to happen. We have made a promise to our ancestors to always keep our history alive.

DEL BARCO: Anaya was born in New Mexico and was a high school teacher when he wrote that first novel. He taught creative writing at his alma mater, the University of New Mexico. And he wrote many more plays, poems, novels and children's books. In 2015, President Obama presented Rudolfo Anaya with a National Humanities Medal for his stories of the American Southwest.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAWRENCE BLATT'S "LOOK TO THE SUN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.