Santa Rosa’s Literary Hero

Author Rudolfo Anya has a Route 66 connection. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Rudolfo Anaya is a renowned writer with a long list of published novels, short stories, essays and even poems. His best known work was also his first novel, Bless Me, Ultima. Published in 1972, the novel tells the fascinating story of Antonio, a young boy growing up in rural New Mexico in the 1940s.

The coming of age novel that is today recognized as a classic of Chicano literature explores themes of identity, religion, family, and culture. In 2012 the drama that centered on the relationship between a young boy, and an elderly medicine woman who helps him contend with the battle between good and evil that rages in his village was made into a movie.

Lots of lessons have been learned over the course of the past sixty five years. Counted among those lessons is the realization that learning leads to an awareness about how little I know. A recent introduction to the work of Rudolfo Anaya is but one example.

A few weeks ago I was attending a conference in Vail, Colorado. My presentation was about the twisted path that lead to the writing of numerous books, the creation of Jim Hinckley’s America, and how Route 66 was the thread that tied it all together.

At the conferences cocktail hour I met Ray Lucero of the Katie Adamson Conservation Fund, and a discussion about Route 66 ensued as he was from Albuquerque. As it turned out he also had a connection with Santa Rosa, New Mexico, a Route 66 community known for the legendary Blue Hole.

His uncle was Rudolfo Anya who spent his childhood in Santa Rosa. The town figures prominently in Bless Me, Ultima. And along an alignment of Route 66 near the city’s beautiful lake in Bless Me Ultima Park is a life-sized statue of Rudolfo Anaya designed and sculpted by Reynaldo Rivera that was dedicated in 2008.

With a bit of embarrassment I had to admit my ignorance about Anaya. I vaguely knew the name and had heard about his novel. That oversight is being rectified as I have ordered a copy of his famous novel.

According to Britannica, Anaya was born in Pastura, New Mexico, in 1937, but spent some childhood years in Santa Rosa. In those years the traffic that flowed along Route 66 ensured diversity and vibrancy even in small rural communities. And that obviously influenced Anaya’s imagination and curiosity about the world.

Anya’s statue is only one feature that honors the authors work. In the park there is a brick wall with a bas relief showcasing a detailed depiction of scenes from the Bless Me, Ultima story. It is an illustrated map of Santa Rosa on the Pecos River.

Pa always told me that if a man wasn’t careful, he would learn something new every day. He was right. I was in Colorado to learn about trends in technology, for networking, and for some inispiration. And I learned about a fascinating author, an interesting conservation organization with a Route 66 connection, and I was given another reason to visit Santa Rosa.

If you are ever in New Mexico motoring west, or east, on iconic Route 66, I highly recommend a stop in Santa Rosa and a visit to this beautiful park. It is a great way to learn more about Anaya and his novel. And it is an opportunity to learn more about an amzing little town that is simply known as the home of the Blue Hole.

That’s all for this week. But Jim HInckley’s America is built on my gift for telling people where to go, and my passion for sharing America’s story. So, rest assured, I will be telling more sotries in future posts.

It’s More Than Just A Highway

Route 66 connects the past with the future, it is a magic carpet made of asphalt and concrete.

The tradition of the Keresan speaking Pueblo Indians is that their people have lived at the site of Laguna Pueblo for at least seven hundred years. Legend has it that the people were led to the location where a natural dam on the Rio San Jose that created a lake. The Keresan word for lake is Kawaik. The Spanish word for pond or marsh is laguna. The first European references to the lake and the people here are contained in reports from the Coronado expedition of 1540. Construction of the current pueblo dates to 1698. The following year the governor, Pedro Rodriguez Cubero, stopped at the pueblo for a ceremony that resulted in the naming of the community as Laguna. As the population grew, numerous satellite villages were established including Cuba and New Laguna.

The America era of association predates establishment of post office at Laguna Pueblo since 1879, and in New Laguna in 1900. Laguna was originally named Nacimiento, a village that appears on maps of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition of 1776. The site for this settlement is just to the east of present day Laguna. Persistent Navajo raids led to abandonment in the first years of the 19th century. Resettlement commenced in about 1878 under the name Cuba. Shortly after this date establishment of a suburb at the present site eclipsed the original community resulting in a second abandonment. For reasons unknown the Cuba name was not continued. Jack Rittenhouse in his guidebook published in 1946 provided a lengthy overview of Laguna Pueblo and Laguna. He noted that services were limited to a small grocery store and service station.

This is but one example of why Route 66 is often referenced as a bridge that links the past and the future. All along the highway corridor there are tangible links to centuries of history. However, it is in New Mexico where the blurred lines between past, present, and future are most evident. Consider San Jose, a favorite little village of mine.

Located along the pre 1937 alignment of Route 66 as well as the Santa Fe Trail and National Old Trails Road, the Pigeon Ranch dates to the 1850’s. It served as a field hospital during the American Civil War battle of Glorieta Pass and as a tourist trap for Edsel Ford in 1915.

Located along the pre 1937 alignment of Route 66, as well as the National Old Trails Highway and the Santa Fe Trail, this remains as one of the oldest communities in San Miguel County. Farming at this site along the Pecos River in 1803 by colonists from Santa Fe predates the actual settlement of the community. There are tangible links to villages lengthy history. Most notable is the small adobe church in the square has cast its shadow across all three of these historic roadways. It dates to 1826. Of particular interest for Route 66 enthusiasts is the single lane, steel truss bridge spanning the Pecos River at the east end of the community. This bridge opened to traffic in 1921.

Route 66 is more than a highway. It is an almost magical place, a drive through time. It is the ultimate road trip.