New Mexico’s Native Son, Rudolfo Anaya, of Albuquerque, NM, passed peacefully while surrounded by loved ones on June 28, 2020. He was considered the godfather of Chicano literature and was instrumental in bringing Chicano culture and identity narrative into the mainstream. His seismic wave of contributions in the literary world is a legacy which will continue to endure. He earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in literature, and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling all from the University of New Mexico where he eventually went on to teach. Earlier in his career he also taught at Albuquerque Public Schools.
In daily life, family and friends knew him as Rudy. He was a loving husband to his late wife, Patricia, a humanitarian, a step-father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and mentor to many emerging writers.
In a typical spirit of giving, Rudy and Patricia established a writer’s retreat in Jemez Springs, NM, to support and encourage aspiring writers to pursue their passions. He and Patricia also loved to travel. They visited many countries and loved meeting new people and learning about different cultures. They always came back home with souvenirs and stories for their granddaughter, Kristan.
It seemed his path was clear from the time of infancy. Rudy’s mother would often recount a story in which she placed a nickel and a pencil before him as he was just learning to crawl; when he naturally crawled toward the pencil, she knew his destiny as a writer was evident.
He had the power and talent to wield a pen and create magic on paper. The true essence of his being, however, came from his overwhelming spirit of love, generosity, and passion for his family and friends. He always offered his time to anyone who asked him to autograph a book, or anyone who just wanted to share a story. After a few minutes of conversation, he had made a new friend.
Rudy was born in the village of Pastura, NM. The family moved to nearby Santa Rosa, NM soon after his birth where he spent his early years. In 1952 they moved to Albuquerque, NM where Rudy spent the rest of his life. He was rooted and inspired by the culture, landscape, and beauty of New Mexico.
Rudy has written over fifty books that include novels and children’s books. Among other works are poetry and essays. His first novel, Bless Me, Ultima was released as a feature film in February, 2013 and an opera based on Bless Me, Ultima premiered at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in February 2018.
In his lifetime he achieved the pinnacle of success and was proud of every award and honor. In August 2009 the Rudolfo Anaya Elementary School opened and was right in line with his passion for childhood literacy. Gionna Jaramillo was the first principal of the school, and she advocated for the name and Rudy was heavily involved with the school during her tenure. He was also awarded the National Humanities Medal by then President Barack Obama. The ceremony took place at the White House in September 2016. In March 2018, Rudy made his last public appearance at a ceremony celebrating the newly named Rudolfo Anaya North Valley Library.
In 2019, the New Mexico State Legislature unanimously passed a bill, and it was signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham proclaiming October 30th “Rudolfo Anaya I Love to Read Day”. It is now a state holiday. This came to fruition thanks to the late Mary Rose Montalvo who established the Rudolfo Anaya Summer Reading Program in northern New Mexico. The hope is that every town and city in New Mexico establishes summer reading programs to encourage children to read.
Rudy was preceded in death by the love of his life, his wife of 44 years, Patricia Anne Anaya; his parents Martín Anaya, Sr. and Rafaelita Mares Anaya; brothers: Salomon Bonney, Jr., Larry Anaya, Sr., Martín Anaya, Jr., and sisters: Elvira Lopez, Susie Candelaria, Angie Marquez, and Loretta Gomez. He is survived by two step-daughters: Arden Elynn Cowden and Melissa Anne Morris; three grandchildren: Paige Messec, Kristan Galbraith, and Jordan Messec; five great-grandchildren: Sebastian and Blythe Sydow and Darien Messec, Gavin and Ryan Galbraith; his sisters: Edwina Garcia and Dolores Saavedra; his niece: Belinda Henry as well as several other nieces and nephews; his loving and faithful companion, his dachshund, Oso who was always by his side.
The family wishes to express our gratitude to Nora Macias who cared for Rudy with tenderness and compassion for several years. Their dynamic was like a father/daughter relationship. The Anaya family also wishes to express a heartfelt thank you to his nurse Imelda and his health aide, Iyeshaj and to everyone for all the love and support shown during our time of grief.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions a public memorial will be held at a later date, when it is safe to do so.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to UNM Foundation: Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Scholarship Fund, to any children’s literacy program, any humanitarian organization, or a charity of your choice in the name of Rudolfo Anaya.
Rudy’s journey toward the cloud people began the moment he ceased to be a part of this world. Vaya con Dios our beloved Rudy.
Bless Us, Ultima.
“I will live as long as you remember me. I live in your memory.”, a passage from the Old Man’s Love Story by Rudolfo Anaya
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