September 21, 1992

Article at Jordan on Authory

Rudolfo Anaya. Alburquerque.

Rudolfo Anaya. Alburquerque. University of New Mexico Press, 1992. $19.95. 280pp.

At the age of twenty-one, Abrán González—the former Golden Gloves boxer and pride of the Albuquerque barrio—discovers at the death bed of his birth mother Cynthia Johnson that he was adopted and is half Anglo. This revelation begins Abrán’s quest for his father, which forms the center of a magical book that heals like the hands of a curandera shaman.  

Alburquerque fairly brims with considerations of origins. The title reclaims the city’s original spelling, lost when an Anglo station master dropped the first r on the railroad sign. Abrán’s search for his own beginnings thrusts him into Cynthia’s high-society world. He meets Frank Dominic, one of Albuquerque’s richest power brokers, Ben Chávez, a Latino novelist, and Marisa Martínez, Albuquerque’s beautiful and committed mayor. These people and others help teach Abrán how to be himself — most do so by positive example; Frank Dominic does so by negative example. (Even Dominic is obsessed with origins; he fancies himself a descendant of the Duke of Alburquerque.) In the course of the novel, Abrán learns that, despite seeming ethnic complexity, he is who he is. As Doña Tules says to Abrán, “Tú eres tú.”  

Anaya is at his visionary best in creating magical realist moments that connect people with one another and the earth. Cynthia Johnsonís diary describes a certain “la matanza” (ceremonial killing of hogs) botched by young men who had lost their connection to life and the earth: “It was a ceremony, the taking of the animal’s life to provide meat for the family. The young men needed to be reminded that it was not sport, it was a tradition.” Joe, Abrán’s half-Indian, half-Mexican friend, woke up in Vietnam while about to kill a man: “‘I couldn’t kill him. It would’ve been wrong, the old man wasn’t a deer, he was a man.’” These visionary moments become, in the course of the book, ever more magical and curative, transforming the characters into nothing more nor less than themselves.

Citation: Jordan Jones, “Rudolfo Anaya. Alburquerque,” Authory online at; citing The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Normal, Illinois: Fall 1992), pp. 201-202.