Rudolfo Anaya’s death means that artists, intellectuals and ordinary folks will be flooded with memories. Readers and viewers will remember how rich his fictional world was, how his writings burst with vivid characters, supernatural surprises, and the natural world of New Mexico, hollyhocks and all.
For the cultural community, memories will be more personal, about how he touched and supported people and causes, how he shared his spirit.
Rudy worked with painters, musicians, and filmmakers, as well as writers of fiction and poetry. He endowed lecture series and supported publication schemes. He taught a generation of student writers, including some who became big successes locally and nationally.
I knew Rudy as a colleague during his tenure in the UNM Department of English, but in 2010 I came to know him as a playwright. He had an unfinished play version of “Bless Me, Ultima,” and I worked with him and director Valli Rivera to bring it to a very successful production at The Vortex Theatre.
The theater then collaborated with the National Hispanic Cultural Center to tour that production to eight cities, including his native Santa Rosa, where we played in a packed gym and Rudy came to see his old pals.
In the next five years, Rudy, Valli, and I worked with The Vortex on four more Anaya productions in NHCC’s big Journal Theatre: a revival of “Bless Me, Ultima,” two versions of “The Farolitos of Christmas,” and “Rosa Linda,” which he pulled out of his trunk and turned into a thrilling sexual tragedy.
These were major events in the Hispanic cultural calendar of the 2010s and moneymakers for the theaters.
But for Valli and me they meant many afternoons around Rudy’s kitchen table while we scribbled and drank and imagined and laughed. What a place to be, with what a wonderful man!
May he rest in peace in an equally wonderful place.
David Richard Jones is Professor Emeritus, UNM Department of English and the Founding Artistic Director, 1976, of The Vortex Theatre.