In today’s column, I offer some news about some of my favorite people who have appeared in this space before and a bit more about the heroes of Bataan.
Read all about it: artist Frederico Vigil, author Rudolfo Anaya, and journalist Frank Hewlett, who covered the news about those “battling bastards of Bataan” as it was being made.
Just over a year ago, I wrote about New Mexico muralist Frederico Vigil and the work he had just started in Alburquerque, Spain, painting a monumental mural in our sister city’s Salon de Plenos, where the local government meets.
Well, he went back to Spain this month so he could attend the dedication of the mural during the city’s annual fiestas. He was joined on Aug. 11 for the festivities by Mayor Richard Berry and 22 members of the Albuquerque Sister Cities Foundation. We published a photograph of the mayor and Vigil at the dedication in Saturday’s paper.
“The dedication was wonderful!!” Vigil emoted in an email he sent me last Friday.
When Vigil was working on the 462-square-foot mural, he kept me updated with dozens of photographs taken as it took form, as well as pictures of the ancient city. You could sense his excitement and his gratitude for the welcome he received from the residents of our namesake city.
If you want to see Vigil’s most famous mural, you don’t have to go all the way to Spain. A 4,000-square-foot mural in the round he painted can be seen at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque.
More honors for Anaya
Renowned New Mexico author Rudolfo Anaya recently received word that a portrait of him painted by El Paso artist Gaspar Enríquez has been selected to become part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
The award-winning author of “Bless Me, Ultima” and dozens of other books received word in a letter dated July 27 from gallery Director Kim Sajet that says, “We are more than pleased with this very fine, meditative portrait, which brings you – a major figure of Chicano and Hispanic literature – into our collection, while also representing the artwork of Enríquez, a pillar of Chicano art and its tradition of portraiture.”
Anaya told me he posed for Enríquez this year under a pear tree in the patio of his home in west Albuquerque.
“The shadow of the tree was hitting my face, and I asked him, ‘Shouldn’t I be in the sunlight?’ But he said, ‘No. I like to work with shadows.'”
For his part, Enríquez says Anaya “was very cordial, considering I moved him all over the place.”
The portrait, an acrylic on paper using an airbrush, will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery in November in a Recent Acquisitions installation.
Enríquez, who has been painting for about 45 years, says, “It was an honor to be able to do a portrait of Rudy, as I admire his work and his dedication.”
Congratulations to both the author and the artist.
Update on Bataan
A couple of alert readers provided some interesting information to complement my column of July 25 about the effort to persuade Congress to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II heroes of Bataan and Corregidor, which included a number of New Mexico servicemen.
Both Margaret Garcia, the daughter of the late Bataan veteran Evans Garcia, and Elena Friot, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of history at the University of New Mexico, pointed out that the song, or poem, about the “battling bastards of Bataan” that I referred to was written by Frank Hewlett.
Hewlett died in 1983, and his New York Times obituary says he was “the Manila bureau chief for United Press, the forerunner of United Press International, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. He was the last reporter to leave Corregidor Island in Manila Bay before it fell to the Japanese in 1942, and his reporting of the fall of Bataan and Corregidor won the National Headline Award that year.”
Didn’t mean to slight a fellow newsman. And happy to make amends.
I’m also sad to report that one of the 19 New Mexico Bataan veterans who were still alive when I wrote the column has died.
Ernest Montoya, who spent more than three years in a Japanese labor camp after being captured on Corregidor, died on July 29. The Albuquerque resident was 97.
If you want to help these heroes to receive the honor they deserve before they are all gone, contact your members of Congress. And have your friends and relatives in other states contact theirs, too. A bunch of co-signers are required for the bill authorizing the award to pass.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to editorial page editor Dan Herrera at 823-3810 or firstname.lastname@example.org.