Tributes: Juan Gomez-Quiñones, Rudolfo Anaya, & David William Foster

1990 NACCS Scholar Juan Gomez-Quiñones Passes Away

From Dr. Reynaldo Macias, 2014 NACCS Scholar

Juan Gomez-Quiñones

Dear all, Juan Gómez-Quiñones passed this (November 11, 2020) morning at 2.28 am at home. A long time colleague and friend, it is impossible to over estimate the contributions he has made to Chican@ Studies and History at UCLA, the US and Mexico, despite institutional resistance, retributions, and political challenges. An activist scholar from the beginning of his academic career as a student in the 1960s, he has shone light in the many dark corners of the academy and society in the US and Mexico. His presence, his voice, and his heart will be missed by many family, friends, and colleagues and the many generations of students that have been influenced and uplifted by his ideas, scholarship and support in the classrooms.

A Tribute Recordando a Rudolfo A. Anaya: From Aztlán to Mictlán (Oct. 30, l937-June 28, 2020), NACCS Scholar 2002

by Francisco A. Lomelí, NACCS Scholar 2004

Rudolfo Anaya

El llano is mourning the passing of Rudolfo A. Anaya where time became suspended, the wind stopped, and the juniper trees sighed. His death marks a watershed moment in many ways: the Quinto Sol Generation just got smaller; his legacy is forever an indelible memory; and his fame transcends his patria chica.  He was a child from the dry eastern part of New Mexico where hardy people live and eke out a living, surrounded by an intensely ingrained tradition of Hispanos who go way back to the XVI century.  He always felt grounded in his gente and his long-standing Nuevomexicano culture.  That solid foundation rendered him a particular lens of confidence and identity as someone who shared a common history.  This is why his works did not dwell on formulating a new ethnos since he knew perfectly well where he came from. As such, the Chicano social and literary movements benefited from his perspective because his characters were not interlopers nor phantoms. Quite the contrary, they seemed of flesh-and-blood or what some consider an embodiment of un Nuevo México profundo. 

       Such lived experiences helped shape Anaya into a keen observer of the human condition filled with life stories from an earthy world view.  He was fundamentally grounded in oral storytelling while transmitting a rich mix of folklore of Hispano and indigenous tales, legends and myths. This was the fertile ground of an infinite imagination upon which to situate his characters in search of harmony, much the way the protagonist Antonio Márez recounted in a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel known world-wide, the unforgettable Bless Me, Ultima.  Antonio represented the synthesis of two peoples and two generations, their religious and cultural beliefs and social practices. The llano culture was the fountain that gave birth to his unique sensibilities: a deep appreciation for this rural culture that never left him.  He instinctively returned to relive the quest to relish, explore and understand the New Mexican conscience because it nurtured his sense of place and purpose.  In fact, most of his fiction, poetry, essays and plays are an extension of such a quest, a desdoblamiento of his inner questions and doubts about life, tragedy, death, a sense of resolution, spirituality and a deep awareness of humanity. 

            Of course, his long list of literary works in multiple genres denote a prolific writer of unmatched talents. He tended to produce distinctive groupings: the first as a trilogy about place and myth in his classic Bless Me, Ultima (l972), Heart of Aztlán (l976) and Tortuga (l979); a second one as a pre-Columbian exploration into the Chicano indigenous background in The Legend of La Llorona (l985), The Lord of the Dawn: Legend of Quetzalcóatl (l987), and to some degree Jalamanta: A Message from the Desert (1996); later a predilection for the detective fiction in Alburquerque (1992); followed by a series of mystery novels based on the four seasons such as Zia Summer (1995), Río Grande Fall (1996), Shaman Winter (1999) and Jemez Spring (2005); and folkloric renditions combined with science-fiction in Curse of the Chupacabra (2006), Chupacabra and Roswell UFO (2008) and Chupacabra Meets Billy the Kid (2018)He also made an impact in children’s literature with his acclaimed The Farolitos of Christmas; A New Mexico Christmas Story (1987), Roadrunner’s Dance (2000) and The First Tortilla (2007)In addition, he effectively explored philosophical topics on love and death, for example, in The Old Man’s Love Story (2013). He has also exceled in writing plays, poetry, essays and chronicles (i.e A Chicano in China [1986] or what Patricia Geuder calls “a chronicle of oneiric dimensions”). Y muchas más.

            Such vast production has been extremely well received, although not unanimously as when certain school districts voted to burn Bless Me, Ultima for its supposed propagation of witchcraft and sorcery. Others questioned the mythic qualities as fanciful or anti-historical constructions, but he always tried to keep his feet on the ground while listening to the imaginative tales of his people. It is noteworthy to mention that the first Chicano works to receive international acclamation up through the l970s were Bless Me, Ultima and El Teatro Campesino.  During his career he was the recipient of some of the most prestigious awards, such as El Quinto Sol Literary Award, the American Book Award, the National Humanities Medal (presented by President Barack Obama), the NEA National Medal of the Arts Lifetime Honor (presented by President George W. Bush), and twice for the New Mexican Governor’s Public Service Award, and many others.

Rudy Anaya was a man of simple tastes (red chile enchiladas at Barelas Café in Albuquerque) with profound convictions about Chicanos/as’ potential. As a gifted storyteller, he masterfully created stories and characters, oftentimes with shamanistic and poetic qualities, that represent the struggle between opposite cosmic forces, usually ending with an optimistic outlook toward self-realization.  In fact, most of his works embody a search for wholeness, opportunity, justice and goodness, as Ultima told Antonio.  His writings inspire because they express universal truths and values.  Talking to Rudy was often a memorable event for he possessed oracle qualities for his wisdom, passion for writing, and legendary generosity in promoting young writers. I loved calling him at his home because his answering machine seemed to share his humor by saying: “Can’t answer the phone right now because I’m busy writing stories…”. Rudy liked a good laugh con picardía, always promoting books, education and reading like an exemplary pied piper. He was a consummate conversationalist, a friend with a long memory, a gentleman. Only his humility was overshadowed by his greatness. He has now forever returned to the realm of his imagination, the world he sought in life to capture glimpses of owls, golden carps, black stones, subterranean lakes, blue guitars and La Llorona. Rudy has left us but he will be with us por y para siempre. Que en paz descanse nuestro amigo, hermano, maestro, Rudolfo A. Anaya.

A Tribute to David William Foster (1940-2020)

by Frederick Luis Aldama

David William Foster

David, my Virgil. 

From as far back as I can remember, David showed me a way. At Berkeley stirred by Reinaldo Arenas and Luis Zapata, it was his Sexual Texualities (1991). At Stanford David’s careful and creative analytic lens opened wide the work of Francisco X. Alarcón. As an out-of-the-gate professor, he invited me to revisit Mexico City through a cinematic lens. His fervent critical mind carried me time again into spell-binding worlds chock full of ideas and debates. He would patiently take pause to guide me to new friendships with beloved authors. I count “Ani” María Shua as one. 

David was my soothing sage. My Virgil. He was more. 

Lockstep he showed me how to shed those heavy shackles of the academe; those that tell us what we can’t do. With him and thanks to him no road was settled upon by diktat, no way was a priori blocked. To wander, to move by whim and preference, to freely explore all cultural, socio-political grounded aesthetic and scientific options at hand, to be adventurous in order to one day find ourselves. Under this impulse following him was exhilarating, doing anything together with him was creative.  For a while we explored hand in hand then fashionable philosophies and literary theories we eventually found empty, mere flatus voci adding next to nothing to critical issues and debates of real interest and importance. We knew fashions could be loud for a while until inexorably replaced by other sounds and ultimately lost to a forgetful history.  With enthusiasm our hungry eyes and our inquisitive brains were set elsewhere. There was—there is—another world not only to explore but to create. New tools were needed, free spirits and fresh approaches were in immediate demand. And David was always there pointing at new worlds and urgent needs.  As a spontaneous and joyful outcome we kept walking with our bodies set in all manners of inquisitiveness and worldbuilding, while perambulating with those Latinx real-life experiences and grammatically imagined tenses, making past, present and future meet whenever convenient. We comingled with exhilaratingly new situations and characters, with long and short and illustrated stories, with sounds radically new because deep down originating in sound systems of two different languages, with images hailing from unheard of metaphors and new visions, and with planetary authors devoted to building new spaces and indispensable imaginaries that even today are barely given a whisper in the hallowed halls of the academy. 

David and I never tired in our walks through new territories. He was always eager and ready to set the pace and suggest the paths to follow, never shy of meeting exact minds and bodies along the way. He made the world richer and more exciting.

Gentle friend, sage guide, agile mind, passionate soul, explorer and creator of new venues of knowledge and affection, he gave us all our wings. 

David, our Virgil.

A Call for Tributes In the next issue of Noticias de NACCS I am calling for tributes especially to the lives and works of our colleagues Dr. Gary Keller, Dr. María Lugones, and you may know of others.  If any of you would be willing to write these tributes, please contact me:

Fall 2020, No. 46 No. 1

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