The new film Bless Me, Ultima based on the Rudolfo Anaya novel is out now in theaters. Maria Hinojosa speaks to actor Miriam Colon, who stars as the curandera, Última.

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Miriam Colon Valle is known as one of the pioneers of the Hispanic Theatre movement in New York City. She came to the United States with a scholarship through the University of Puerto Rico and later became the first Puerto Rican to be accepted at the Famed Actor’s studio. She was appointed to serve as the New York State Council for the Arts by former Governor Nelson Rockefeller. As the president and founder of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre Company Inc., she produced more than 100 plays.


2 thoughts on “BLESS ME, MIRIAM

  1. New Mexicans are not Mexican Americans for heaven’s sake. It is not Chicano literature. He may be an icon of Chicano literature, but he would never be considered Chicano in New Mexico. He would be called Hispanic or Spanish or Norteno, but never ever Chicano or Mexican American.

    1. Ms. Weinstein, my people settled in New Mexico starting after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. And like Señor Anaya, I can claim a very long ancestry in Northern New Mexico. We also both grew up in Santa Rosa, NM.
      Maybe a lesser-read person would agree with you, but the more one reads about their own people, and considers multiple points of view to understand the history and culture, this perspective on identity expands and is less rigidly defined.
      I think you need a re-education on Rudolfo Anaya and Nuevo Mexicanos. It’s too bad he is not teaching at UNM any longer to help you out. He DOES identify himself as Chicano when asked. And he has mentioned multiple times that Nuevo Mexicanos can relate to and are part of the Mexican-American experience of the Southwest USA. That is why Rudolfo Anaya was actively involved in the Chicano Movement of the 60-70s.
      Technically, native New Mexican “Hispanics” could be called Mexican-American, given that from 1820-1848, we were under Mexican rule. Personally, I do not call myself “Mexican-American” because I don’t have direct roots to Mexico. My ancestry is about 7 generations deep in New Mexico and therefore I call myself New Mexican or Nuevo Mexicana; it’s more of a regional distinction. I KNOW and LOVE that my NM history and culture are unique but I recognize it has similarities to other Mexican-American cultures and fits within that spectrum for a wider audience. It is NOT wrong, it just didn’t go into idiosyncratic detail.
      Keep in mind that cultural identity runs deep but it also runs fluidly; changing over time, for how others label us and how we label ourselves. We identify first and foremost as people, proud of where we are from. If you ever read the history of New Mexico land grants (Spanish and Mexican), you will find out that our people called themselves “gente”, “plebe”, “poblanos” then “hispanos” AND yes, “mexicanos”. It is very easy and popular but disingenuous to use the generalized, politically-created name “Hispanic”. It is also inaccurate to call ourselves “Spanish” when for a large percentage of families that settled in New Mexico starting 300 years ago, there was admixture of Europeans with Native Americans that was NOT outwardly acknowledged because of how Natives were mistreated. Just as we have denied our Native American and genizaro ancestry to avoid mistreatment, we have also distinguished ourselves from our immigrated Mexican neighbors (incl. 2nd and 3rd generations in the U.S.) for a similar reason of status-seeking, hence some pockets of N.M. still prefer “Spanish-American” to “Mexican-American”.
      The most important lesson you can take away is that since there are SO MANY labels to describe our people, then it stands to reason that these labels can all apply or all be irrelevant, and ultimately it doesn’t matter what the consensus is as long as we all honor and share the positive aspects of our culture(s).

      Please read “When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away” by Ramon A. Gutierrez and also “Conversations with Rudolfo Anaya” edited by Bruce Dick, Silvio Sirias. That’ll give you a decent start and some insight into both New Mexico and our beloved son, Rudy Anaya. Also, good NM land grant books have been written by Malcom Ebright and John Van Ness.

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