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Latest Anaya offering defies genre

 

June 12, 2019



If I had to assign a genre to Rudolfo Anaya’s latest book, “Chupacabra Meets Billy The Kid,” I’d say it’s of the Western / science fiction / fantasy / Chicano literature / historical fiction genre, as if there’s such a thing.

Maybe “unique” is a better description, because that’s certainly the way this outside-the-box tale reads.

And to the contrary, I’d describe its Guadalupe and Lincoln county settings as realistically descriptive … well, except for the wormhole along the Pecos.

Anaya, best known for his groundbreaking book, “Bless Me, Ultima,” returns to his native home of Puerto de Luna, just a few miles south of Santa Rosa, for his latest novel.

Puerto de Luna, or PDL as locals often refer to it, is where Spanish conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s expedition is believed to have camped and built a bridge to cross the Pecos River in the mid-1500s. It became an agricultural settlement in the mid-1800s (and, later, Guadalupe County’s first county seat) and was an occasional hangout for the infamous Billy The Kid back in the Wild West days of old.

I took an interest in Anaya’s latest novel when I found out about its PDL setting. As a Santa Rosa resident for a year and a half now, I’ve been given one of the best PDL tours anyone could ever expect — by native son Richard Chavez.

Chavez’ knowledge of PDL’s history and its cultural underpinnings are both comprehensive and personal — so I immediately took an interest in Anaya’s PDL, in the context of (as the book’s title suggests) that goat-blood-sucking mythical creature called Chupacabra and Billy The Kid’s actual visits to this village along the Pecos.

Anaya was born and raised in Guadalupe County, and that’s where he based his “Ultima” novel (he even alludes to certain “Ultima” story details, such as the “golden carp,” in his latest book), but whereas “Ultima” is set in the 1940s, “Chupacabra Meets Billy The Kid” starts and finishes in modern times — though the bulk of the book is set in Billy’s time instead.

Moreover, there’s a conspiratorial tale included, stemming from the old Roswell UFO story and creating a power struggle between us earthlings and a whole new hybrid species — “Himits” they are called, created from alien and Chupacabra DNA — and a “C-Force” effort to take over the world in cahoots with an evil U.S. president.

Sound just a little too fantastical? At times it is, but it’s also fun to follow Anaya’s imagination beyond the boundaries of what’s old and what’s new.

And it’s surprisingly informative about Billy The Kid himself. In this book, The Kid is likable, loyal and protective, and a bit of a womanizer. All are traits you can find in other historical interpretations of this young man.

Anaya’s plot centers on Rosa Medina, a Los Angeles transplant to PDL who is struggling to write an honest account of Billy The Kid. She is ushered through a wormhole in time at PDL’s Pecos River crossing, which transports her into the 1870s, when Billy was making an outlaw’s name for himself. Rosa witnesses first-hand his final years, including shootouts with other historic characters.

Anaya has clearly done his homework about Billy The Kid, and he weaves historical details into his interpretation of Billy’s personality and disposition as larger struggles between Anglo cattlemen, Hispanic settlers and the indigenous Native inhabitants in and around Lincoln County ensue.

If you’re looking for a fiction that portrays history with an extraordinary twist, this book’s for you.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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