Anaya’s Alburquerque and Identity

Who is the protagonist of Anaya’s Alburquerque and why? Briefly describe that character.

While Albuquerque as a city and a setting emerges as a character, the main character is Abran. As a protagonist, he is a poor young man who faces many conflicts. These conflicts are both internal and external and they stem from his immersion into Albuquerque’s high society and his search for his father.

Albuquerque as a city becomes another character in the story. It is divided and subdivided into different sects, cultures, religions, ideologies, races, and social classes. Though Albuquerque is not exactly an antagonist as a character, it is also not a protagonist. The city is haunted by its past just like Abran is haunted by his. In a way, it is as if both Abran and Albuquerque are searching for their futures.

Ralph Ellison once said that the quest for identity is the central quest in American literature. How does Alburquerque illustrate that thesis?

Alburquerque is divided and subdivided into different sects, cultures, religions, ideologies, races, and social classes. The city is haunted by its past as it searches for its future. Development is pushing out the old and replacing it with the new. But there is no guarantee that the new will be better and once the old is replaced it can never be restored. “ ‘Just don’t let them get to the pueblo land,’ he said. ‘If you give up your land, you die. The developers have built clear up to the Sandias. Now they’re buying up the downtown barrios’” (14).

Here, development is associated with white culture and the white man’s way of doing things. The white man doesn’t really care about the historical significance of the city because it is not his historical significance. I think that this is the primary difference between how restoration and updates are done in Western Europe and how they are done in America. For example, last summer my husband and I spent a month in the UK. We saw and heard of many updates and construction of new buildings in London but the development did not come at a cost to history, at least not that much. The city and the government care about preserving their history and the balance is carefully maintained using committees and governing bodies.

The main problem with how things are done in America is that the people doing the development are not connected to the history of the place. Therefore, they could not care less about preserving it. In a small way, Anaya performs his own redevelopment by restoring Alburquerque’s original spelling. The restoration allows him to connect people to the city’s historical past, the past that instructs its identity.

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