To the accompaniment of Su Teatro's production of Bless Me, Ultima opening in Denver this week, comes word of Rudolfo Anaya's beloved coming-of-age novel receiving the medieval slap of censorship in California. How much longer before such decayed minds follow the path of the more honorable, but extinct, dinosaurs?
The Chicano classic has sold over a third of a million copies, yet its reputability is often questioned by small minds. Assumedly, its Spanish expletives rank on those who similarly detest the presence of Mexicans in an economy that owes its survive to them.
You can read the whole story here, but as journalist Seema Mehta summarizes in her Feb. 4th article: "Parent Nancy Corgiat first complained to the superintendent about vulgar language, sexually explicit scenes and anti-Catholic bias in the book last summer, and reportedly told the school board in January that the book’s themes 'undermine the conservative family values in our homes.' ” Family values like censorship, no doubt.
All this, despite the fact that the 1972 novel "was spotlighted on former First Lady Laura Bush's must-read list and is the literature selection for this year's state high school Academic Decathlon competition" and was also "chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of its 'Big Read' program. Can we expect the Superintendent and school board of that district to next cut Grapes of Wrath? Oh wait, that was written by an Anglo.
Two-thirds of the rural Newman school district is "Latino," which might be a relevant reason for its former inclusion on required reading lists for schools there. The censorship doesn't pull it off Orestimba High School library shelves, at least, not for the moment. But apparently, "teachers are worried about district plans to review all literature taught in the classroom."
So, if you want to let the school's Principal Terra know what you think of this, Email him at his publicly available address: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to contact the Superintendent and school board members, go here.
You might also want to leave a comment below if you want to send Anaya your support, and we'll try to see that he's aware of them.
And if you're in the school area, buy copies of the Ultima as gifts, because "there has been a run on the book at the school library, with a waiting list of students eager to check out the novel."
As one student commented on a school-linked website, "Our school sucks. I demand a better education!" We couldn't agree with him more.
(Thanks to Donaldo Urioste, Professor of Spanish & Chicano Literature at the School of World Languages & Cultures, California State University, Monterey Bay, for bringing this to our attention.)