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Education Prof Presents On New Mexico Literature at Madrid Conference

Walter Archuleta

Walter Archuleta

Las Vegas, N.M. – A Highlands University bilingual education professor will bring international attention to New Mexico Hispanic literature at a conference in Madrid.

Highlands School of Education professor Walter Archuleta is presenting May 31 at the 10th International Conference on Chicano and Latino Studies at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

Archuleta’s topic is “Identity and Other Themes in the Writing of Three New Mexico Writers.” The writers are Sabine Ulibarrí, Nasario García and Juan Estevan Arellano.

“I think these three prolific and accomplished authors’ contributions to New Mexican Hispanic literature is enormous and enduring,” Archuleta said. “The main themes they chose for their writings are identity, querencia, which is a sense of place, the New Mexican Spanish dialect, humor, the river, the acequias and agriculture, folklore and death.”

Archuleta said that collectively, Ulibarrí, García and Arellano are powerful authors who helped capture and preserve the essence of Hispanic language and culture in New Mexico. The three also wrote in both Spanish and English, giving their work a broader audience.

“Rudolfo Anaya is considered the dean of Chicano literature and is much better known. I believe these three authors’ writings while less known, are just as profound as Anaya’s work. I want this international audience in Madrid to become more familiar with their writing,” Archuleta said.

Ulibarrí, who was born in 1919 and died in 2003, is considered a leader in modern Hispanic literature. He wrote books such as Tierra Amarilla, Yellow Earth, and Mi Abuela Fumaba Puros, My Grandmother Smoked Cigars. He is also known for his poetry. After earning a doctorate in Spanish literature from UCLA in 1958, Ulibarrí taught at the University of New Mexico until 2001.

Arellano was a journalist and author who gained international acclaim in 1994 when his novel Incencio won the Premio Nacional de Literaturea José Fuentes prize in Mexico. Arellano published his last book, Enduring Acequias: Wisdom of the Land, Knowledge of the Water, in 2014 – the year he died. Acequias are communal water systems.

García is an author, educator and linguist who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has published more than 23 books and is considered a leading folklorist. García earned his doctorate in 19th century Spanish literature from the University of Pittsburg and is a Highlands University professor emeritus. His book, Old Las Vegas: Hispanic Memories from the New Mexico Meadowlands, won the 2005 Southwest Book Award.

“One of the unique elements of Dr. Garcia’s writing is how it is often based upon people’s voices through oral histories, giving it an authentic feel. He’s nearly 80 and still writing at an accelerated pace.  In 2015, his autobiographical book Hoe, Heaven and Hell: My Boyhood in Rural New Mexico was published,” Archuleta said.

At Highlands, Archuleta directs the Bilingual Education and English as a Second Language Programs at the university’s Rio Rancho Center. He earned his doctorate in Spanish linguistics with a minor in bilingual education from the University of New Mexico in 2002.

“I’m a very strong proponent of preserving and maintaining a students’ heritage language because it is their true identity and defines who they are as an individual. There’s a Spanish proverb that says ‘El que habla dos lenguas vale por dos,’ meaning ‘He who speaks two languages is twice as valuable,’” Archuleta said.

Archuleta, a native of the small village of Embudo, New Mexico, between Española and Taos, said bilingual education is also personally important to him because Spanish was his first language as a child.

In the first 15 years of his 42-year career as an educator, Archuleta taught Spanish at the secondary level in New Mexico in Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Santa Cruz.

“Having so many years of classroom experience enables me to be a positive guide for both teachers in training as well as teachers working in the field,” Archuleta said.

Archuleta was also the Bilingual Education Program coordinator for both Santa Fe and Española public schools. Before joining the Highlands faculty in 2014, he taught at Northern New Mexico College.

In 2005, the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education honored Archuleta with the Matías L. Chacón Lifetime Achievement Award for Archuleta’s contribution to bilingual education at the state level.

Archuleta presented previously at conferences in Barcelona, Spain, Guadalajara, Mexico, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.