By Michael Haederle

Storied Generosity

Author Rudolfo Anaya’s Bequest to UNM Carrie Tingley Hospital Benefits New Mexico Children

In a writing career that spanned more than half a century, the celebrated author Rudolfo Anaya lyrically evoked the people and places of rural New Mexico, often drawing from his own experiences to bring his stories to life.

Anaya, who died in 2020 at the age of 82, was widely acknowledged as a giant of Chicano literature. He left behind a trove of novels, essays, plays and children’s books, notably including the classic Bless Me, Ultima. But with characteristic generosity he quietly planned ahead to provide for the future well-being of the state he loved.

rudolfo-anaya-portrait.jpgIn his will, Anaya left a portion of his estate to UNM Carrie Tingley Hospital. It was one of several gifts to The University of New Mexico, where he served as a professor for 18 years.

“He understood the need to keep services in New Mexico, and he was committed to providing care to the most vulnerable,” says Doris Tinagero, RN, MSN, Carrie Tingley’s executive director. The hospital provides comprehensive health care services for children not available anywhere else in the state.

“He wanted to give back to the kids of New Mexico so they wouldn’t be sent out of state for care,” she says. “His gift will help keep the kids where they need to be. It was his legacy – these gifts keep us in New Mexico together.” 

Anaya’s desire to support Carrie Tingley had a personal dimension, says Belinda Henry, his niece and the personal representative administering his estate.

Anaya, who was born in the village of Pastura, south of Santa Rosa, N.M., moved with his family to Albuquerque’s Barelas neighborhood as a teenager. At the age of 16 he was temporarily paralyzed in a diving accident in which he fractured two vertebrae in his neck.

rudolfo-anaya-headshot.jpgHe spent nearly a year recovering at Carrie Tingley, which was then located in Hot Springs, N.M. (since renamed Truth or Consequences). Much of that time Anaya was in a body cast – an experience recounted in his semi-autobiographical novel Tortuga.

“He often said that he had so much time and couldn’t move, and it kind of spurred the creative juices,” Henry says. “He spent quite a bit of time there and was forever grateful for the care.”

As an adult, “he always dealt with pain,” says Henry, who worked as her uncle’s assistant in his later years. “With an injury like that, you get to a certain point and that’s as good as it’s going to get. He never complained about it to most people.”

Anaya and his wife, Patricia, who died in 2010, never had children together, but he was passionate about helping kids, so the bequest to Carrie Tingley was a perfect fit, Henry says.

“He was an incredibly giving person and he never spoke of it,” she says. “He quietly gave and gave and gave. He would do whatever he could.”

Donations to UNM Carrie Tingley Hospital may be made through the UNM Foundation.

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