Born in Bisbee, Arizona, an old mining town near the Mexican border, Mendez-M. is emblematic of the bilingual, bicultural Mexican-American writer. Although he has mostly lived in the United States, Mendez-M. is an autodidact who has chosen to write exclusively in Spanish. Before devoting himself full-time to writing, he worked in construction and as a farm laborer. He is now a faculty member of the University of Arizona. With this history, and by writing in Spanish, Mendez-M. has played a crucial role in maintaining the ethnic consciousness begun in the1960's and renovating a Chicano literary tradition. He writes trenchantly about Mexican Americans' harsh conditions of survival in an inhospitable landscape, as well as about their social marginalization, imposed by the dominant Anglo society. He includes both those Mexicans who became "Americans" with the1848 Treaty of Guadalupe, which made half of Mexico part of the United States, and those who have been drawn to the states as cheap labor. "Pilgrims in Aztlan" (1974) is a powerful portrait of these people and arguably the most important Chicano novel yet written. Aztlan is the legendary name for the Southwest formerly within Mexico, a mythicohistorical realm separate from both the United States and Mexico. "The Dream of Santa Maria de las Piedras" (1986) is a densely allegorical novel. Narrated by the voices of old men in a rural, lost Sonoran Desert village, it recounts the alternately fantastic and hellish journey of a young townsman who seeks his fortune in the United States.