Friday, October 01, 2010

The Art of Nowhere

Hi Jamie,

From the years 2001-2005 I traveled across the USA a total of 4 times and always had an older edition of you Road Trip USA book riding shotgun to guide me to sites I may not have otherwise known about. During my first trip (from San Diego to Maine) in the summer of 2001 I cut directly across the Southwest on Interstate 10. In your book I read about a man who collected bits of junk and transformed them into sculptures of sorts and I decided that he would be an interesting person to meet. I spent a couple of hours at this gentleman's home drinking lemonade and eating watermelon as he told me the story of his life. (With his daughter translating from his native Spanish.)

The memory of this experience recently came back to me and I have since been trying to locate the man's name and exact location. Since my wanderlust was finally sated in 2005 I have donated the older edition of your book to a friend who was looking to do some traveling and so I can't turn to it to track this man down. Google searches have failed to turn up any results and the new edition of your book no longer contains any mention of him. I believe the man's name was Senor Analise or Alanise and he lived somewhere in southern Arizona or New Mexico.

All I remember for certain is that he was an elderly man who collected junk and made wonderful, thought-provoking art, circa 2001. If possible can you provide this fellow's name/location so that I can finally convince my girlfriend (and myself to a certain extent) that he did exist and that entire afternoon was not just a figment of my imagination ? !

thank you so much for your help,



Hi there Matt --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA, and I think I can help reassure you that you really did meet a fascinating sculptor in the middle of the New Mexican nowhere.

I'm 99% sure you are thinking of Francisco Alaniz, who lived and worked in La Mesa NM, in between El Paso TX and Las Cruces NM. Like you, I had a wonderful afternoon listening to him tell tales of his boxing career (he called himself "Kid Chimuri"), and talking about the artworks he had made out of junk and found objects. He lived very near a popular Hispanic cafe called Chope's, which is how I found him -- he has never been written about anywhere else, as far as I know, which is why you may have had trouble tracking him down.

So yes he did exist, but alas the last times I've been through La Mesa I could find no trace of him, which is why he is not in the book any more. He was nearly 90 when I met him, and that was more than 10 years ago, so I assumed he passed away, but I honestly have no idea what became of him, or his sculptures -- which I thought were brilliant and smart. I've attached a picture I took of him and his art, probably in 1998.

Your letter spurred me to do some research, and thanks to Mr Google I found this (not unexpected...) obituary:

Las Mesa, Jan 26, 2002
Francisco "Chimuri" ALANIZ, 89, lifelong resident of Las Mesa died Jan 24, 2002 at his home. Born Jan 29, 1912 in Jimenez, Chihuahua, Mex. to Juan and Ignacia GUTIERREZ ALANIZ. Served in the US Army during WW2, member of American Legion Post # 0122 in Anthony, TX. Retired as a cement finisher and construction laborer. Survivors include his wife of sixty five years, Maria SAENZ ALANIZ, four sons, Ruben, of Los Angeles, Ca, Francisco Jr., of Torrance, CA, Willie of Wilmington, CA, Johnny of Las Alamitos, Ca; four daughters, Amelia ALANIZ and Micaela ORDONEZ of La Mesa, Isabel GARCIA of San Miguel, Evangeline APODACA of Farmington., 17 g-children, 12 gg-children. Preceded in death by his parents; one sister, Angela ALANIZ. Interment at San Jose Cemetery with military honors. Baca’s Funeral Chapel.


Not a bad life, I'd say.

If you discover anything more about him, especially about what became of his artworks, I'd be very interested to know -- and at the very least, I hope this info helps you convince your girlfriend that you are not a fantasist. (At least not in this instance.)

Thanks again for writing, and for reminding me of this remarkable if "unknown" man.

With very best wishes,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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