Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya: Antonio and Ultima

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In the book ‘Bless me Ultima’ by Rudolfo Anaya, there is a young Mexican-American boy named Antonio (Tony), who lives with his Spanish-speaking Catholic family in the small New Mexican town of Guadalupe. Tony is nearly seven years old when Ultima, a wise old woman and long-time family friend, comes to live with them. She is a “curandera”, a woman who is able to heal the sick with herbs and ancient cures. Ultima becomes very close to Tony over the time that she is staying with them. She gives him insight about his culture, religion and heritage. Antonio is excited by Ultima’s arrival, and when he meets her he knows that she holds the secret of his destiny.

Ultima teaches Antonio the names of plants, flowers, trees and birds. He learns from her to appreciate the beauty of the natural world and to comprehend its spirits. Ultima also teaches him about the healing powers of the plants. He experiences it himself several times in the book. For example: In chapter 2, Antonio is distraught when he witnesses the murder of Lupito and Ultima uses her natural medicine to heal him. In chapter 10, when Tony’s uncle Lucas is sick and the doctors are incapable of curing him, Ultima uses her medicinal herbs to heal him. Antonio also experiences Ultima’s herbal remedies when he gets sick with pneumonia.

Ultima helps Tony to understand his family’s history better. She explains to him the differences between the Lunas (his mother’s family) and the Marez (his father’s family). In chapter 4, on page 41, Ultima states that “It is the blood of the Lunas to be quiet, for only a quiet man can learn the secrets of the earth that are necessary for planting- They are quiet like the moon- And it is the blood of the Márez to be wild like the ocean from which they take their name , and the spaces of the Ilano that have become their home.” Tony's mother is a faithful and passionate Catholic, believing in the importance of God and the Virgin Mary. She raises him in the hope that he...
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