Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo AnayaAntonio Marez is six years old when Ultima enters his life. She is a curandera, one who heals with herbs and magic. We cannot let her live her last days in loneliness, says Antonios mother. It is not the way of our people, agrees his father. And so Ultima comes to live with Antonios family in New Mexico. Soon Tony will journey to the threshold of manhood. Always, Ultima watches over him. She graces him with the courage to face childhood bigotry, diabolical possession, the moral collapse of his brother, and too many violent deaths. Under her wise guidance, Tony will probe the family ties that bind him, and he will find in himself the magical secrets of the pagan past—a mythic legacy equally as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America in which he has been schooled. At each turn in his life there is Ultima who will nurture the birth of his soul.
Rudolfo Anaya Interview Bless Me, Ultima Movie
It has become the most widely read and critically acclaimed novel in the Chicano literary canon since its first publication in Anaya's use of Spanish, mystical depiction of the New Mexican landscape, use of cultural motifs such as La Llorona , and recounting of curandera folkways such as the gathering of medicinal herbs, gives readers a sense of the influence of indigenous cultural ways that are both authentic and distinct from the mainstream. In , it was one of 12 classic American novels [a] selected for The Big Read, a community-reading program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts,  and in , it was the selected novel of the United States Academic Decathlon.
Bless Me, Ultima
First published in , this semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age novel is one of the most critically acclaimed Chicano novels of all time. Set in rural New Mexico in the s, the novel tells the story of a boy who learns to navigate the changing American landscape during World War II with the help of a curandera spiritual healer who guides him through the cultural, religious, and moral contradictions he faces in his community of farmers, priests, cowboys, and soldiers. Like his protagonist, National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellow Rudolfo Anaya grew up in a New Mexico community heavily influenced by both Catholicism and spiritual healers, with a vaquero cowboy father and three older brothers who went off to war in their youth. The film version of the novel directed by Carl Franklin was released in to critical acclaim. This title is no longer available for programming after the grant year.
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Long before J. Rowling sent Harry Potter off to Hogwarts, Rudolfo Anaya penned a novel about magic, witches, ghosts, a young boy growing up, and an awesome pet owl. He is about to start school, learn a new language English , meet a whole new group of children, and begin his religious studies as he moves towards taking his First Holy Communion. Bless Me, Ultima delves deep into the family life, religious beliefs, and conflicting pasts of Chicano culture. In the novel, we see the struggle between Spanish heritage and Native American heritage; the desire for the younger generation to be a part of America, while the older generation struggles to hold onto traditions of the past; and a universal story of a young boy taking his first steps towards manhood. Add to that the fact that it stars characters you can relate to, incredibly funny moments mixed with heartbreaking tragedy, and all the magic you could hope for, and you'll see why many consider it to be one of the most important works of Chicano literature ever written.
Not yet old enough to go to school, he starts pondering the events of his birth and whether or not his destiny has been laid out for him. You know, like most five-year-olds. He questions which blood courses through his veins. Antonio's journey towards self-discovery kicks into high gear with the arrival of Ultima a. La Grande and her owl. Ultima carries with her the power of the curandera, one who heals with herbs and ancient secrets and battles against the evil of the brujas witches.
The family has taken in Ultima out of a respect for her healing powers, her knowledge of plant lore, and her long use of folk magic in service of the community. When he was born, Ultima served as his midwife and buried his afterbirth. Antonio spends a happy time with Ultima, learning about plants and trees and helping her gather herbs on the llano. One night, his innocence is threatened when he witnesses the death of Lupito, a soldier who recently returned from World War II. Lupito is shot to death by a mob after he kills the sheriff in a moment of post-traumatic delirium. Antonio walks to church with Ultima the next morning, and she tells him that each person must make his or her own moral choices, must choose a set of values to use to understand the world.