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  • Writer's pictureTerry Pace

Bless Me Ultima

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

By Rudolfo Anaya

Bless Me Ultima was published by Rudolofo Anaya in 1972. Anaya (RIP 1937-2020) wrote this book to honor his parents. I believe the book should be considered an American classic. It is the mystical, beautiful and hard bitten story of a Chicano (Anaya's chosen term) family in northern New Mexico. It is a story with many layers, colors and moods. Anaya tells of family life and mixing of peoples from his mothers side who are farmers from a river valley and small town as well as devoted Catholics and his fathers side who are vaqueros from the Llano Estacado. It explores the place of families and religious belief in Chicano cultures. The central character is Antonio (Tony) a young school age boy and also his family, friends and neighbors, but especially his grandmother Ultima who is a noted Curandera. Thus, formalized religion is mixed with traditional folk medicine and mysticism in the life of the family and in Antonio's life as he grows up. The coming of age theme of the story is also an important layer as it shows Tony both thriving while on his own or with Ultima and then being abused by the white kids of the community. So racism's ugly head is displayed based on the real knowledge of the Chicano author who grew up in New Mexico. These are some of the facts of the story, but I cannot begin to express the intimate tenderness and raging magnificence of the story and the lives of these people. This book has had a profound impact on my life, for the better in teaching me more about all these features and how important, yet cruel diversity can be in our lives. This is a narrative that seeks the heart (el corazone)!

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