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Bless Me, Ultima (1972)

by Rudolfo Anaya

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: New Mexico Trilogy (1)

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3,2811183,427 (3.69)92
Ultima, a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic, comes to Antonio Marez's New Mexico family when he is six years old, and she helps him discover himself in the magical secrets of the pagan past.

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English (117)  Dutch (1)  All languages (118)
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“From my mother I had learned that man is of the earth, that his clay feet are part of the ground that nourishes him, and that it is this inextricable mixture that gives man his measure of safety and security….But from my father and Ultima I had learned that the greater immortality is in the freedom of man, and that freedom is best nourished by the noble expanse of land and air and pure, white sky. I dreaded to think of a time when I could not walk upon the llano and feel like the eagle that floats on its skies: free, immortal, limitless.” – Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima

Antonio Márez is a young boy living in rural New Mexico in the mid-1940s. Última, a curandera (herbal healer), comes to live with his family due to her advancing age. Antonio’s father wants him to become a vaquero and his mother wants him to become a priest. In going to school for the first time, he is thrown into a multicultural environment – Anglo, Mexican, and Native American. Antonio narrates his story, looking back on his life from age six to nine. It is a classic coming of age story.

Antonio is exposed to a variety of beliefs. His mother is a devout Catholic, his father is not religious, Última embraces mystic folklore, a townsman believes in witches and curses, a fellow student is an atheist, and a friend finds the mysterious Golden Carp, a pagan god of Native American legend. He is exposed to violence and grapples with questions of why bad things happen to good people.

At first, I thought Antonio too young to be the protagonist of a coming of age story, but I think the author is portraying how an innocent child figures out how to “be” in the world. Antonio reflects on questions about religion, faith, spirituality, good vs. evil, mysticism, and folklore. For such a young person, he is quite the philosopher! And with him, the reader can engage in examining similar questions. By the end, while his path is not determined, we can see a way forward for him. It is a many-layered story that I found quite thought-provoking.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
I don't want to give this book a rating because it's a highly successful book and, from what I hear, an important book for Chicano culture. It plain and simply was not my cup of tea. I couldn't get interested in it at all. Bummer.
  Jinjer | Jul 19, 2021 |
During undergrad, I took a honors level course on feminism and witchcraft, during which we read several novels, some better than others. Honestly, I wish BLESS ME ULTIMA had been on our syllabus instead of half the books we were forced to read. I probably would have enjoyed that class a little more than I did (pro tip: if you teach your undergrad courses like grad courses without prior warning, just don't do it!!).

BLESS ME ULTIMA is a beautiful, lyrical novel about boyhood, family, religion, magic, and friendship, set in 1940s New Mexico. There are so many wonderful moments, so many lovingly crafted scenes between the main character Antonio and the characters important to him, most of all Ultima. There are layers of conflict - religious conflict, familial conflict, the internal conflict of growing up too fast - that enrich every scene, like rock stratum in the Southwestern landscape.

I loved this book. I would love to revisit this book years from now. And I can't wait to recommend it to others who haven't yet experienced the prose of Rudolfo Anaya. ( )
  sarahlh | Mar 6, 2021 |
As a dear friend and fellow bibliophile said to me, this novel is the Southwest's answer to the Southern masterpiece, "To Kill A Mockingbird". Rudolfo Anaya has written a masterfully charming story of a young boy coming of age in New Mexico, struggling to make sense of his dual heritage of plainsmen and urban Catholics The struggle is mediated by Ultima, a curandera, or healer, who guides the boy along the path, and helps him find his own spiritual self. This window into the juxtaposition of New Mexican and Catholic culture, the intimacy with the landscape, and the cultural mythology were just a few of the characteristics I loved about the book. Read it for pleasure, for insight, for spiritual guidance or for any reason you choose. I think you will love it! ( )
  hemlokgang | Oct 19, 2020 |
This book is about a six year old boy who grows up too soon. He deals with the pressures of his parents opposing desires for his future. He witnesses death and feels loss. He experiences magic and questions his faith.

Not just full of gripping emotion, the book is also packed with symbolism! Every detail is beautifully tied to some greater meaning. And it’s masterful how some things can have multiple symbols associated with it.

My only criticism is that the grammar was a little iffy in some parts (I assume a result of translation), and the interspersed Spanish and Latin terms would have benefited from having a glossary in the back of the book. ( )
  H4ppyN3rd | Oct 6, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rudolfo Anayaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ramirez, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Con Honor Para Mis Padres
First words
Ultima came to stay with us the summer I was almost seven.
And that is what Ultima tried to teach me, that the tragic consequences of life can be overcome by the magical strength that resides in the human heart.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is the book; do not combine with the film
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Wikipedia in English


Ultima, a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic, comes to Antonio Marez's New Mexico family when he is six years old, and she helps him discover himself in the magical secrets of the pagan past.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Bless Me, Ultima is about a young boy named Antonio who lives in Guadalupe with his family and an old curandera, Ultima. Antonio was born into a Catholic family. As Antonio grows every day, he learns the ways of good and evil, confussion with religion, the differnce between the Marez side of the family and the Lunas side, and the ways of the river and the earth. Antonio strugles with many friends dieing because of an evil man named Tenorio. Tenorio owns three daughters who are witches. The man seeks revenge for the death of two of his daughters torwards Ultima and Antonio. He calls Ultima the brueja, or witch. This leads to Antonio's confussion with God. "Why hasn't God prevented my friends from dieing? Why did Tenorio det away with killing them? Why are you letting evil get away with out being punished? I have so many questions to ask You, but none are getting answers. Is God still alive, did he even exist?" Antonio wonders.
Cico, one of Antonios friends took him to see the golden carp pass in the river. Cico does not believe in God, but the golden carp as his god. He thinks our God is a jealous god because he does not want us to believe in any other God. Antonio wondered if the golden carp was a god of beauty.
His fathers side, Marez, is all about adventure, the wind, and the llano. The mothers side, Lunas is all about religion, the earth and staying put in one place. Antonio's mom wants him to becone a farmer or a priest, a man of learning. She brings this on Antonio alot. There always seems to be competition between the mom and dad because they are totally two different people. Antonio has a hard time deciding who he wants to be, a Marez or Luna. He finally realizes that he can be both though and learns his destiny that way. As he gets to now Ultima better he learns more of how his future will be.
Antonio goes on a journey with Ultima to help cure his uncle from the curse that one of Tenorio's daughter layed upon him. Antonio had a connection with his uncle and felt everything he felt. He learned the power that Ultima has from the curing of her herbs she uses for medicine. At the end of the story he figures out the connection with Ultima and her owl. The owl is her soul/spirit.
I would recommend this book it makes you think alot and is in depth with many things. The book has many events through each chapter that makes one want to keep reading to find out what happens next!


Rudolfo A. Anaya is the winner of the $1,000 Second Annual PREMIO QUINTO SOL national Chicano literary award. Mr. Anaya was born in New Mexico. He attended public schools in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, and was graduated from the University of New Mexico . .

writing his novel, Mr. Anaya has said: "I have been writing for the past ten years. I have written volumes of poems, stories, novels, burned some, saved a few. Out of a suitcase full I have, it seemed that ULTIMA distilled into something worthwhile. Writing is not easy . It is a lonely, and oftentimes unappreciated endeavor. But I had to keep creating, I had to keep trying to organize all the beautiful, chaotic things into some pattern. Writing is never quite learned. I have to rewrite and rewrite each manuscript before I'm satisfied. By the way, my writing is completely self-taught. I have never taken a writing course. It's easy . You just have to sit down and write, write, write, and write . . . hasta que te lleva la madre, y las almorranas."

The illustrations for BLESS ME, ULTIMA are by Dennis Martinez, also a native New Mexican, now residing in Los Angeles, California. He teaches art in the Los Angeles Public Schools.

Cover design : Octavia I. Romano-V.
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Average: (3.69)
0.5 6
1 18
1.5 2
2 32
2.5 7
3 151
3.5 36
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Hachette Book Group

3 editions of this book were published by Hachette Book Group.

Editions: 0446600253, 0446675369, 0446601772

Recorded Books

2 editions of this book were published by Recorded Books.

Editions: 1449887562, 1470326930


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