Bless me ultima antonio and relationship counseling

Bless Me, Ultima |

bless me ultima antonio and relationship counseling

Title of work: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya Synopsis Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family. contemporary Chicano fiction," this novel explores the complex relationship between medicine and belief . I think students now have more counseling and teachers who encourage them. After college, he worked as a public school teacher and a counselor. Bless Me, Ultima describes the evolution of Antonio Juan Márez y Luna from the age .. In his account of the relationship between a curandera (folk healer) and her young. The Classic Theatre–- Bless Me, Ultima Study Guide 2. Table of . Through her, Antonio learns the "old ways" and develops a new relationship with nature. This of Counseling at the University of Albuquerque. Rudolfo.

Ultima, then, combines botanical, psychological, and faith curing with magic, but magic is used only when the source of the illness is magical. Ultima acts in her role of curandera or hechicera three different times in the novel. Lucas, Tony's uncle, was bewitched by brujas because he chased them away from where they were dancing; they placed a curse on him that was causing him to waste away, and even the city doctors and the priest had been powerless to cure him. Before agreeing to effect the magical cure needed for Lucas' illness, Ultima warns his family about the consequences in the natural world of tampering with the supernatural: You must understand that when anybody, bruja or curandera, priest or sinner, tampers with the fate of a man that sometimes a chain of events is set into motion over which no one will have ultimate control.

bless me ultima antonio and relationship counseling

You must be willing to accept this responsibility. The cure, involving herbs steeped in a mixture of kerosene and water, atole, and chanted prayers, lasts for three days. Tony acts as Ultima's helper during the cure, and his strength is magically used to strengthen his uncle.

Toward the end of the cure, Ultima makes clay figurines of the three witches and then sticks pins in them. Finally, both Tony and his uncle vomit out the poison, and Lucas is on the road to recovery. Although the cure involved magical practices, it could be explained by the skeptical reader as a psychological cure.

The skeptic would believe that Lucas became ill because he feared the witches, that because he believed that witchcraft was the cause of his illness, he also believed that only magic could cure him hence the inability of the doctors and priest to cure himthat Ultima's reputation as curandera and hechicera makes her the only one whom Lucas will have faith in to effect his cure, that Lucas receives psychological support, especially through Tony, as well as monetary support from his family—itself often important in curing psychological illnesses, and that the herbs Ultima gives to Lucas may also have some curative value.

Ultima's cure is described only through Tony's eyes, and Anaya does not insist that the reader accept everything that Tony believes as literal fact. Clearly, however, all the family believe that only Ultima's magic cured Lucas.

The second cure Ultima performs is on Tony. During a snowstorm Tony chances on a fight between Tenorio, the brujo, and Narciso, a kind old man, and sees Narciso shot. Later, Narciso dies in Tony's arms, and the boy gives confession to him. Naturally, the incident causes Tony considerable emotional upheaval. As the result of chill from the snowstorm and the emotional trauma, Tony develops pneumonia.

Bless Me, Ultima

For the physical part of his illness, Ultima rubs him with an ointment of Vicks mixed with herbs and gives him a cool liquid to drink, and the doctor from town treats him. Ultima alone treats Tony's feverish nightmares by staying at his side and reassuring him. Her curing this time is almost entirely psychological; no magic is used because the illness does not have a magical cause.

Although Tony realizes Ultima's important part in his cure, Anaya does not insist that only Ultima cured him. The third cure involves the lifting of another curse, one laid by Tenorio on three ghosts or bultos who then disturb the Tellez family. Although the family members are not yet sick, they cannot eat or sleep because the bultos are causing pots and pans to fly against the wall, dishes to jump when people try to eat from them, and stones to fall on the house from the sky.

Once again, the priest has been unable to do anything. Ultima realizes that the curse is on the ghosts rather than on the family and that the ghosts are those of three Indians who died on the ranch two generations earlier and were not buried properly.

The brujo's curse has awakened them and caused them to do wrong. The cure, then, involves laying these spirits to rest. Ultima has a rectangular platform erected with the four posts in each of the four directions—similar to some Indian burials. During a whole day she chants and in the evening brings out three bundles which are placed on the platform.

Tony wonders if these are the remains of the Indians, and it is not clear whether they are or not. Then the platform is burned. The description of Ultima at the cremation again ties her practice of curandismo with Indian practices for she seems like an Indian woman with her long braids falling over her shoulders and a bright sash at her waist, and Tony feels "she had performed this ceremony in some distant past" Again the skeptic could explain the curse and cure in psychological terms as perhaps mass hallucination, but Anaya makes clear here that the reader should not use that explanation, for the flying dishes and falling rocks are experienced not only by the Tellez family but by Tony's skeptical father as well.

The reality of the curse and cure, though seen through Tony's eyes, is insisted on by Anaya by showing the father's skepticism. Throughout the novel, Anaya gradually tries to bring the reader to an understanding and acceptance of the way the curandera and others in the natural, secular world affect and are affected by the supernatural, sacred world. From early in the novel where Ultima teaches Tony to speak to the spirits of the plants and to listen to the voices and rhythms of nature, through the curses and their cures, and finally to the climax of the novel when Tenorio shoots Ultima's "familiar," the owl, and Ultima almost immediately dies, Anaya shows the close ties of the sacred and secular, the supernatural and natural worlds.

Improper acts in the natural world have their repercussions in both the natural and supernatural worlds. The brujas, too, help tie these worlds together. The actions of the four black witches, Tenorio and his three daughters, unlike Ultima's, are only reported; we do not see them practicing their magic.

Tenorio is a tavern keeper and a barber, and on occasion his barbering can be dangerous to his clients—Tenorio's daughters took some of Lucas' hair to use in placing their curse on him. The daughters are all bad tempered and ugly, "too ugly to make men happy" 91and although we learn little about the daughters, Tenorio is shown as a troublemaker in the village and the murderer of Narciso.

In a close-knit traditional society, the troublemakers and the dissatisfied are sometimes labeled witches, for their unhappiness would cause them to envy and hate others and, therefore, be willing and desirous of causing others pain and trouble.

The description of the brujas, like that of the curandera, conforms to the traditional pattern for witches in Christian societies. They sell their souls to the devil; they have black masses and a sabbat of sorts; they read the Black Book; they stir up horrible concoctions of such things as blood of bats, entrails of toads, and blood of roosters; they use incantations and magical words; and, of course, they can perform image magic.

They can change into animals, especially coyotes, and also into balls of fire—two forms that are found in Southwest Indian beliefs as well as Spanish-American beliefs. Witches cannot pass by a cross, nor can they stand the sight of it, and the names "Christ" and "Mary" hurt their ears. They can be killed in their own bodies or in their animal shapes by shooting them with bullets etched with a cross.

Although we see the bruja and the curandera both performing magic, Ultima uses her magic only for what she and the reader perceive as good. Her killing of three people is considered justifiable since they are brujas. Twice Ultima is accused of being a bruja, but in one incident the mob is satisfied that she is not, for it thinks she walks under a cross, and in the other she does not flinch when a cross is held up in front of her.

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Throughout the novel, good magic is shown to conquer evil magic, but magic must be fought with magic, and the Catholic religious rituals cannot take the place of the ancient magic. One must remember, however, that using magic to tamper with fate as it affects the natural order of things may bring undesired and unexpected consequences.

Anaya shows considerable love for and understanding of the traditional rural Spanish-American society of the Southwest United States. However, his love of these people does not lead him to romanticize their traditional way of life, for he describes the harsh along with the pleasant realities of that life.

Bless Me, Ultima helps to give contemporary urban Americans, both Hispanos and Anglos, a better understanding of and respect for traditional peoples and their beliefs in the spiritual nature of the world we live in. Lippincott,p. Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima Berkeley: Quinto Sol Publications,p. Subsequent references are to this edition. The Dialectics of Knowledge. And if so, how did the work fit into the overall social and creative context of chicanismo?

As the first best seller novel of Chicano literature, it was impossible to dismiss Ultima 's introduction of compelling mythic themes into the disjunctive context of the combative and polemical ethnic literatures of the late sixties. Ultima was serene in the face of this turmoil, full of conflict, yet noncombative, a portrait of the developing consciousness of the young protagonist, Antonio.

The metaphysics of this emerging consciousness were so convincingly drawn that no reader doubted that the seeds of social conscience were deeply sown if yet untested in the chief character. Rudolfo Anaya strikes a deep chord in portraying two primordial ways of relating to the earth, the pastoral and the agricultural.

Bless Me, Ultima, BMUis not a quaint, historical sketch of rural folkways, but rather a dialectical exploration of the contradictions between lifestyles and cultures.

At the novel's heart is the process which generates social and historical consciousness. A Marxist-Structuralist perspective defines this process as myth, the collective interpretation and mediation of the contradictions in the historical and ecological experience of a people. In his account of the relationship between a curandera folk healer and her young apprentice, Anaya penetrates deeply the mythical conscience of the reader. Despite their enthusiasm for his novel, critics have thus far been unable to define the parameters of this response nor prove the reason for its depth.

Contributing elements in the narrative include: From the first reviews to later articles, an increasing body of vague but glowing commentary points to a rich "mythic" or "magical" dimension that underlies the novel. Despite these claims, there appears to be something exceptional about the emerging consciousness of the boy. It is mystically harmonious with nature, yet also incorporates a dynamic, even dialectical awareness of historical forces, from the colonization by Hispanic farmers and ranchers to the coming of the Anglos and World War II.

These seeming contradictions invite a reexamination of the relation of myth and social consciousness, often defined as antithetical, incompatible categories which erode and undermine each other. Since the novel apparently transcends this impasse, we are obliged to consider a critical model comprehensive enough to explain this achievement.

A review of commentary on the novel is the first step in this direction. Bless Me, Ultima has undergone extensive dream and thematic analyses which include attempts to link its "mythic" elements to precolumbian roots. The suggestion of analogical patterns achieves credibility for the Golden Carp without having to invoke Huitzilopochtli or Quetzalcoatl as other Chicano writers have done. The political analysis which deems the novel reactionary seems to be based on the assumption that Chicano novels should document only the most relevant social and political struggles.

These diverse and fragmentary approaches have fallen short of estimating the overall impact and unity of the work and the structural integrity it has achieved on a number of levels. Since the "mythic" dimension of Bless Me, Ultima is a point of confluence in the above commentaries, a definition of terms is necessary at this point.

Thus far, the study of myth in Chicano literature has been scholastic. The neoclassic allusions to Aztec and other precolumbian mythological and religious systems are fairly common in Chicano Literature, especially in poetry and theater. Critics have been quick to point this out, elaborating only superficially by tracing the origins of the myths and speculating on how they pertain to the socio-cultural identity of the present day Chicano.

Inspired by the work of Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes on the Mexican national psyche, an analogous process has been initiated in Chicano literature and criticism, although it is doubtful that an institutionalized Chicano psychotherapy will be the result.

The underlying assumption that would prevent this is that these mythic or collective psychological patterns supposedly lie outside time, eternally remanifesting themselves in different epochs. Myth is here considered to be an ongoing process of interpreting and mediating the contradictions in the everyday historical experience of the people. Such a structuralist approach to myth offers some analytical tools which can be applied in a way that avoids ideological analysis and is potentially much more penetrating and historically relevant than traditional thematic or culturalist approaches.

The reader of Bless Me, Ultima recognizes the elderly curandera as a kind of repository for the wisdom and knowledge invested in Indo-Hispanic culture. The novel functions well at this level, for Ultima is indeed in touch with the spirit that moves the land and is intent on conveying this knowledge to Antonio in her indirect and mysterious ways.

Yet, the knowledge she commands and the role she plays go far beyond the herbs she utilizes, the stories she saves for the children and her dabbling in "white" witchcraft. The crossed pins, the demon hairballs, the rocks falling from the sky and the fireballs are "colorful" touches which are authentic enough in terms of folk legend.

Anaya inserts the "witchery" only after having won the readers' trust in a clever conquest of their disbelief. However, the enumeration of the standard paraphernalia and the usual supernatural feats of a curandera are neither the reason for nor a barrier to the novel's success.

There is an ancient system of knowledge that Ultima exercises that in this novel does not happen to be in the herbs she uses. Any anthropologist is aware that taxonomies such as those of ethnobotany actually contain the philosophical roots and perceptual conventions of the culture. It is her role as a cultural mediator and Antonio's natural inclination towards a similar calling that link them to their real power, which is the ability to recognize and resolve the internal contradictions of their culture.

These oppositions are clearly defined in both social and symbolic terms. If they were, they would then be merely pretexts for a combination mystery story, morality play and Hatfield-McCoy saga with a New Mexican flavor. Something more profound is at work in Bless Me, Ultima, for the oppositions are dialectical, and they are mediated in a way that has counterparts in many different cultures around the earth. In his comparative studies of origin myths, Claude Levi-Strauss extracts the two most basic and primordial ones which occurred either exclusively or in combination in every culture studied.

The rival origin myth is more empirically based: Then comes the task of finding the first woman. Each lifestyle and the world view it is based on is as compelling, soul satisfying, and original as the other. The opposition as it occurs in the novel may be schematized as follows: The settling down of humankind into the sedentary ways of the neolithic brought with it the emergence of social classes and institutionalized religion and all the economic and social contradictions that accompany the birth of civilization.

Likewise, the agricultural developments of horticulture and animal husbandry are distinct enough to carry with them their own ideologies as evident above. Relating more specifically to the novel in question is the history of the colonization of New Mexico and the tremendous impact of the advent of large scale pastoralism. As grazing became more important, the communal egalitarianism of agrarian society began giving way to an emerging class system based on the partidario grazing system and the rise of patrones bosses.

However, such developments are not evident in the novel, perhaps because its locale, eastern New Mexico, was the last area to be settled before American annexation. The coming of the Texas ranchers, the railroad and the barbed wire destroyed the freedom of the plains.

As the popular saying goes, "Cuando vino el alambre, vino el hambre" when the barbed wire came, so did hunger. When an economic system is threatened, so is its ideology, which becomes nostalgic as its dreams are shattered.

Each felt the importance of having their values dominate in the boy and both vied to establish their influence at the dream scene of Antonio's birth: This one will be a Luna, the old man said, he will be a farmer and keep our customs and traditions.

Perhaps God will bless our family and make the baby a priest. And to show their hope they rubbed the dark earth of the river valley on the baby's forehead, and they surrounded the bed with the fruits of their harvest so the small room smelled of fresh green chile and corn, ripe apples and peaches, pumpkins and green beans.

Then the silence was shattered with the thunder of hoof-beats; vaqueros surrounded the small house with shouts and gunshots, and when they entered the room they were laughing and singing and drinking.

Gabriel, they shouted, you have a fine son. He will make a fine vaquero. And they smashed the fruits and vegetables that surrounded the bed and replaced them with a saddle, horse blankets, bottles of whiskey, a new rope, bridles, chapas, and an old guitar. And they rubbed the stain of earth from the baby's forehead because man was not to be tied to the earth but free upon it. The intervention of Ultima to settle the feud illustrates her role of mediator and demonstrates the basic mechanism of myth.

As in all cultures the thrust of mythical thought progresses from the awareness of oppositions towards their resolution. In Bless Me, Ultima, both the curandera and the boy serve as mediators between the oppositions within their culture. Their intermediary functions can be traced throughout the text.

The middle ground that Ultima and Antonio occupy is evident even in special and geographic terms. Ultima has lived on the plain and in the valley, in Las Pasturas as well as in El Puerto de la Luna, gaining the respect of the people in both places.

Antonio's family lives in Guadalupe, in a compromise location at mid-point between Las Pasturas and El Puerto. Through the father's insistence, the house is built at the end of the valley where the plain begins. Antonio mediates between father and mother, trying to please the latter by scraping a garden out of the rocky hillside: Everyday I reclaimed from the rocky soil of the hill a few more feet of earth to cultivate.

The land of the llano was not good for farming, the good land was along the river. But my mother wanted a garden and I worked to make her happy. This positioning makes it impossible to take sides in the territorial groupings of his peers. Anaya explains the power of the curandera as that of the human heart, but in fact demonstrates that it is derived from the knowledge of mythic thought processes, the awareness and resolution of contradictions within the culture.

People turn to Ultima and Antonio at crucial moments in their lives because they are instinctively aware that mediators curanderos and tricksters possess an overview or power of synthesis that can help them resolve their problems. The multiple episodes of Antonio playing the role of priest are especially significant in this light. It is his mother's and her family's dream for Antonio to become a Luna priest and man of knowledge. In fact he performs the role seriously, administering last rights to Lupito, a war-crazed murderer and Narciso, an ally of Ultima and Antonio's family.

The blessings he bestows on his brothers and his friends are real and invested with a power they never fully realize as they taunt him. In his spiritual searching, Antonio discovers the contradictions in Christianity and realizes that the scope of his mediations would include the "pagan," animistic forces implicit in the very synthesis that he will be a part of: That is what Ultima meant by building strength from life" BMU, p.

The dynamism of mythic thought and its power of synthesis is poignantly expressed in Antonio's description of the feelings and emotions that are aroused by contact with Ultima: She took my hand and I felt the power of a whirlwind sweep around me.

Her eyes swept the surrounding hills and through them I saw for the first time the wild beauty of our hills and the magic of the green river. My nostrils quivered as I felt the song of the mockingbirds and the drone of the grasshoppers mingle with the pulse of the earth. The four directions of the llano met in me, and the white sun shone on my soul.

The granules of sand at my feet and the sun and sky above me seemed to dissolve into one strange, complete being. There are other characters in the novel who demonstrate differing degrees of awareness of this totality, proving that it is indeed a mechanism of popular culture rather than a mystery reserved for a privileged visionary few. A good example is Narciso, a powerful man of the llano who nevertheless lives in the valley, having discovered its secrets. Ample evidence of this is his exuberant, drunken garden, the likes of which not many llaneros plainsmen could foster.

Stand, Antonio, she commanded, and I stood.

bless me ultima antonio and relationship counseling

You both know, she spoke to my father and my mother, that the sweet water of the moon which falls as rain is the same water that gathers into rivers and flows to fill the seas. Without the waters of the moon to replenish the oceans there would be no oceans.

And the same salt waters of the oceans are drawn by the sun to the heavens, and in turn become again the waters of the moon. Without the sun there would be no waters formed to slake the dark earth's thirst. The waters are one, Antonio. I looked into her bright, clear eyes and understood her truth. You have been seeing only parts, she finished, and not looking beyond into the great cycle that binds us all. The awareness of the characters of the apocalyptic threat of the atomic bombfirst tested just to the southwest of their fertile valley, demonstrates a real and historical dimension of apocalypse.

They sense that the previous balance has been disturbed. The bomb seems to have changed the weather just as surely as World War II has twisted the souls of the men from the area who had fought in it. The need for a synthesis is as urgent as ever in this new time of crisis.

Ultima involves herself in the healing of men who were suffering war-sickness and it is Antonio's role to continue the tradition of mediating old and new contradictions. In one sense Ultima's knowledge may seem mystical because of the way it incorporates nature as well as culture, but when applied to society and history it is penetratingly comprehensive and valid.

After Ultima's death, her knowledge continues in Antonio and the reader feels sure that whatever his fate may be, he possesses the conceptual tools to continue to help his people and culture with their internal conflicts as well as with the oncoming struggle between a whole new set of oppositions stemming from the fast approaching aggressive proximity of the Anglo culture and way of life.

Bless me, Ultima - Gender Criticism by Alondra Gonzalez on Prezi

In portraying power as the ability to think and understand in a dialectical way, Anaya demonstrates in Bless Me, Ultima the ancient collective cognitive process of mythical thought in Chicano culture and the importance of those individuals who take on the role of mediators curanderos, tricksters or activists in pointing out and moving towards the resolution of the contradictions generated by human history and new technology.

All quotations are from this edition. Page numbers are noted in text. Anaya," in The Magic of Words: Rudolfo Anaya and His Writings, ed. University of New Mexico Press,pp. University of California, pp.

bless me ultima antonio and relationship counseling

University of Chicago Press,pp. Basic Books,pp. Marc Simmons, New Mexico: A History New York: Norton,pp. Levi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, pp. University of New Mexico Press, Yet, it is his prose that shows the greatest promise of transcending the limitations of narrow regionalism and ethnic literatures.

The universal thrust of Anaya's creative vision is based in myth, which he defines impressionistically as "the truth in the heart. Our civilizing and socializing influence has made us not as unified, not as harmonious as archaic man. To go back and get in touch, and to become more harmonious, we go back to the unconscious and we bring out all of the symbols and archetypals that are available to all people.

A creator rather than a collector, he transforms indigenous materials into a rich synthesis of symbol and archetype, new, yet "true to the heart. Critics have been grappling with the dynamics of Anaya's mythopoetics ever since the appearance of Ultima.

Yet, the critical analyses of myth has been as impressionistic as the author's. Thematic and archetypal analyses of myth have contributed much to elucidate the content of myth, but little to the understanding of its function as a system of cognition and communication.

bless me ultima antonio and relationship counseling

It is this latter aspect of myth that will be emphasized here to understand the achievements as well as the shortcomings of Anaya's mythopoetics. Ultima was serene in the face of this turmoil, full of conflict, yet non combative, a portrait of the developing consciousness of the young protagonist, Antonio.

bless me ultima antonio and relationship counseling

The metaphysics of this emerging consciousness were so convincingly drawn that no reader doubted that the seeds of social conscience were deeply sown if yet untested in the character. Myth was defined in Ultima as a way of knowing and making sense of the world. I think that I write about my place and what I call the spirit of my place because the people and the place had to be put in books. Our oral tradition was dying, in the sense that after World War II, when I was growing up, a big change came to New Mexico, a big change came to the Mexicanos, to the Hispanos of the Southwest.

The young men were going to leave the small towns and go out and work. Some were going to go to colleges through the GI Bill of Rights. And some of those stories were going to be lost.

And there was something in me that was telling me: The culture and the folklore has to be in books. That's how we're going to share it in the future. I was going to school in the s and s, and at that time, I don't think Chicanos were encouraged to write.

By that I mean, when I look back, for example, at my high school years, I don't remember a counselor, for example, telling me that I had an ability in something. I could write and I was doing well in school. I had good grades. But there was nothing there telling me, "Why don't you try this?

After high school, I went to business school for a couple of years, and I got tired of that. And one day, by sheer accident, something told me, "Why don't you try the university? I use the term "by accident" because there was not enough guidance in those years.

I think the times have changed. I think students now have more counseling and teachers who encourage them.

Why do you write in English? I grew up in a small town in New Mexico, in Santa Rosa. My family -- uncles and aunts and grandfather, and the entire community, everybody -- spoke Spanish. So I grew up in a Spanish-speaking family, and I didn't learn English until I went to school in the first grade.

That was culture shock, believe me. It was a small town and we had teachers that knew a little bit of Spanish.

Thereafter, all of my schooling was in English. I went to the University of New Mexico and got a degree in the English department, in literature. So when I came to write, I wasn't prepared to write in Spanish. I was prepared to write in English. And when I wrote my first poems and short stories and novels, it was natural, I think, to write in the language of which I had command. Talk about how World War II impacted your community.

I was in grade school in the s. I had three brothers; all three were in the service. And the war was changing the small villages and small communities because the young men were gone. And there was a sense of foreboding in a way, a sense of grief, because some of them weren't coming back.

And I think religion and the whole idea of the spiritual life became very important to me because my mother was a very devout Catholic and we had to pray every single night. Then, the whole idea of the atomic bomb.

And I remember, as kids in school we were wondering about this terrible instrument that had been created. And we would ask ourselves, "Is the world coming to an end? And at the same time, I was spending my summers along the river -- I grew up along the Pecos River in New Mexico -- and feeling another kind of spiritual environment in the river, which is the power of nature.

And that was calling to me as much as the other part that was sad and full of prayer, and, in a way, full of change. We knew a terrible change was coming, that the communities were just not going to be the same again. Let's talk about how you began writing Bless Me, Ultima. When I was at the university, I began by writing poetry.

And most of the poetry that I wrote was for young women I was dating. Believe it or not, I used to write Shakespearean sonnets, because I fell in love with literature and I was reading a lot. And then I'd try my hand at different types of the poetry that I was reading.

And after that, I went to novels and I wrote these long novels -- most of them were about young people in trouble.

And I think that was the process of learning to write; it's kind of a process of "I don't know what I'm doing, but I have to do it, I have to write. In my family and the community that I grew up in, we grew up hearing cuentos, hearing the folk stories. People were fantastic storytellers. Anybody that came to visit the family would just tell a story all night long, you know?

And I guess those voices are the voices that were telling me, "You have to write. I threw them in a fireplace one night. And I started writing Bless Me, Ultima as a story of growing up in a small town. The story was about Antonio. But I think what happened during the process of writing Bless Me, Ultima is that Ultima came into it. Ultima visited me, appeared to me, and told me that she had to be in the novel, she had to get in the novel, she had to be a character.

And that's the spirit of the novel. And I think she represents those people that used to tell stories. She represents the tradition, the culture, the healers, our mothers who took care of families. Remember, in some of these small towns at the end of the s, we didn't go to the doctor, we didn't have the money.

And a lot of the care was done at home by our mothers and the curanderas that maybe lived in the town or in the ranches. And so those are the voices I think that it represents.

And once Ultima appeared in the novel, then the novel acquired a soul, a life. It was more than just a story about Antonio growing up. I now become a storyteller, and I'm telling not only the story of my people and these fabulous characters that I met as a child, but she's forcing me to go deeper: What are the old, old stories?

Where do they come from? And how do those give you identity? And so the novel is also a process of discovery, a process of illumination, which is what all creativity is all about. The musician, the dancer, the poet, the moviemaker, are discovering not only their subject, but about themselves.

Describe the autobiographical nature of the novel.

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Bless Me, Ultima is autobiographical in the sense that I relate very closely to Antonio. It's written in first person, and so every time I have Antonio doing something, I feel that Antonio is me. I use my hometown as background, I used the river, the church, the school, the villages, the people, my classmates. I just throw them in the novel. It's almost as if the novel is ready-made.

But then there's the element of fiction, the element of composing to put all of this together. I have to have it make sense, create not only a chronology -- but why is that chronology important?

Create not only the geography of the town and the river -- but why is it important? And it's important because as I delve deeper and deeper into that landscape, it becomes a sacred landscape. It acquires an element of the sacred that that's where my childhood took place, that's where I came from, and that's where all those stories took place.