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The setting for this novel is extremely important to the story, as it is not just that the rural 1940s American Southwest, its rugged beauty or desert climate that add to the story in ways that make it utterly authentic, but the colorful and interesting mix of Spanish, Native, and Mestizo cultures that has blended in this setting for centuries and has produced a beautiful culture that few Americans know about or appreciate. Even today, New Mexico is still isolated, and few Americans have ever gone there aside from Albuquerque or to ski, so the setting as used by Rudolfo Anaya helps to educate the reader about this culture and the lands they have lived on for generations. There is also no way to understand Ultima, and her role as a curandera (medicine woman) when using herbs and those things found in nature to help and to cure her people.
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