First published in 1972, Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima has become the best-selling Chicano novel of all time. For twenty-two years, despite being available only through a small publisher, the novel sold 300,000 copies by word of mouth and was awarded the Premio Quinto Sol for excellence in Chicano literature. In 1994, the novel was finally printed by a major publisher in a mass-market edition to rave reviews.
Anaya drew from his experiences growing up in New Mexico during World War II to create the story of a young boy who must reconcile the many conflicting influences of his family, religion, and community. In the two years spanned by the novel, Antonio (Tony) Marez, who is six years old when the story begins, comes of age when he learns to recognize evil in the world and to navigate family expectations and religious ambiguity.
Critic Ray Gonzalez, in a review in Nation, states that “Bless Me, Ultima is our Latin American classic because of its dual impact—it clearly defines Chicano culture as founded on family, tradition and the power of myth. Through Antonio and Ultima, we learn how to identify these values in the midst of the dark clouds of change and maturity.”