Antonio and Ultima walk together across the llano and the river banks to gather herbs and roots for Ultima's medicines. She teaches Antonio "that there was a beauty in the time of day and in the time of night, and that there was peace in the river and in the hills. She taught me to listen to the mystery of the groaning earth and to feel complete in the fulfillment of its time. My soul grew under her careful guidance." Before Ultima came, Antonio was afraid of the river's "presence", its soul, but after she came, she taught Antonio that his spirit is one with the spirit of all things.
After Antonio witnesses the death of Lupito for killing the sheriff, it is Ultima who takes away his fear and sobs. Ultima's owl goes with Antonio and makes sure he gets home safely to Ultima. She comforts him, giving him something to allow him to sleep.
This is the beginning of Antonio's conflict between Catholicism and the beliefs of his ancestors. Ultima is a curandera who uses herbs and roots of "the ancients" to heal the sick and even get rid of a witch's curse. As Antonio grows, so grows his conflict between the old and the new ways. His mother has taught him Catholicism, but Ultima begins her new teachings. Antonio loves both women and must decide throughout the book which way to follow.
In the story "Bless me, Ultima", religion is a prevalent theme from the start.What's interesting is that there is a mingling of religions based on what the characters bring to the story.The imagery of religious symbols such as steeples and church bells, explain to the reader that religion is what shapes the people's lives within the village.Antonio who has grown up with an extremely solid foundation for Catholicism, so he is torn because of his new teachings from Ultima. Catholicism teaches its followers to only worship one God, not anything in nature.Ultima begins teaching Antonio how everything having a spirit (soul), even the river, which is something that Antonio has feared for some time. (Catholicism teaches that only humans have souls). To show how these new teachings affect him,one should look at Antonio's brothers, who when they come to Antonio for spiritual guidance. It is not Catholicism that drives him, but the river's power that helps him accomplish what his brothers ask of him.This is proof of the importance of Ultima's teachings and the effect it has on Antonio's spiritual path.