Bless Me, Ultima Questions and Answers
by Rudolfo Anaya

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What is the significance of the title Bless Me, Ultima?Antonio speaks these words to Ultima right before she dies, but what is the true meaning behind the words?

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The significance in the title of Rudolfo Anaya's 1972 novel, Bless Me, Ultima, speaks directly to the spiritual growth that the main character, Antonio, undergoes as a result of his relationship with the local curandera (or healer), Ultima.

Throughout the novel, Antonio struggles to find his place in competing worlds. He is a physical representation of what Gloria Anzaldúa has coined "la frontera," or the borderland. Antonio's life resides on the border between Catholicism and Ultima's earth-based spirituality, the llano and his town, and within his own family between the Lunas and the Márezes. Antonio consistently struggles to find his place among these competing worlds and is often left with the bitter realization that to accept one world means to contradict the other.

As Antonio navigates the many borderlands of his life, Ultima is there every step of the way to offer him guidance while also allowing him to formulate his beliefs on his own. She never explicitly tells Antonio what to do or how to think but, instead, answers the young boy's many questions while giving him the space he needs to cement his understanding of his place in the world. As Antonio himself admits, his "soul grew under her careful guidance."

When Antonio asks Ultima to bless him as she lies dying, he is demonstrating his acceptance of la frontera. By asking Ultima to bless him, Antonio merges his Catholicism with the spiritual faith of his mentor, thus recognizing the complex nature of his identity. Antonio shows Ultima in her final moments that he has come to realize, just as she has, the benefits that come from adopting a multi-faceted approach to life.

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Some of the title's significance relates to Antonio's struggles to decide what to believe.

Antonio is divided between a temptation to believe in the benevolent spiritualism of Cico and Samuel and the generally accepted religious views of the Catholic church. He is confused about how the Catholic God could allow certain evil things to happen. He reflects on his preference for the Virgin Mary, for a time, then finds himself drawn to the beauty of Cico's story of the Golden Carp. 

In the end, Tony finds that navigating among these divergent cultures is possible when he forges his own identity among them, taking pieces of each to suit his own purposes.

Ultima shows Antonio how to do this through her example.

She is the one thing he is absolutely sure of. He trusts her wisdom. When Ultima blesses Antonio in the end, she does not invoke any gods, but instead provides a blessing of simple hope, invoking the idea of goodness instead of God.

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