Bless Me, Ultima

by Rudolfo Anaya

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Is Antonio more of a Marez or Luna in Bless Me, Ultima?

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Antonio struggles with whether he's a Marez, like his father's family, or a Luna, like his mother's family. His father's family are cattlemen, and his father wants him to grow up to be like them. His mother's family, on the other hand, are farmers. His mother wants him to become a priest to the farming community.

Antonio doesn't know which life he wants. He feels pressured by his parents to be one or the other, despite not believing that one is more suited to him. He ultimately does dedicate himself to fulfilling his mother's dream of him becoming a priest. He goes to school, he studies, and he does well—even though the other children see him as different than them.

When Ultima shows Antonio how he can bridge the gap between his two worlds, he's able to say, "Then maybe I do not have to be just Marez, or Luna, perhaps I can be both." Antonio is able to come to terms with both sides of his heritage and also what he, himself, believes and wants. He is able to draw from both Luna and Marez without choosing to be bound by the expectations of either.

So, ultimately, Antonio is both Luna and Marez. He spends more energy to follow the desires of his mother's family in the novel, but he realizes that he is both and also his own person.

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Antonio (or Tony) is the protagonist in this novel by Rudolf Anaya. As a child, he is torn between the conflicting perspectives of his parents, each of whom has different goals for their son. Although Tony, like all children, has some components of each parent, overall he seems more closely connected to the Lunas, his mother’s side of the family.

As Tony grows up, the healer Ultima comes to live in his village. She represents the spiritual dimensions of local culture as well as the biases that the Spanish-heritage people have against indigenous people. Maria, Tony’s mother, has long dreamed of his becoming a priest. She identifies with the Catholic church and its values and feels a strong family connection because an earlier Luna had been a priest. She is welcoming to Ultima, to whom she feels an obligation and a spiritual bond because of her work as a healer (curandera). Part of the difficulty for Tony is that some Luna relatives, including his uncles, adopt a passive stance rather than actively assisting Ultima. Tony cannot identify with that sort of complicity.

In the end, however, Tony’s commitment to a spiritual life, while balanced by the physical dimensions of the vocation of healer, connects him closely with his mother’s ideals.

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To some extent, the Marez and Luna families are engaged in a titanic struggle over Antonio's soul. Whereas the Marez are more practical and down to earth, the Lunas are more spiritual, which explains why Antonio's mom is so keen for him to enter the priesthood. The introduction of Ultima into Antonio's life can be seen as a partial victory for the Lunas, who combine a strong Catholic faith with an adherence to indigenous belief systems.

Despite this, however, Antonio is very much his own person. Though undoubtedly shaped by both his parents' families, he manages to transcend them, creating in himself a kind of synthesis of Luna and Marez as he matures under Ultima's guidance.

What matters is that Antonio chooses his own destiny, and that, more than anything, is the abiding message he learns from Ultima. But Antonio wouldn't be able to do this, wouldn't be able to choose his own way in life, if he kept too strictly to the paths set down for him by his parents. He realizes that he is neither completely a Luna nor a Marez; he is simultaneously both. This mixed identity, along with the sage advice offered by Ultima, allows him to make his own decisions about which direction his life will take.

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The first poster is correct in that he is both. Neither side dominates his personality; that's why he struggles so much with his identity.  Tony’s mother’s family are farmers, and the founder of their family was a priest. This is perhaps where Tony's love of school and learning comes from, and his attempts to understand the nature of God. Tony’s father’s is made up of vaqueros who love the freedom of the land. His father doesn't expressly say it, but he certainly encourages Tony to feel that freedom too. Tony's mother, on the other hand, is determined for Tony to become a priest.

The end of the novel proves that Tony is able to reconcile those two halves of his soul. In fact, that is the most important aspect of his relationship with Ultima. She is a curandera, a healer-and she succeeds in healing the torn Antonio. He chooses not to be a priest or a cowboy, but instead to follow Ultima in the path of a healer.

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