What do Antonio's dreams reveal about him? How do they change as he matures in Bless Me, Ultima?
In Bless Me, Ultima, Antonio’s dreams provide a framework for his growth in the story. Antonio’s dreams center on religion and identity, two of the critical issues he navigates in the story. Bless Me, Ultima takes place in New Mexico in the late 1940s, and the story revolves around the Hispanic culture present in New Mexico at the time.
Antonio struggles with his self-conception in the novel. He is torn between the worlds and desires of his parents. His mother is a Luna, and his father is a Marez. Each has expectations for how their son will turn out. Antonio’s father and brothers follow the lonely life of a cowboy of the llano, while his mother expects him to follow her family and become a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. His idea of personal identity is deeply tied to his conception of religion. His father is represented by the wild llano and, in turn, the pagan Golden Carp deity. His mother is represented by the structure and safety of the Catholic Church and, in turn, the Christian God.
In one of Antonio’s dreams, we see the relationship that these different factors have with one another. After learning about the Golden Carp, Antonio has a dream where the difference between his mother and father is apparent:
Mother, I cried, you are saved! We are all saved! Yes, my Antonio, she smiled, we who were baptized in the water of the moon which was made holy by our Holy Mother the Church are saved. Lies! my father shouted, Antonio was not baptized in the holy water of the moon, but in the salt water of the sea! I turned and saw him standing on the corpse-strewn shore. I felt a searing pain spread through my body. Oh please tell me which is the water that runs through my veins, I moaned; oh please tell me which is the water that washes my burning eyes!
The conflict is laid out in this dream. Antonio is pulled between the beliefs and expectations of his parents, unable to find his own identity in the struggle. However, during that dream, Ultima appears and calls “cease," calming the fighting. She tells Antonio that the moon needs the sea and the sea needs the moon; they work in harmony together. Ultima provides a way for Antonio to navigate his confusion, helping him to find the balance between his parents and their beliefs.