Bless Me, Ultima opens with the curandera Ultima coming to live with Tony’s family outside the village of Guadalupe. At this point, Tony is six years old: he has not yet begun school, and is innocent of the world. This innocence is shattered early on, however, when Tony’s family learns that Lupito, a veteran returned from the war, has killed the town sheriff. Tony follows his father to the river, where the men of the village are gathering to confront Lupito, and watches as Lupito is shot and killed. This is the first of several deaths that Tony will witness.
The summer before Tony begins school, he spends a good deal of time with Ultima, who helps him to interpret his dreams and sort out his family’s conflicting messages. At the end of summer, the Marez family, except for Tony’s father, go to El Puerto to help his mother’s family with the harvest.