Bless Me, Ultima

by Rudolfo Anaya

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What incident occurred between Chavez and Lupito at the novel's start?

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In chapter two of the novel Bless Me, Ultima, Chavez interrupts normal life at the "Marez y Luna" household. Late Saturday night, after everyone was down for bed in anticipation of Sunday mass, Chavez comes calling.

Chavez is in a rage: “he hurled himself at the door and began pounding” (Dos). He explains that it is his brother, the sheriff, who has been killed, and he asks Antonio’s father to come with him to hunt the killer down. When questioned by Antonio’s father, Chavez explains that Lupito murdered his brother.

Lupito is considered crazy by the town. When brought up Gabriel, Antonio’s father, says, “Ay que Lupito . . . the war made him crazy—” (Dos). Gabriel is more sympathetic than Chavez, not only because he isn’t as close to the tragedy, but also because Gabriel understands the horrors of war and what it can do to people—his sons are away at war, and he worries for them.

Antonio had seen the fear in Chavez’s eyes, and so he decides to follow his father and Chavez down to the river, where Lupito is hiding. As he walks, the fear he feels at the situation is palpable, and the trek to the river introduces the reader to many of the landmarks and parts of the setting that will be important later in the story.

The extent of Lupito’s mental illness is shown through the dialogue that Antonio overhears at the bridge. When the mob finally finds Lupito, he shouts, “Japanese sol’jer, Japanese sol’jer . . . I am wounded. Come help me—” (Dos). Antonio is afraid of Lupito, but the scene of the men killing him also stirs compassion in Antonio’s heart.

While Gabriel and Narciso attempt to have the men bring Lupito in to be arrested, he fires his pistol instead of giving up and going quietly. The mob shoots him in response, and he dies. Antonio, being down in the river at the time, sees him as he dies and then runs back home. On the way, he says the Act of Contrition and wonders about the soul of Lupito - where would it go? This question of death and the afterlife starts Antonio’s journey in Bless Me, Ultima. Eventually, Lupito’s death becomes the first of many that leads Antonio to grow up.

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Chavez is the father of Jason, a friend of Antonio's.  Early in the novel Bless Me, Ultima, Chavez' brother is killed by Lupito, a World War II veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  While everyone knows Lupito's head isn't right since the war, Chavez cannot let the killing of his brother go unanswered, and in his own fit of mourning and rage, Chavez is the one who rounds up a posse to go after Lupito, finally trapping him by the river and ultimately killing him.

This is an important scene in the book as it is Tony's first close up view of death, and the first of several in the story.  He feels sorry for Lupito, and this preares him for his upcoming experiences with Ultima.

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