Tony dreams of his own birth. In the dream, his mother’s brothers, the Lunas (luna means “moon”), bless him and offer him fruit, calling him a “man of the people.” Then his brothers arrive on horseback. Shouting, shooting, and laughing, they smash the fruit and break up the gathering. They claim Antonio for the Márezes (mar means “sea”). Antonio senses that Ultima (última means “the last one”), who is present at the birth, is connected to his future.
Ultima comes to stay with the narrator’s family the summer he is “almost seven.” Antonio is living with his parents and sisters, Deborah and Theresa; his three older brothers are away in the war. Ultima is a curandera, or healer. One evening, Tony witnesses horrible violence. Lupito, whom people claim World War II made crazy, kills Chavez, the sheriff of the town. Antonio secretly follows his father to town when his father goes to investigate the killing and, hiding on the river bank, sees the fugitive gunned down by a mob of pursuers. Narciso, the Márez family friend and peacemaker, pleads with the posse but cannot save Lupito. “’Bless me,’” Lupito says to Antonio as Lupito dies. Later, Antonio realizes that he was protected that night by Ultima’s owl, who was always close by and who seems to carry the powerful spirit of the curandera and to watch over Antonio.
Antonio starts school in Guadalupe that fall. From his first teacher Miss Maestas he learns the magic of letters and how to write. He also experiences disorientation and humiliation in the English-only classroom. From Ultima, however, he learns equally important lessons, for example, about the healing power of the herbs and roots they gather as they walk along the river banks and about the spirits of the natural world. “I knew she held the secret of my destiny,” he thinks. From his friends, Antonio learns about the golden carp that lives in the river surrounding the town and that will also form a part of this destiny. With his friend Cico he later sees the beautiful and sacred fish.
(The entire section is 869 words.)