"I see a mosaic pattern (Aztec-like) emerging, a weaving pattern, thin here, thick there . . . This almost finished product seems an assemblage, a montage...now appearing, now disappearing in a crazy dance. The whole thing has a mind of its own, escaping me and insisting on putting together the pieces of its own puzzle with minimal direction from my will." – Gloria Anzaldua.
English 380A, Winter 2011
Professor Deborah Miranda

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bless Me Ultima: The Choice

The struggle to find one’s true identity is a recurring theme in the novels that we have read including Pocho,…And the Earth did not Devour Him, and Bless Me Ulitma. However, Bless Me Ultima differs from the others in that the protagonist, young Antonio, need not choose between assimilation to the American culture or his own Mexican heritage. Instead, he must make a choice between the two factions within his own blood – the Lunas and the Márez.

Throughout the novel, Antonio battles within himself and his family to find his true destiny. Will he be a Luna priest, satisfying his mother, or a Márez wanderer, emulating his father? The two sides of his spirit battle continuously during his young life, pulling at him until he questions everything, including his religious beliefs. Antonio’s encounter with the golden carp and his various doubts in God bring him to the culmination of his insecurities in his dream halfway through the novel. The choices lay distinctly before him: his mother or his father, a priest or a free-spirit, the moon or the sea, Catholicism or Paganism, and innocence or knowledge. Tormented by his divided self, it is not until Ultima offers an alternate solution that Antonio can rest peacefully. “The waters are one, Antonio,” she states calmly, showing that without the Lunas, there can be no Márez, and without the Márez, there can be no Lunas (113). Rudolfo A. Anaya uses the character of Ultima to reveal the true solution to Antonio’s predicament: the final answer is not to choose one or the other; it is the choice to choose to be both.

In the end, the novel raises the question of destiny. How much of one’s future and choices are dictated by birth, fate, and chance, and is it a possibility to choose your own path? Though Anaya offers a different dilemma than Rivera or Villarreal, he stays true to Chicano/a literature by showing that a single, pure identity can be composed of many different selves.


  1. Antonio's brothers have experienced a similar, albeit not quite the same, crisis of identity. After their return home from a war that expanded their understanding of a world beyond Las Pasturas, they suffer from the claustrophobic Marez home. Antonio's eldest brothers, Eugene and Leon, cannot fathom living at home nor moving to California with their father. Their resolution comes not from an outside force like Ultima, but an inner sense of belonging to a greater destiny and a desperate need for something different. They prove that it is possible to choose a different path, even if that path has unintended consequences.

  2. Tony's choice between the two factions within his blood definitely raises the question of whether he is destined to be a priest or a wanderer. After Ultima comes to him in a dream Tony realizes that blood is not destiny, but this revelation does not free him from the choice of what he will do later in life. Eugene and Leon face this same dilemma, but their third path seems to speak more toward the consequences of defying destiny rather than forming their own. Ultima warns of the danger faced by those who alter fate, and it Tony's brothers seem to be punished by their choice to leave home. They cut off their roots and without any attachment to the past the brothers lose their identities to chaos.

  3. Excellent conversation here! Your comments make me question whether or not Anaya's intent in creating a character who feels pulled in two directions - both essential, both part of his very essence and physical being - is about creating a metaphor for contemporary Chican@ identity. At the end of Emily's post, she writes, "...a single, pure identity can be composed of many different selves." This sounds suspiciously like a mestiza identity, one which acknowledges both the Spanish colonizing "father" and the indigenous, land-based "mother." Interesting that for Anaya, the mother/indigena is Catholic, and the father/Spaniard is wild and godless.

  4. In response to what Alexandra and Henry wrote about the brothers: yes, the brothers do choose an alternative path that is neither mother/indigena or father/Spaniard, but that path is ultimately self-destructive. Can Chican@s exist without embracing either/both?