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Bless Me, Ultima, written by Rudulfo Anaya, follows a seven year old’s perpective on life around him.  Antonio Marez lives with his parents, brothers and sisters and with Ultima, a curandera or healer.  Being a Chicano, he explores his Mexican identity along with finding his American identity as well.  Throughout the book, Tony questions religious values as he lives in the midst of religious beliefs: his mother is a Roman Catholic and wants Antonio to become a priest, his father owns a varying set of values and desires him to become a cowboy, his friends and townspeople have their differing values, including paganism, and Ultima clings to the spiritual past of her ancestors.  Being pulled into various directions, Antonio and those around him realize that he or anyone for that matter should be able to make their own destinies and ultimately all individuals have their personal set of moral values. 

Readers follow Antonio’s transition from pure innocence to real world through a series of events such as Lupito’s murder, his brothers’ refusals to stay with the family, his friend’s sisters becoming prostitutes and devout enemies like Tenorio set on revenge.  Ultima represents Tony’s balance of good and evil by teaching him how to tolerate life’s unpleasant events and learning how to find one’s true identity.  Ultimately, Antonio must decide who he is and he finds his identity changing when he is named “Anthony” at school.  This is the start of his American Mexican identity and the point of no return where he begins his personal journey in life, set with the strong foundation he has received at home until now. 

This literary work is definitely a Chicano classic.  The Chicano label was used in the Civil Rights movement to unite Mexican Americans and give them a sense of belonging and closeness to their heritage.  Through his work, Anaya focuses on Chicano themes of culture, identity, livelihood, family values and also the injustices. By using a child as the protagonist, Anaya makes an honest effort of bringing in audiences from all cultures and the work is more readily accepted without discrimination because the story is told from an untainted mind and any points of views cannot be taken personally or Antonio cannot be attacked as he is only reflecting adults.  This innocent approach to understanding another culture makes this work critical to the Chicano literary movement. 

Historically speaking, Bless me, Ultima is a novel praising Latino culture at a time when people were fighting against discrimination and misunderstandings.  Many relate to the protagonist as he is undergoing cultural assimilation which allowed Mexicans to become a part of America not only physically but spiritually as well.  Today, assimilation might not seem difficult and is expected but the significance of this novel is that it explored this change in history at a critical time which raised the morale of Chicanos and encouraged peaceful protesting for equal American rights. 

Another critical historical theme revolves around World War II and its impact on the Mexican American community.  The community’s involvement in war shows their loyalty to America and their sacrifices.  Antonio is directly affected as it because of the war he witnesses his first murder: Lupito’s indirect suicide.  Lupito, along with Antonio’s brothers, was greatly affected by post-traumatic stress and could not function well in society again and this is why he chose to escape his worries through death, a new concept for Antonio.  As for his brothers, they were affected differently as they chose to separate themselves from the people around them differently through physically changing their settings.  This taught Antonio that life is ever changing and cannot be molded to one person’s wishes, like his mother or father.  The war also affected the community at large as one member’s actions directly affected the entire community. 

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