Bless Me, Ultima

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Bless Me, Ultima Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Rudolfo Anaya
Rudolfo Anaya was born in Pastura and raised in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Like Antonio Márez, Anaya had a vaquero (cowboy) father and a mother from a farming family, and he was also greatly influenced by the beauty of the New Mexican flatlands. Anaya's family later moved to Albuquerque, where he attended high school and the University of New Mexico. He got two masters degrees there, and he married Patricia Lawless in 1966. Bless Me, Ultima is his first novel. Many publishers rejected it for its blend of languages and its Chicano subject matter, but once it was published the book became extremely popular through word-of-mouth. It is now considered part of the canon of contemporary Chicano literature and American literature as a whole. Anaya's best known other books are Heart of Aztlan, Tortuga, and Albuquerque. He still lives and writes in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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Historical Context of Bless Me, Ultima
The cultural setting for Bless Me, Ultima is New Mexico, where Spanish colonists mixed with Native Americans for many years, blending indigenous mythology with Catholic Christianity. The novel is set during World War II, and mentions the testing of the atomic bomb in the New Mexican Desert. The isolated rural towns like Guadalupe were also forever changed when their young men returned from the horrors of war.
Other Books Related to Bless Me, Ultima
Anaya struggled to find other works that spoke to his Chicano experience, so Bless Me, Ultima is one of the first of its kind. An earlier related work is Josephina Niggli's Mexican Village, which was published in 1945. Other major Chicano writers include Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street, poet Luis Omar Salinas, and poet Lorna Dee Cervantes.
Key Facts about Bless Me, Ultima
  • Full Title: Bless Me, Ultima
  • When Written: 1963-1971
  • Where Written: Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • When Published: 1972
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Chicano Literature
  • Genre: Magical Realist Fiction, bildungsroman
  • Setting: Guadalupe, New Mexico
  • Climax: Tenorio kills Ultima's owl and then is shot
  • Antagonist: Tenorio Trementina
  • Point of View: First person limited, from Antonio's perspective
Extra Credit for Bless Me, Ultima

Trilogy. Bless Me, Ultima is actually the first book in a series of three, but the next two, called Heart of Aztlan and Tortuga, are not nearly as famous as their predecessor.

Censorship. Because it is taught so widely in schools but also contains strong language, violence, and a positive portrayal of the occult, Bless Me, Ultima has been challenged by many advocacy groups and is on a list of the most frequently banned books in America.