It is the first day of school that Antonio has been dreading. As they get ready, his father complains that he and María should have gone to California when they were still young, and he makes a reference to the first Luna priest that offends his wife. She starts to cry when she thinks about Antonio growing up, but Ultima reminds her that all sons must leave someday.
Antonio thinks of what Jasón told him about the magic in written letters, and how Ultima cannot protect him at school. Deborah uses English slang and her father disapproves. María goes on about Antonio's future as a scholar and a priest, while Gabriel reminisces about the beautiful freedom of the old llano.
Antonio's dread of leaving home begins to be replaced by his insatiable desire for knowledge – a sign that he is growing up. Deborah foreshadows the kind of Anglo-American influences he will soon experience at school.
They are finally ready to go and María asks Ultima to bless the children. When she places her hand on Antonio's head he again feels a whirlwind, and thinks about the dust devils of the llano, which are supposed to be evil spirits. He wonders if the spirits of good and evil could be the same. María begs Ultima for a prophecy about Antonio's future, and Ultima admits that he will be a man of learning.
Antonio is faced with another morally ambiguous dilemma – he has heard that whirlwinds are evil, but he knows Ultima is good. Ultima's concept of "man of learning" is different from María's – Ultima does not necessarily mean he will be a priest, but only gather wisdom through experience. This is Ultima's first blessing, leading to a recurring theme.
Antonio starts walking and is comforted by the daytime singing of Ultima's owl. As he crosses the bridge the Vitamin Kid challenges him to race and beats him easily, even though Antonio had a head start. He reaches the school and is amazed by all the other children. He gets immediately lost until an English-speaking boy guides him to the right classroom.
The race with the Vitamin Kid becomes a symbol of Antonio's youth and the parts of childhood that seem lasting. At school Antonio is suddenly introduced to a third culture that he must try and integrate into his identity – the Anglo-American, English-speaking society of the school.
Antonio finds his teacher, Miss Maestas, and admits he can't speak English. He sits in the corner and practices copying his name. He does better than the other students but they still laugh at him for speaking Spanish, and at lunch they all laugh at him again for eating tortillas instead of bread.
The most concrete example of the Chicano loneliness among the English-speaking world of most of America. Antonio has been sheltered from these prejudices in his home life, but now he encounters a new cultural conflict, this one rooted in language.
Antonio leaves the room and starts to cry. He wants to go home but he knows he must stay and be a man, and not disappoint his mother's dream. He hides behind the school building to eat. He meets some other outcast boys there, and they come to share a bond in their loneliness.
Antonio starts to realize the sadness of growing up and experiencing the harsh outside world. He is growing away from his mother and dealing with the kind of societal change inherent in his part of New Mexico.