BLESS ME, ULTIMA (1972). Set in New Mexico during the period of
profound social changes following World War II, this novel by Rudolfo
Anaya (1937– ) focuses on the coming-of-age of Antonio Ma ´rez, a sensitive boy whose parents’ backgrounds pull him in two different directions.
Whereas his mother’s family compels him to consider a stable life in the
Mexican American community as either priest or farmer, his father urges
him to remember his ancestors—men as free and restless as the sea. Mitigating this conflict for Antonio is Ultima, a curandera, herbalist and healer,
who teaches him to recognize the connections between all living beings and
all places that support life—land, sea, and rivers. Antonio must also come
to accept Ultima’s pantheism, which simultaneously endorses a Christian
God, Native American religious practices, and folk beliefs concerning mysterious mermaids* and a great golden carp, all committed to the well-being
and survival of humanity.