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One must be awakened by their experiences in life in order to grow and change into the person they ought to be. As you grow into adulthood, you use childhood experiences and build yourself upon their impact to guide you just as Antonio encounters this in Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya. Life’s experiences sometimes catches us by surprise and unready, but the exposure to them is enough to be awakened and grow from them.
People try to believe and hold on to divine and mystical ideas or beings, to be guided and trust in them when life gets tough. At times, these ideas are passed down from generation to generation, but it does not always function for that person the same way. Antonio is raised to be a boy who follows Catholic values and beliefs due to his mother, Maria, invoking God and church on him. However, his faith did not teach him how to deal with facing mortality. At the age of six, no kid is ready to witness death right in front of their eyes, Antonio is no exception. Lupito had gone crazy due to his participation in World War II, he had killed the local sheriff and was being chased by the men of the town including Antonio’s father. At the bridge, on the river, where Antonio sees his father and many townspeople shoot Lupito with no hesitation, the nature of his world was stained and leaves him in a state of confusion and doubt. Being present at the time of the murder of Lupito, Antonio’s life bridged from boy to man, from life to death, and from innocent to dark. He tried to embrace himself to the only thing he knew, which was his faith. “Did God listen? Would he hear? Had he seen my father on the Bridge? And where was Lupito’s soul winging to, or was it washing down the river to the fertile valley of my uncles farms”. Although he tried to embrace his faith, Lupito’s brutal death in the eyes of Antonio sparked his questioning on many ideas like who is the real sinner, what is good and evil, and whether his faith had the answers. He begins to see the world as a man with its violence and ruthlessness, it was no longer just sunshines and rainbows.
As evil and confusion lurked into Antonio’s life, a beacon of resilience and navigation was introduced into his life that same summer, Ultima. She comes into Antonio’s life unexpectedly, but they establish a spiritual connection much greater than the one he had with his own faith. Ultima’s arrival was the beginning of Antonio’s journey of the world of nature and with her guidance he begins to understand the nature around him is saturated with spirits, good and evil. However, the introduction of Ultima in his life was also the start of Antonio’s journey in curiosity and doubt in his faith. Antonio knew about Ultima’s profession of a “curandera”, someone who uses herbs and old customs to heal someone else, but some people in the novel call her a “bruja” which was a conflicting matter for Antonio. When Antonio’s uncle, Lucas becomes greatly ill due to a curse, Ultima rises to the occasion of using her “powers”. Since “the power of the doctor and the power of the church had failed to cure my uncle…Was it possible that there was more power in Ultima’s magic than in the priest?”. Antonio realizes that there are powers in the world that are much greater than of the church. Antonio begins to question God’s power. He begins to ask himself why Ultima was able to cure him when the priest couldn’t even after having God’s help. Catholicism condemns such supernatural “powers” that Ultima uses as evil, but since Antonio felt as his questioning of god’s power and admiration towards Ultima’s power was sinful. Thus, the for it sparks conflict within Antonio of whether Ultima’s power are good or evil. For Antonio it becomes not so easy to distinguish, although Ultima performs many good deeds, her cures ended up also killing two of Tenerio’s daughter. The success of Ultima’s power and the failing of the powers of the priest and church leaves Antonio more insecure whether his destiny is truly to be a priest.
In the midst of being lost and trying to find himself, Antonio tends to rely on Ultima as she becomes the backbone of his growing process and a mother-figure. Whenever, Antonio had questions and internal dilemmas, he would always refer back to Ultima’s advice. Antonio’s mother associates the growing up and being a man was a sin and corrupted innocence. His mother’s religious values leads her to the conclusion that the only hope for Antonio’s salvation lies in his becoming a priest and always with god. Ultima view growing up as an inevitable process that is natural and all up to Antonio’s own timing. “Ultima said to take life’s experiences and build strength from them, not weakness. Ultima’s death was a crucial factor of him growing up to be a man, as he now had to look forward on his own. All the experiences and all the conflicts are a part of his development from a boy to a young man. As a boy becomes a man, he uses his experiences and his knowledge to make decisions. Ultima was just his moral compass, his “eye opener” for the time being and with her motherly advice, Antonio is ready to continue the inevitable journey to be a man. From now on, Antonio seeks for himself to make his own decisions and will no longer constantly look to her for guidance.
Sometimes, people are forced to face experiences in which they are not prepared for. However, they learn that such revelation of those experiences can actually help them much greater to grow wiser and mature. Antonio eventually understands that in life the loss of innocence and doubt is a crucial part of growing up to be the man who is truly to be. With the guidance of Ultima, Antonio eyes were able to open and be awake to the world of good and evil, of doubt and of maturity.
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