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Free Study Guide: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya - Free BookNotes

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BLESS ME, ULTIMA: PRINTABLE STUDY GUIDE

CHAPTER 10

Summary

"The summer came and burned me brown with its energy, and the llano and the river filled me with their beauty." Antonio fishes along the river every day in hopes of finding Cico to tell him more about the golden carp. Andrew also works every day. León and Gene write infrequently. Ultima works with Antonio in the garden every morning. In the afternoons, Antonio roams along the river. Gabriel is sad about his sons leaving. María is unhappy because her brother Lucas is sick. Antonio has heard that a bruja has cursed him. He is on the verge of death. The doctors cannot cure him and the priest who has been asked to exorcise el encanto (the curse) fails. All of this proves that it is a curse by a bruja. Lucas had seen a group of witches dancing for el Diablo (the Devil) and they had cursed him. Finally, the Lunas come to Ultima for help.

Uncle Pedro arrives one morning. He tells them Lucas is worse. Lucas has a gift with grafting trees. Pedro and María discuss his illness. He tells her they tried a doctor from Las Vegas and a priest. The priest did not want to oppose his power to the brujas. Antonio is confused that the priest would not be able to fight the brujas since he has the power of God, the Virgin, and all the saints. María exclaims, "Is there no one we can turn to!" and they glance at Ultima. She tells Pedro he is wasting precious time talking. They are very thankful that she agrees to take the case.

Ultima says she will go only if they understand that "if anybody, bruja or curandera, priest or sinner, tampers with the fate of a person that sometimes a chain of events is set into motion over which no one will have ultimate control." They must accept that responsibility. They both accept. Ultima goes to prepare her herbs and oils. She tells Antonio to be ready. She calls him Juan, his middle name, which no one ever uses.

María is very relieved because she has so much faith in Ultima's powers to cure. She tells her brother that Ultima learned from the greatest healer of all time, the flying man from Las Pasturas. She asks who laid the curse on Lucas. Pedro says it was the daughters of Tenorio. María crosses herself as does Antonio because it is dangerous to mention the names of witches without warding off evil with the sign of the cross. Lucas told his father that in February he crossed the river to look for stray milk cows. He met Manuelito, who told him the cows were moving toward the bend in the river where the cottonwood trees make a thick wood. It is considered an evil place. Manuelito tried to persuade Lucas not to go because there were evil signs in the air: the owls were singing to the horned moon. Nevertheless, Lucas went in search of his cattle. María remembers as a child watching the evil fires of the place. Lucas saw the brujas (witches)dancing in front of the fire that night. He crept up to the clearing and saw that it was not a natural fire. It was the dance of the witches. They danced among the trees, but the fire did not burn the trees.


Antonio has heard stories of people seeing bright balls of fire which were brujas on their way to meeting places. They were said to conduct Black Masses to honor the devil and the devil would appear and dance with them. Witches also took many other forms such as coyotes and owls. Last summer a rancher shot a coyote and when he followed the trail of blood, they found an old woman dead of a gunshot wound. The rancher proved it was a witch because he had etched a cross on his bullet, so he was not charged with murder. "Under the old law there was no penalty for killing a witch."

Pedro continues his story. When Lucas was close to the fireballs, he saw them take form and three women in black appeared. They made a fire and poured a rooster's blood into a pot. They cooked it and threw many other things in while they danced and chanted incantations. Lucas said it made an awful smell. María says it was the Black Mass and Pedro agrees. Lucas said the women poured sulfur on the coals of the fire and the flames rose up. Lucas did not believe it was a Black Mass, so he came out from behind the tree and challenged them. He recognized them as the Trementina sisters, Tenorio's three daughters. They have long been thought to be witches. The sisters were very angry to be caught. They attacked Lucas. He tied two dead branches together with a shoe lace to make a cross. He held it up to them and called out "Jesús, María, y José!" (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph). The three sisters fell to the ground in pain. When he lowered the cross, they ran.

Lucas returned home them and told his father the story, who told him not to repeat it. That week Lucas became sick. His only words are of the revenge the sisters are taking against him. The rest of the time his mouth is clamped shut so he cannot eat. María asks if anyone has gone to Tenorio. Their father does not believe in witchcraft and has refused to go to Tenorio about it, but Pedro, Juan, and Pablo went. Since they did not have proof, Tenorio laughed at them. María says Tenorio is evil. Pedro remembers that Tenorio's wife was known to make clay dolls and prick them with needles. She made people sick that way.

Ultima comes in the room. She tells María that evil is not easy to destroy and that she needs help. She tells her she wants Antonio to come with her. María cannot understand why. Pedro says Antonio "is a Juan--." She agrees and adds that he has Luna blood. Ultima asks Antonio if he wants to go. He says he does even if it will be hard. He asks if he will be ashamed for people to see him walking in the footsteps of a curandera. He says he would be proud. They leave.

On the way to El Puerto, Antonio notices many dust devils and whirlwinds. When they reach the village, they see "the horned day moon fixed exactly between the two dark mesas at the south end of the valley." Pedro remarks that it is the Luna's moon. Ultima pronounces it a good sign. Ultima says it is the door through which the moon of each month passes on its journey from east to west. Hence the name El Puerto de la Luna (The Door of the Moon). Antonio knows the Lunas plant their crops and care for their livestock according to the moon. The moon is their goddess.

Antonio wonders about the strange weather. He does not know why Ultima has brought him and what his name being Juan has to do with it. He wonders if his innocent Luna blood will help lift the curse. Pedro drives up to his father's house and after a wait, his father, Prudencio, comes out to greet them. He calls Ultima "Medica" (healer) and says he has a son who is dying. She tells him she has a cure for him. She says they still have the power to fight the evil. He tells her he will pay in silver for her to save his son. She tells him it will take forty dollars to cheat death. Antonio notices it is a sort of ceremony they are performing with prescribed questions and answers. Antonio notices the people in nearby houses are parting their curtains to peek outside and see what is happening.

Prudencio tells them the people of the village are nervous because it has been many years since a curandera came to cure anyone. Ultima says farmers should be farming. She tells Prudencio she needs a small room, bed sheets, water, stove, and atole (similar to cream of wheat) to eat. He will prepare it himself. She tells him to get rid of the women who are already at the house in mourning. Antonio sees that the curandera is in charge when she is working a cure and she can order a man around. Ultima tells him to order his sons not to kill any coyotes who sniff at the door. She says she herself will deal with anyone who comes to spoil the cure.

She will not enter his house until she speaks to Tenorio. She wants to reason with him first because she wants him to know that tampering with fate is dangerous. She refuses to have anyone come with her for protection except Antonio. Antonio tells her he is not afraid. They walk to the saloon. The sign over the door announces Tenorio Trementina's name. He is also the village's barber and he "had a heart as black as the pit of hell!" Ultima steps through the door and Antonio sees the men at the table run around and tremble. She calls for Tenorio. Antonio notices her nobility and her lack of fear, so he tries to stand like her and not be afraid.

Tenorio keeps his back turned to her and asks her what she wants, calling her a bruja. She taunts him for not turning around. He does so and Antonio sees evil emanating from his eyes. He has never seen an uglier man. He holds the sign of the cross in front of her and she does not budge. The men back away because they know the cross would work against a bruja. They think she must not be a bruja or she must have the powers of the Devil. She says she is a curandera and she has come to lift a curse set by his daughters. Tenorio calls her a liar. He is afraid to attack her. Ultima says she knows Lucas had come to Tenorio's shop to have his hair cut and that Tenorio's daughters took the hair and worked their evil with it. The three other men in the bar run out. Tenorio threatens her life for shaming his good name in front of the men. She says she does not fear him because she got her powers from "el hombre volador" (the flying man). Tenorio draws back at the mention of this name. She says she realizes he will not listen to reason and so she will have to work the magic that endures forever. When he asks about his daughters, Ultima says they chose to tamper with fate and will have to take the consequences. Ultima and Antonio leave the bar.


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