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BLESS ME, ULTIMA BY RUDOLFO ANAYA: CHAPTER SUMMARY / BOOK REVIEW
Antonio runs outside. He runs all the way to the bridge and challenges the Vitamin Kid for a race across it. He sees the Vitamin Kid is walking with Ida. It’s the first time he’s seen the Kid walking. He runs as fast as he can and the Kid never passes him. When he gets to the end, he looks back and sees the Kid is still with Ida. Antonio remembers Andrew telling him that someday he would beat the Kid across the bridge. Now that he has, though, he feels as though “something good had ended.”
Antonio is relieved school is over so he can spend more time with Ultima. He finds solace and peace with her, much more than he had ever found at church or with the kids at school. The llano has come alive with spring. Yet there are ominous signs there. They find tracks around the house. Ultima laughs if off and says it is nothing but the tracks of hunters, but Antonio sees her studying the tracks carefully. That night he hears the owl call out a warning. He says it’s Tenorio and Ultima says he shouldn’t concern himself with Tenorio, “that wolf.” Antonio has heard the rumor that Tenorio’s second daughter is dying. He has also heard of what is happening on Agua Negra ranch. A curse has been laid of one of the families of the ranch. One of the people came to ask Ultima for help. The man’s name is Tellez. He is an old compatriot of Antonio’s father from the llano. Everyone knows it is up to Maria if Ultima will go to help Tellez. Since Tenorio came to the house with his mob, Maria has been very careful to keep Ultima from helping anyone for fear of her life.
Tellez tells the story of what has been happening at the Agua Negra. He thinks the things are being directed by the devil himself. He says all the kitchen utensils fly into the air and crash against the walls. One of his children and he himself have been burned. At first Gabriel thinks it is Tellez’s imagination or that someone played a bad joke on him. He asks who could make stones rain from the skies. They rain down day and night. Maria remembers there was a curse like this on her home town of El Puerto when she was a child. Tellez reports that the priest from Vaughn came and blessed the house and the blessing has not helped. The priest refuses to come back, saying they must be making up stories, because no curse can withstand the church’s holy water. Antonio thinks the power of the priest has failed again. Tellez asks Gabriel to come and see what he is going through. He wants someone to believe him. Gabriel agrees to go.
Gabriel returns that night very late. He looks shaken and takes a while to speak. He says that at first he didn’t believe because he doesn’t believe in spirits, but he did see what Tellez had spoken of. Maria goes to the sala to pray. He asks what has happened at the ranch and Ultima says a curse has been laid. She says the curse hasn’t been laid on a person, but on a ghost and the ghost now haunts the house. She tells the story of the Agua Negra. She says long ago it was the land of the Comanche Indians. Then the comancheros came, the Mexicans came with their flocks. Years ago, the Comanches raided the flocks of one man, Tellez’s grandfather. Tellez gathered other Mexicans and they hanged three Indians, leaving the bodies strung up in the tree. Therefore, the three souls were left to wander. The brujas knew this, so they didn’t lay a curse on a family member because they could have gotten caught. Instead, they had awakened the ghosts of the Indians and forced them to do wrong. Gabriel wants to know if they can be stopped. Ultima says, “All evil can be stopped.”
Maria comes back from the sala and says they must help Tellez. Gabriel goes to Ultima and asks her to help the family. Ultima reminds him of “the rules that guide the interference with any man’s destiny.” Gabriel says he knows. He says he has always tired to lead his own life, giving others room to live theirs. He tells Ultima to let the bad consequences fall on his head. Ultima agrees to leave in the morning. Antonio will go with her.
They travel halfway to Las Pasturas and then south into the llano. Antonio notices the beauty of the llano. Gabriel exclaims over the freedom of the llano. Ultima exclaims over the beauty of the earth. Antonio sees these two adults and realizes he has learned from them “to love the magic beauty of the wide, free earth.” He realizes that the has learned from his mother that people are made of earth and are part of the ground that nourishes them. From his father and Ultima he has learned “that the greater immortality is in the freedom of humanity, ant that freedom is best nourished by the noble expanse of land and air and pure, white sky.” He hears his father talking about the power of the llano. Ultima talks about the faith in the llano, “a faith in the reason for nature being, evolving, growing.” Antonio also thinks that in the llano there is a “dark, mystical past.” It is the past “of the people who lived here and left their traces in he magic that crops out today.”
They arrive at the Tellez home. Tellez greets them thanking God for their coming. He kisses Ultima’s hand. Dorotea Tellez comes out to greet them. She has a fever. She apologizes for being unable to offer them food or drink. As they sit there, a cloud passes overhead. Tellez announces that it is back. The sky gets very dark and then they hear pounding. When the pounding goes away, they go outside and find the same quiet day in which they had arrived, but they see rocks on the ground that hadn’t been there before. Tellez says it is the work of the devil. Ultima corrects him and says its source is human.
She instructs Gabriel to erect a platform and marks four spots for the holes.
She tells him to place juniper branches on it so they will burn for a
long time. He tells Gabriel to let Antonio cut them because Antonio understands
the power of the tree. She then takes the family back into the house.
Antonio goes to the hills and begins cutting trees. He tries to get mainly
dead, dry branches so the burning will be easier. When he has to cut a
tree, he first talks to it, asking it for its medicine, as Ultima has
instructed him to do with every plant. When he drags the tress to where
his father is digging the holes, his father points out the holes are not
in a square but a rectangle as if to hold a coffin. Gabriel secures some
rafters across the top and then they put the branches on top. They stand
back to look at the altar they’ve built.
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. 09 May 2017