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

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The war is over. It is announced at school. Antonio is happy that his three brothers would be returning home. Andrew writes and says they are meeting in San Diego and will come home together. María calls out her thanks to all her saints: the Virgen de Guadalupe, St. Anthony, San Martín, San Cristóbal. She takes the family to the sala to pray their thanks rosary after rosary. The children fall asleep and Gabriel carries them to their rooms. Antonio's "soul floated with the holiness of prayer into the sky of dreams."

In his dream, he is at a river and he hears someone calling his name. He calls out that he is beside the catfish hole where his brother taught him to fish. The voices continue to call. They call him their sweet baby and say they are coming home. They say they have traveled west until they were in the east. They call for him to give them his "saving hand." They say they are the giants who are dying. They say they have seen the land of the golden carp. Finally, Antonio sees his three brothers behind him. He screams out and wakes up.

He feels heavy sorrow in this throat. He hears the owl cry out in alarm and he knows someone is coming up the path. He looks and sees three figures approaching. It is his three brothers. He calls out to them and they race toward him. María embraces them and calls their names over and over. Gabriel gives each of them an abrazo (hug). They kneel before Ultima for a blessing. They dance around the kitchen with Deborah, Theresa, and Antonio. They drink whiskey with Gabriel while María and Ultima cook dinner. In the middle of cooking, María sits down and cries a long time. When she finishes she wants them to pray. Gabriel complains that they have prayed enough, but she insists on one more before she returns to cooking.

Gabriel wants to hear about California. Andrew answers that they were there only briefly. He asks to hear about the war, but León says only that it was all right. Gene says, "Like hell," and frowns heavily. He pulls away and sits alone. Gabriel wants to know about the California vineyards. He feels his dream of moving west revive now that his sons are home. At Gabriel's talk of moving to California the three sons look at each other nervously. Finally, they all go to bed.

Antonio feels the family is complete. He stays busy at school learning the magical letters and numbers. Miss Maestas sends a note to María telling her of Antonio's good progress. María is happy that a man of learning will once again be part of the Luna family.


While the return of the three brothers from war is an overwhelming relief, it is not a triumph. They clearly feel alienated from the family and cannot relate what has happened to them during the years of war. Without being about to tell about what has happened to them, they will never be fully united with their family. They seem to have talked together about their reluctance to fulfill Gabriel's dream of moving to California. Gabriel and María seem oblivious to their sons' discomfort and alienation. Perhaps they see what they can handle seeing. Antonio, on the other hand, seems to recognize that the three brothers are still lost. His dream leaves him feeling deep sorrow even though it means his brothers are returning home.



Spring comes and it seems as though the same sap the stirs in the trees begins "to churn through Antonio's brothers." He understands now why the blood of spring is called "bad blood." It raises wild urges and reveals hidden desires. Antonio's brothers have spent the winter sleeping during the day and in town during the nights. Antonio hears about his brothers spending money at the Eight Ball Pool Hall. "They are like lost men who went and came and said nothing." The family recognizes they have war-sickness. León sometimes howls at night and cries like an animal. Then he begins to have long talks with Ultima and she gives him a remedy. His eyes remain sad, but he also has hope for the future. The three brothers run out of their army money and they sign notes in town. Gabriel's dream slowly dies.

One afternoon, Antonio hears them talking. They talk about leaving. They complain about the smallness of Guadalupe. Andrew jokes that it is the Márez blood that is making them restless. They say they will never go with Gabriel to California. Gene suggests getting together to move to Las Vegas, Santa Fe, or Albuquerque. He wants to save money, buy a car, and get women. He names Denver and San Francisco also. His brothers become excited too. They all talk about the three goals they want to acquire: "money, booze, women."

Andrew finally asks about their parents' dreams. Antonio knows they have lived their lives haunted by those dreams just as he has. Gene tells him they cannot live their lives according to their parents' dreams. They say the parents still have Tony to be María's priest and farmer. They jump and shout with joy. They play around and call out to Tony to bless them. He is afraid of them and finally shouts out that he will bless them. He makes the sign of the cross just as he had done in his dream. They grab him, pull his pants off, and spank him. Then they toss him onto the roof of the chicken house. They continue playing with each other. Then they say they have to say good-bye to the women at Rosie's and they run off.

Antonio gets down and puts his pants back on. His bottom hurts where they spanked him. He feels empty knowing they will be gone again and lost again. He wants to call after them, "I bless you."


Antonio offers a blessing for the second time here. Though it is not a blessing sanctioned by the Church, it is a blessing from the heart. Antonio knows his brothers will be lost to him forever. Despite their abuse of him, he still feels sad for their pain which is covered over momentarily in a celebration of freedom.

Eugene, León, and Andrew are lost and rootless. They have vague goals for going to cities they have only heard about. They imagine making money, but they think of nothing else to spend it on than brief pleasures designed to help them forget. They think of women on a par with liquor and cars as one in a list of acquisitions they can get with money.

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