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u L 'l'IMYL rro o 1e MiJ'" !l{Jll9 tJJJ1L9 tJJI 1"l L'l' f[':J{i POWi 9{ 0 J1l W:J{I WI9(tJJSWi i P J1l9{0V.9(tJJ '.Ml "Her eyes swept the surrounding bUls andthrough them I saw for the first ttme thewild beauty of our hills and the magtc ofthe green river. My nostrils quivered,as IfeU tbe song of the mockingbirds and tbedrone of tbe grasshoppers mingle with thepulse of the earth.The four directions ofthe llano met in me, and the white sunshoneonmy soul . . : -from BLESS ME, UI37MA000"This extraordinary storyteller has always writtenunpre tentiously but provocatively about identity. Everywork is a fiesta, a ceremony preservin g but reshapingold traditions that honor the power within the landand Ia raz-a, the people."-Los Angeles Times Booll Reviewmore .

000Anaya is in the vanguard of a movement to refashion"the Chicano identity by writing about il"-NIIIUmlll Clltbolle Reporler0"Quite extraordinary . . . intersperses the legendary,folkloric, stylized, or allegorized material with therealistic. . .--lllll 11 Amerlclln Llter11ry Review0"A nay a's first novel, BLESS ME, ULTIMA probablythe best-known and most-respected contempo rary Chicano fiction, probes into the fat satchelof remembered you th."-NewYoriTlmes0"A unique Americn novel that deserves to be betterknown."000

000"An unforgettable novel . already becoming a classicfor its uniqueness on story, narrative technique, andstructure."---Cbkilt10 Perspectives 111 LllerlltJire0"One of the best writers in this country."-El PIISO Times0"Remarkable . a unique American novel . a richand powerful synthesis for some of life's sharpestoppositions."0''When some of the 'new' ethnic voices become nation al treasures themselves, it will be in part because thegeneration of Solas, Anaya, Thomas, and Hinojosaserved as their compass."-Tbe Natltnl0 00

Books by Rudolfo AnayaBLESS ME, ULTIMABENDfCEME, ULTIMAALBURQUERQUETHE ANAYA READERZIA SUMMER)ALAMANTAATIENTION:SCHOOLS AND CORPORATIONSWARNER books are available at quantity dis counts with bulk purchase for educational,business, or sales promotional use. For infor mation, ple a s e wr ite to: SPEC IAL SALE SDEPARTME NT, WARN E RBOOKS, 1271AVENUE OFTHEAMERICAS, NEW YORK, N.Y.10020.

BLESS ME,ULTIMARUDOLFO ANAYAA Time Warner Company

This boo k was first published by TQS Publications, Berkeley, California.If you purchase this book without a cover you should be aware that thisbook may have been stolen property and reponed as "unsold anddestroyed" to the publisher. In such case neither the author nor lhe pub lisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."WARNER BOOKS EDITIONCopyright 1972 by Rudolfo A. AnayaAll rights reserved.Cover design by Diane LugerCover illustration by Bernadette VigilBook design by L. McReeThis Warner Books edition is published by ammgement with the author.Warner Books, Inc.1271 Avenue of the AmericasNew York, NY 10020VisitourWeb site atwww . wamerbooks.com A Time Warner CompanyPrinted in the United States of AmericaFirst Warner Books Paperback Printing: April 19942019IS1716

Con .Jlonorrpara .Jvfis rpadres

BLESS ME.ULTIMA

WnoQ/Itima came to stay with us the summer I was almostseven. When she came the beauty of the llano unfoldedbefore my eyes, and the gurgling waters of the river sang tothe hum of the turning earth. The magical time of childhoodstood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mys tery into my living blood. She took my hand, and the silent,magic powers she possessed made beauty from the raw, sun baked llano, the green river valley, and the blue bowl whichwas the white sun's home. My bare feet felt the throbbingearth and my body trembled with excitement. Time stoodstill, and it shared with me all that had been, and all that wasto come.Let me begin at the beginning. I do not mean the begin ning that was in my dreams and the stories they whispered tome about my birth, and the people of my father and mother,and my three brothers-but the beginning that came withUltima.The attic of our home was partitioned into two smallrooms. My sisters, Deborah and Theresa, slept in one and Islept in the small cubicle by the door. The wooden stepscreaked down into a small hallway that led into the kitchen.From the top of the stairs I had a vantage point into the heartof our home, my mother's kitchen. From there I was to seethe terrified face of Chavez when he brought the terriblenews of the murder of the sheriff; I was to see the rebellion

2Rudolfo Anayaof my brothers against my father; and many times late atnight I was to see Ultima returning from the llano where shegathered the herbs that can be harvested only in the light ofthe full moon by the careful hands of a curandera.That night I lay very quietly in my bed, and I heard myfather and mother speak of Ultima."Esta sola," my father said, "ya no q ueda gente en e lpueblito d e Las Pasturas-"He spoke in Spanish, and the village he mentioned was hishome. My father had been a vaquero all his life, a calling asancient as the coming of the Spaniard to Nuevo Mejico.Even after the big rancheros and the tejanos came and fencedthe beautiful llano, he and those like him continued to workthere, I guess because only in that wide expanse of land andsky could they feel the freedom their spirits needed."Que lastima," my mother answered, and I knew her nim ble fingers worked the pattern on the doily she crocheted forthe big chair in the sala.I heard her sigh, and she must have shuddered too whenshe thought of U ltima living alone in the loneliness of thewide llano. My mother was not a woman of the llano, shewas the daughter of a farmer. She could not see beauty in thellano and she could not understand the coarse men who livedhalf their lifetimes on horseback. After I was born in LasPasturas she persuaded my father to leave the llano and bringher family to the town of Guadalupe where she said therewould be opportunity and school for us. The move loweredmy father in the esteem of his compadres, the other vaquerosof the llano who clung tenaciously to their way of life andfreedom. There was no room to keep animals in town so myfather had to sell his small herd, but he would not sell hishorse so he gave it to a good friend, Benito Campos. ButCampos could not keep the animal penned up because some how the horse was very close to the spirit of the man, and sothe horse was allowed to roam free and no vaquero on thatllano would throw a lazo on that horse. It was as if someonehad died, and they turned their gaze from the spirit thatwalked the earth.

Bless Me, Ultima3It hurt my father's pride. He saw less and less of his oldc o m p ad res. He went to work on t h e highway and o nSaturdays after they collected their pay h e drank with hiscrew at the Longhorn, but he was never close to the men ofthe town. Some weekends the llaneros would come into townfor supplies and old amigos like Bonney or Campos or theGonzales brothers would come by to visit. Then my father'seyes lit up as they drank and talked of the old days and toldthe old stories. But when the western sun touched the cloudswith orange and gold the vaqueros got in their trucks andheaded home, and my father was left to drink alone in thelong night. Sunday morning he would get up very crudo andcomplain about having to go to early mass."-She served the people all her life, and now the peopleare scattered, driven like twnbleweeds by the winds of war.The war sucks everything dry," my father said solemnly, "ittakes the young boys overseas, and their families move toCalifornia where there is work-""Ave Maria Purisima," my mother made the sign of thec r o s s for my three br others who w e r e away at w a r ."Gabriel," she said to m y father, " i t i s n o t right that IaGrande be alone in her old age-""No," my father agreed."When I married you and went to the llano to live withyou and raise your family, I could not have survived withoutIa Grande's help. Oh, those were hard years-""Those were good years," my father countered. But mymother would not argue."There isn't a family she did not help," she continued, "noroad was too long for her to walk to its end to snatch some body from the jaws of death, and not even the blizzards ofthe llano could keep her from the appointed place where ababy was to be delivered-""Es verdad," my father nodded."She tended me at the birth of my sons-" And then Iknew her eyes glanced briefly at my father. "Gabriel, wecannot let her live her last days in loneliness-""No," my father agreed, "it is not the way of our people."

Rudolfo Anaya4" I t would be a great honor to provide a home for l aGrande," m y mother murmured. M y mother called Ultima l aGrande out of respect. I t meant the woman was old and wise."I have already sent word with Campos that Ultima is tocome and live with us," my father said with some satisfac tion. He knew it would please my mother."I am grateful," my mother said tenderly, "perhaps we canrepay a l i ttle of the kindness Ia Grande has given to somany.""And the children?" my father asked. I knew why heexpressed concern for me and my sisters. It was becauseUltima was a curandera, a woman who knew the herbs andremedies of the ancients, a miracle-worker who could healthe sick. And I had heard that Ultima could l ift the curseslaid by brujas, that she could exorcise the evil the witchesplanted in people to make them sick. And because a curan dera had this power she was misunderstood and often sus pected of practicing witchcraft herself.I shuddered and my heart turned cold at the thought. Thecuentos of the people were full of the tales of evil done bybrujas."She helped bring them into the world, she cannot be butgood for the children," my mother answered."Esta bien," my father yawned, "I will go for her in themorning."So it was decided that Ultima should come and live withus. I knew that my father and mother did good by providinga home for Ultima. It was the custom to provide for the oldand the sick. There was always room in the safety andwarmth of Ia familia for one more person, be that pe rsonstranger or friend.It was warm in the attic, and as I lay quietly listening tothe sounds of the house falling asleep and repeating a HailMary over and over in my thoughts, I drifted into the time ofdreams. Once I had told my mother about my dreams, andshe said they were visions from God and she was happy,because her own dream was that I should grow up and

Bless Me, Ultima5become a priest. After that I did not tell her about mydreams, and they remained in me forever and ever . .In my dream I flew over the rolling hills of the llano. Mysoul wandered over the dark plain until it came to a clusterof adobe huts. I recognized the village of Las Pasturas andmy heart grew happy. One mud hut had a lighted window,and the vision of my dream swept me towards it to be witnessat the birth of a baby.I could not make out the face of the mother who restedfrom the pains of birth, but I could see the old woman inblack who tended the just-arrived, steaming baby. She nim bly tied a knot on the cord that had connected the baby to itsmother's blood. then quickly she bent and with her teeth shebit off the loose end. She wrapped the squirming baby andlaid it at the mother's side. then she returned to cleaning thebed. All linen was swept aside to be washed, but she care fully wrapped the useless cord and the afterbirth and laid thepackage at the feet of the Virgin on the small altar. I sensedthat these things were yet to be delivered to someone.Now the people who had waited patiently in the dark wereallowed to come in and speak to the mother and deliver theirgifts to the baby. I recognized my mother's brothers, myuncles from El Puerto de los Lunas. They entered ceremoni ously. A patient hope stirred in their dark, brooding eyes.This one will be a Luna, the old man said, he will be a·farmer and keep our customs and traditions. Perhaps Godwill bless our family and make the baby a priest.And to show their hope they rubbed the dark earth of theriver valley on the baby's forehead, and they surrounded thebed with the fruits of their harvest so the small room smelledof fresh green chile and corn , ripe apples and peaches,pumpkins and green beans.Then the silence was shattered with the thunder of hoof beats; vaqueros surrounded the small house with shouts andgunshots, and when they entered the room they were laugh ing and singing and drinking.Gabriel, they shouted, you have a fine son! He will make afine vaquero! And they smashed the fruits and vegetables

Rudo/fo Anaya6that surrounded the bed and replaced them with a saddle,horse blankets, bottles of whiskey, a new rope, bridles, cha pas, and an old guitar. And they rubbed the stain of earthfrom the baby's forehead because man was not to be tied tothe earth but free upon it.These were the people of my father, the vaqueros of thellano. They were an exuberant, restless people , wanderingacross the ocean of the plain.We must return to our valley, the old' man who led thefarmers spoke. We must take with us the blood that comesafter the birth. We will bury it in our fields to renew theirfertility and to assure that the baby will follow our ways. Henodded for the old woman to deliver the package at the altar.No! the 1/aneros protested, it will stay here! We will burnit and let the winds of the llano scatter the ashes.It is blasphemy to scatter a man's blood on unholyground, the farmers chanted. The new son must fulfill hismother's dream. He must come to El Puerto and rule overthe Lunas of the valley. The blood of the Lunas is strong inhim.He is a Marez, the vaqueros shouted. His forefathers wereconquistadores, men as restless as the seas they sailed andas free as the land they conquered. He is his father's blood!Curses and threats filled the air, pistols were drawn, andthe opposing sides made ready for battle. But the clash wasstopped by the old woman who delivered the baby.Cease!