Rudolpho Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima: A Mestizaje Education

Lauren M. P. Derby


Winner of the second Premio Quinto Sol Prize-a writing award created to aid in the valorization of Mexican-American literature-Rudolopho Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima remains one of the most iconographic examples of Chican@ literature. This essay focuses on the diverse but intersecting educations essential to the development of the novel's young protagonist, Tony. His more formal education-an academic education which stands as a stepping stone to upper class mobility-combines tutelage in English studies with Tony's high church catechism. His informal, coming-of-age education-largely facilitated by the curandera (or spiritualist) Ultima and the tragedies Tony witnesses-centers on the folkloric and mystical, and draws Tony toward the indigenous and its associated lower class position. The tension created by the intersection of Tony's two "educations" and their associated religious and class elements will be examined as metonymic for the hybrid inheritance of the Chican@ people. In addition to a close analysis of Bless Me, Ultima, the scope of the essay will include a comparative glance at the religious and class tensions we seen in the Catholic education and class ascension of the narrator of The Education of Richard Rodriguez, a memoir often perceived as traitorous to the Chican@ community. Rodriguez's "Anglicization" will be compared with the "Indigenization" of Tony, a figure heralded by the Chican@ literary community as an honorable, even ideal, example of the Latin@ hero.


Chican@; Hybridity; Bildungsroman

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Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature