precocious protagonist of Bless Me, Ultima
is six years old at the beginning of the novel. Antonio is serious,
thoughtful, and prone to moral questioning, and his experiences
force him to confront difficult issues that blur the lines between
right and wrong. He turns to both pagan and Christian ideologies
for guidance, but he doubts both traditions. With Ultima’s help,
Antonio makes the transition from childhood to adolescence and begins
to make his own choices and to accept responsibility for their consequences.
Gabriel and María Márez
Antonio’s parents, whose frequently conflicting views
make it difficult for Antonio to accept either of their belief systems.
María, the devoutly Catholic daughter of a farmer, wants Antonio
to follow her Luna family tradition by becoming a priest. Gabriel is
the son of vaqueros, or cowboys, and he prefers that Antonio follow
the Márez tradition of restless wandering across the llano, or plains.
Both parents love and revere Ultima.
elderly curandera, a healer endowed with the spiritual power of
her ancestors. Ultima is a wise, complex, mysterious character.
Ultima’s power is often misunderstood and feared by the community.
Many people refer to her as a bruja, or witch. Even Antonio is confused
about the moral nature of Ultima’s power—no one knows if she is
truly a witch. Ultima is a firm believer in tolerance and understanding,
however, and she teaches Antonio that different belief systems can offer
equally valid ways of understanding the world.
in-depth analysis of Ultima.
town drunk. Narciso is good friends with Gabriel because they both
share a deep and passionate love for the llano. Narciso demonstrates
a strong appreciation for the richness of the earth—his garden is
a lush masterpiece full of sweet vegetables and fruits. Narciso respects
and loves Ultima deeply. Tenorio kills him because he supports Ultima.
Tenorio Trementina and his three daughters
Tenorio is a malicious saloon-keeper and barber in
El Puerto. His three daughters perform a black mass and place a
curse on Lucas Luna. Tenorio detests Ultima because she lifts the
curse on Lucas. Soon after she does so, one of Tenorio’s daughters
dies. Hot-tempered and vengeful, Tenorio spends the rest of the
novel plotting Ultima’s death, which he finally achieves by killing
her owl familiar, her spiritual guardian.
of Antonio’s closer friends. Unlike most of Antonio’s friends, he
is quiet and gentle. Cico exposes Antonio to yet another belief
system when he takes Antonio to see the golden carp, a pagan god
who lives in the river.
of Antonio’s friends. Although Florence does not believe in God,
he attends catechism to be with his friends. Florence’s active,
vocal questioning of Catholic orthodoxy is partly a result of his
own difficult past; both of Florence’s parents are dead, and his
sisters have become prostitutes. Florence shows Antonio that the Catholic
Church is not perfect and that religion can fail.
Antonio’s friends: Abel, Bones, Ernie,
Horse, Lloyd, Red, and the Vitamin Kid
exuberant group of boys who frequently curse and fight. Horse loves
to wrestle, but everyone fears Bones more because he is reckless and
perhaps even crazy. Ernie is a braggart who frequently teases Antonio.
The Vitamin Kid is the fastest runner in Guadalupe. Red is a Protestant,
so he is often teased by the other boys. Lloyd enjoys reminding
everyone that they can be sued for even the most minor offenses.
Abel, the smallest boy in the group, frequently urinates in inappropriate
war veteran who has been deeply mentally affected by the war. After
Lupito murders Chávez’s brother, the local sheriff, in one of his
deranged moments, Lupito is killed by a mob in front of young Antonio.
Lupito’s death provides the impetus for Antonio’s serious moral and
Andrew, Eugene, and León Márez
Antonio’s older brothers. For most of Antonio’s
childhood, his brothers are fighting in World War II. When they
return home, they suffer post-traumatic stress as a result of the
war. Restless and depressed, they all eventually leave home to pursue
independent lives, crushing Gabriel’s dream of moving his family
Deborah and Theresa Márez
Antonio’s older sisters. Most of the time, they play
with dolls and speak English, a language Antonio does not begin
to learn until he attends school.
Antonio’s uncles: Juan, Lucas, Mateo,
and Pedro Luna
are farmers. They struggle with Gabriel to lay a claim to Antonio’s
future. They want him to become a farmer or a priest, but Gabriel
wants Antonio to be a vaquero in the Márez tradition. Antonio’s
uncles are quiet and gentle, and they plant their crops by the cycle
of the moon.
Catholic priest who gives catechism lessons to Antonio and his friends.
He is a stern priest with hypocritical and unfair policies. He punishes
Florence for the smallest offenses because Florence challenges the
Catholic orthodoxy, but he fails to notice, and perhaps even ignores,
the misbehavior of the other boys. Rather than teach the children
to understand God, he prefers to teach them to fear God.
is the father of Antonio’s friend Jasón. He leads a mob to find
Lupito after Lupito kills Chávez’s brother, the local sheriff. He
forbids Jasón to visit an Indian who lives near the town, but Jasón
of Antonio’s friends. He disobeys his father when he continues to
visit an Indian who lives near the town, but Jasón disobeys him.
Jasón Chávez’s Indian
A friend of Jasón’s who is disliked by Jasón’s father.
Cico tells Antonio that the story of the golden carp originally
comes from the Indian.
The father of María and her brothers. He is a quiet
man who prefers not to become involved in other peoples’ conflicts.
When Tenorio declares an all out war against Ultima, he does not
want his sons to get involved, even though Ultima saved Lucas’s
first-grade teacher. Although Antonio does not speak English well,
Miss Maestas recognizes his bright spark of intelligence. Under
her tutelage, Antonio unlocks the secrets of words. She promotes him
to the third grade at the end of the year.
woman who runs the local brothel. Antonio has a deep fear of the
brothel because it represents sin. He is devastated when he finds
out that his brother Andrew frequents it.
of Antonio’s closer friends. He is also the Vitamin Kid’s brother.
Unlike most of Antonio’s friends, Samuel is gentle and quiet. He
tells Antonio about the golden carp.
of Gabriel’s friends. He challenges Tenorio when Tenorio speaks
badly of Ultima. Not long afterward, a curse is laid on his home.
Ultima agrees to lift the curse, explaining that Téllez’s grandfather
once hanged three Comanche Indians for raiding his flocks. Ultima performs
a Comanche funeral ceremony on Téllez’s land, and ghosts cease to
haunt his home.
Ultima’s teacher was also known as el hombre volador,
or “the flying man.” He gave her the owl that became her spirit
familiar, her guardian. He told her to do good works with her powers
but to avoid interfering with a person’s destiny. The invocation
of his name inspires awe and respect among the people who have heard
about his legendary powers.
third-grade teacher. She does not speak Spanish.