In two days we would celebrate the mass of the dead, and after mass we would take her body to the cemetery in Las Pasturas for burial. But all that would only be the ceremony that was prescribed by custom. Ultima was really buried here. Tonight.
As Antonio buries Ultima’s owl in Chapter 22, he decides that he is really burying Ultima as well. Antonio’s statement emphasizes the conflict between the practices of Catholicism and indigenous mysticism. The Catholic burial offers one view of death, and the mystical burial of the owl presents another. Now, instead of feeling that he has to choose between the two, Antonio accepts both views positively. He can look forward to “the ceremony that was prescribed by custom” without feeling as though he is betraying God by believing that the burial of the owl is more spiritually significant than a Catholic ceremony. He can draw from each tradition and, as Ultima has taught him, become a stronger, better person as a result.