Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Mexico Lit: Bless Me, Ultima

Bless Me, Ultima

This will be a short review.

Bless Me, Ultima, written by Rudolfo Anaya, is a New Mexican classic, even though it was only written in 1972. But it was about New Mexico in the 1940s, specifically as it pertained to some rural New Mexicans of Mexican descent.

I want to stress its specificity because the diversity of New Mexico is such that there are so many stories to tell. Imagine the myriad combinations one can create with these variables: 
  • Industry (agriculture, mining, arts, military, science)
  • Culture (Anglo, Mexican, Apache, Navajo, Pueblo, Zuñi, Spanish, Chinese ... )
  • Religion (how many flavors of just Catholicism alone are in New Mexico?)
  • Geography and climate (desert, plains, mountains)
  • Era (thousands of years ago, hundreds of years ago, decades ago, current)
  • Gender
  • History (personal, group)
  • Rural, urban
  • Socio-economic strata

New Mexico's heterogeneity is part of what makes it extraordinary.

But to return to Bless Me, Ultima: The story's mix of elements - magical realism, religion, desert, rural, Mexican, American, searching, a spiritual guide - I found myself unable to avoid comparisons with the images of Carlos Castaneda, whose books had a major impact on my adolescent imagination. (Never mind that Mr. Castaneda was most likely a charlatan and cult-like leader.) This comparison was unfair to Bless Me, Ultima, but there I was, regardless.

However, Marc Velasquez, a contributor to Chamber Four, loves the book, and so I offer you his review, in which he shares how the book affects him personally.


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