In the book
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Magic realism is a mixture of magical elements with the real world. Symbols such as the golden carp, Ultima’s owl and the Virgin of Guadalupe serve to add meaning to the story through a sense of myth and the magical.
The combination of myths with Catholicism is a direct result of the colonization of New Mexico by Spanish colonists. As the colonist communities began to blend with the communities of Native Americans, the result was an amalgamation of cultures in which these myths maintained their importance alongside Catholic doctrine.
The myth of the Golden Carp, in particular, outlines a new set of beliefs for Antonio that he had never considered before. Although these beliefs initially seem to conflict with his Catholic upbringing, Antonio grows to realize that the Golden Carp simply offers a different perspective to the world than Catholicism. Neither is better than the other, but a combination of both is the way to find a satisfying faith. In the same way, Ultima’s explanation of the spirit in the natural world and the presence of the river allow Antonio to gain a broader scope of understanding.