What relationship exists between reality and imagination in the novel? In what ways does Anaya blend culture and creativity in order to represent the universal experience of growing up in his novel Bless Me, Ultima?
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Anaya uses his novel to introduce the reader to several conflicting cultures in Antonio’s childhood. First of all, Antonio’s early life is defined by the conflict between the Luna and the Marez, the two sides of his family. While the Luna are devout farmers who worship the earth and the moon, the Marez are free-spirited cowboys who are devoted to horses and the sun. Because Antonio’s three older brothers have already chosen the roaming life of the Marez, Antonio is expected to follow the path of the Luna and become a priest. However, Antonio is unwilling to make a decision either way and feels a great deal of pressure weighing on his destiny. Eventually, Ultima teaches Antonio that identity can be a combination of cultures and that he does not have to pick one side of the family to follow.
Another cultural conflict is emphasized through the tensions between Antonio’s life at home and life at school. At home, Antonio speaks only Spanish and follows the cultural expectations with which he has grown up. When Antonio goes to school, he is forced to experience the English-speaking academic world of the rest of the United States. He must learn to speak English and interact with children who are not from the same culture as he is. Although Antonio’s mother is extremely proud of his opportunity to learn English, Antonio finds that his schoolmates are less accepting of his own culture.
Antonio ultimately learns that he is able to accept elements of every culture when he creates his own identity and follows his own path to adulthood. Ultima assures him that not every type of faith is mutually exclusive, and Antonio is able to use the same lesson in dealing with the conflicting cultures in his life.