Antonio is six years old at the beginning of the novel. He is at the center of a conflict between the Márez values of his father and the Luna beliefs of his mother; while his father would like him to become a cowboy, his mother desperately wants him to become a priest. He works as an apprentice to Ultima, absorbing her wisdom about life and learning the characteristics and names of herbs and plants she uses in his work. Over the course of the novel, Antonio experiences several tragedies that make him question the meaning of sin and morality and the truth of religion. Eventually, he determines to find his own path in life and create his own religious faith.
Ultima is the elderly curandera, or healer, who comes to live with the Márez family at the invitation of Antonio’s mother. She learned her powers from a great healer called the Flying Man in Las Pasturas. Although Ultima is ultimately good, she is greatly feared by those who do not understand her power and is accused of being a bruja, or witch. She teaches Antonio her wisdom about life and her faith in the power of the earth and the river. She is represented by an owl that contains her spirit.
Gabriel is Antonio’s father who wants his son to follow in his footsteps and spend his days roaming the llano on horseback. After Antonio was born, Maria convinced Gabriel to leave his life on the llano and move the family to the town of Guadalupe for the chance at a new life. Although Gabriel tried to please his wife, he was unable to rid himself of his love for the llano. He takes a job on the highway, but loses the respect of the other vaqueros and develops a serious drinking problem. While Maria constantly pressures Antonio to become a priest, Gabriel never tries to persuade his son to become a vaquero but only wants him to make his own choices. His one remaining dream is to move to California, the “land of milk and honey,” but his dream never becomes a reality.
Maria Luna y Márez
Antonio’s mother and a close friend of Ultima’s. She is the daughter of farmers from El Puerto de los Lunas. Devoutly Catholic, she desperately wants Antonio to become a priest of the Luna instead of a vaquero like his father.
Andrew “Andy” Márez
Andrew is the second son of Gabriel and Maria, has a special relationship with Antonio. He returns from World War II and stays behind in Guadalupe when his other brothers leave with the intention of studying for his high school diploma. However, Andrew is unable to maintain his goal and begins to yearn to leave. Andrew forever changes Antonio’s idealized perception of him when Antonio observes Andrew at Rosie’s with a prostitute. Instead of helping Narciso protect Ultima from Tenorio, Andrew chooses to remain with the prostitute, and Narciso ends up dying because of it. After Eugene and León return from Las Vegas, Andrew quits his job at Allen’s Market and move to Santa Fe with them.
Eugene “Gene” Márez
Eugene is the third son of Gabriel and Maria and the leader of the three older boys. He fights overseas in World War II with his two brothers and returns to Guadalupe, anxious to start a new life in a new city. After spending his war pension at the pool hall of Guadalupe with his brothers, he moves to Las Vegas with León. Eventually, he and León return home during a blizzard and take Andrew to Santa Fe with them.
León is Antonio’s eldest brother. He also fights in World War II and, suffering from the “war sickness,” has terrible nightmares of war. He and Eugene leave together to seek their fortune in Las Vegas and return to Guadalupe only to take Andrew to Santa Fe with them.
Deborah is Antonio’s older sister. She has been studying at school for two years and prefers speaking English to speaking Spanish. Antonio’s mother fears that she has too much Márez blood in her.
Theresa is younger than Deborah and learns English from her. Theresa spends all of her time playing dolls with Deborah.
Narciso is known as the town drunk. He is close friends with Gabriel because they share a love for the llano. Maria also approves of Narciso, despite his drinking, because he helped her when she was giving birth to her daughters. Although Narciso is technically a vaquero, he is able to create a compromise between his cowboy mentality and the lifestyle of a Luna farmer and grows a beautiful garden outside of his house. Narciso also has a great deal of affection for Ultima and warns the Marez family whenever she is in danger. He is ultimately murdered by Tenorio because he tries to protect Ultima.
Tenorio Trementina is an evil saloon-keeper and barber who lives in El Puerto. His three daughters are witches who place a curse on Lucas Luna. After Ultima lifts the curse and Tenorio’s daughter begin to die, Tenorio swears to take revenge on Ultima. He spends the rest of the novel trying to murder her and kills Narciso when he gets in Tenorio’s way. Tenorio eventually succeeds in killing Ultima when he shoots her owl familiar. Tenorio’s hatred of Ultima highlights the conflict between good and evil that is present throughout the book.
The Trementina sisters
The three daughters of Tenorio are witches or brujas. They place a curse on Lucas Luna after he interrupts them while they are performing a Black Mass. After Ultima lifts the curse on Lucas Luna, the first Trementina sister falls sick and dies. Shortly afterwards, the second Trementina sister falls sick and dies, prompting Tenorio to attack Ultima.
Lupito is a war veteran suffering from the “war sickness.” In his insanity, he murders the sheriff of Guadalupe and is later shot to death by a mob beneath the town bridge while Antonio watches. Lupito’s murder is the first death that Antonio observes, and it has a profound affect on him, prompting his questions about death, sin, and morality for the rest of the book.
Téllez is a friend of Antonio’s father. He seeks Ultima’s help in alleviating the curse that is afflicting his home and family.
Cico is a friend of Antonio’s and takes him to visit the Golden Carp during the summer. He does not hang out with Antonio’s other friends and prefers to spend his time fishing alone. He tells Antonio the apocalyptic prophecy of the Golden Carp and the legend of the mermaids who live in the Hidden Lakes.
Florence is one of Antonio’s friends. Florence is an atheist because he cannot reconcile the injustices in the world with a loving and compassionate God. The primary reason for his atheism is his difficult background: his mother died when she was three, his father drank himself to death, and both of his sisters work as prostitutes in Rosie’s brothel. He still attends catechism but only so that he can be with his friends. Although Antonio tries to argue against Florence’s cynicism, he is unable to deny Florence’s logical reasoning; Florence forces Antonio to acknowledge that every religion has flaws. Florence dies near the end of the book in a swimming accident.
Samuel is one of Antonio’s close friends. He seems to be very old and wise, and he tells Antonio the story of the Golden Carp.
Jasón is one of Antonio’s friends. He disobeys his father and continues to visit the Indian who lives in the hills near the town.
Horse, Red, Bones, Abel, Lloyd, Willie, the Vitamin Kid, Ernie, and others
Antonio’s classmates and friends. Horse has bad breath and loves to wrestle. Red is a Protestant and is teased by his friends because of it. Bones is the most intimidating of Antonio’s friends because he acts as if he is insane. Abel is the smallest of Antonio’s friend and has a tendency to urinate at inopportune times. The Vitamin Kid is the fastest runner in Guadalupe. He is Samuel’s brother, and no one knows his real name. Ernie loves to brag and constantly reminds his friends that they can be sued for any minor infraction.
Juan Luna is one of Antonio’s uncles who lives at El Puerto. He is very quiet and reserved like the other Luna farmers.
Mateo Luna is one of Antonio’s uncles who lives at El Puerto. He is the best story teller in the family.
Pedro Luna is Antonio’s favorite uncle. He teaches Antonio the ways of the Luna when Antonio spends the summer farming at El Puerto. Pedro shoots Tenorio when he is about to kill Antonio.
Lucas is the youngest of the Luna brothers. He is cursed by the Trementina sisters after observing them perform a Black Mass. Ultima cures him, and he swears to return the favor if she ever needs his help.
Prudencio Luna is Antonio’s grandfather on his mother’s side. He is very quiet and reserved and does not want his sons to become involved in the conflict between Tenorio and Ultima.
Father Byrnes gives Antonio and his friends their lessons in catechism to prepare them for their first communion. He is very stern and hypocritical and prefers that his students remain ignorant of God so that they will fear Him.
Rosie is the owner of the local brothel in town. All of Antonio’s brothers frequently visit the brothel, and Antonio experiences a great deal of personal anxiety about their lust and seeming immorality.
Chavéz is Jasón’s father and the brother of the sheriff who Lupito kills. He tells Gabriel Márez about the murder and rounds up a mob to hunt and kill Lupito. He does not approve of his son’s friendship with the Indian and orders Jasón to stop seeing him, an order which Jasón ignores.
Jasón Chavéz’s Indian
Jasón Chavéz’s Indian lives near the town. According to Cico, was the first person to tell him the story of the Golden Carp.
Miss Maestas is Antonio’s first grade teacher. Antonio excels in her class, and she promotes him to the third grade at the end of the year.
The Flying Man
The Flying Man, or “el hombre volador,” is Ultima’s teacher. He gave her the owl that became her familiar and the guardian of her spirit. His name still inspires respect among those who have heard of his power, and Ultima invokes his name to frighten Tenorio.
Miss Violet is Antonio’s third grade teacher and one of the organizers of the disastrous Christmas Play.
Benito is a good friend of Gabriel Marez's. When Gabriel moved to Guadalupe and gave up his vaquero life, Benito took Gabriel's horse and allowed it to roam free on the llano.
Bless Me, Ultima Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Bless Me, Ultima is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
On the way home from school, Antonio is confronted by an enraged Tenorio. The second of Tenorio’s three daughters is now dying, and Tenorio swears that he will kill Ultima. Antonio defends Ultima. Antonio is much more self-confidant and assertive....
So it was decided that Ultima should come and live with us. I knew that my father and mother did good by providing a home for Ultima. It was the custom to provide for the old and the sick. There was always room in the safety and...