As of 2012, Bless Me, Ultima has become the best-selling Chicano novel of all time. The New York Times, reports that Anaya is the most widely read author in Hispanic communities, and sales of his classic, Bless Me, Ultima (1972) have surpassed 360,000.
After Quinto Sol's initial publication of Bless Me, Ultima in 1972, critics by and large responded enthusiastically. The general consensus was that the novel provided Chicano literature with a new and refreshing voice. Scott Wood, writing for America Press, asserted:
This is a remarkable book, worthy not only of the Premio Quinto Sol literary award. . .but [also]. . . for its communication of tender emotion and powerful spirituality . . . ; for its eloquent presentation of Chicano consciousness in all its intriguing complexity; finally, for being an American novel which accomplishes a harmonious resolution, transcendent and hopeful.
By 1976, four years after Bless Me Ultima's initial publication, the new author was finding fans and fame among Chicano readers and scholars. He was in high demand as a speaker and the subject of numerous interviews primarily among journalists and publicists who were Chicanos or deeply interested in the development of Chicano literature. In the preface to his 1976 interview with Anaya reprinted in Conversations with Rudolfo Anaya (1998), Ishmael Reed states that, Bless Me Ultima, as of July 1, 1976, had sold 80,000 copies without a review in the major media.
For twenty-two years after the novel's initial publication (its only availability through a small publisher notwithstanding), the novel sold 300,000 copies primarily through word of mouth. In this period the novel generated the largest body of review, interpretation, and analysis of any work of Chicano Literature (p. 1). Finally in 1994, a major publisher (Grand Central Publishing) issued a mass-market edition of Bless Me, Ultima to rave reviews.
Terri Windling described the 1994 re-issue as "an important novel which beautifully melds Old World and New World folklore into a contemporary story".