Bless Me Ultima is based on a sense of place. Anaya uses his childhood experiences in New Mexico to invite the readers into his world. Like a lot of people throughout the world, Antonio is in search of his own identity. Instead of going along with what his mother or father want for him, he feels conflicted and struggles with making his choice. The factors that guide his development are New Mexico, Catholicism, poverty, and his family’s heritage. All of these factors interact with one another and construct a unique dynamic environment that is as much of a character in the story as any of the people.
Guadalupe is a small town with dirt roads and poor people. The population is mainly Hispanic. The people are both religious and transgressive in that the town both has a Catholic Church, one of its largest buildings, and a brothel and saloons. Both the church and the brothel seem to represent two extremes and make me wonder if maybe the influence of both can be diminished if there were only more opportunities for education. Having grown up relatively poor (first generation immigrant but in the inner-city), I always felt shielded from poverty. Growing up, I never understood why being poor was supposed to be so bad and why everyone complained about it all the time. (And I grew up and lived much of my adult life below poverty level). But now I realize that it was because all I ever wanted to do was read and books at libraries were free. I think that religion tries to fill that gap for people, by bringing them spirituality, but if it just expands its book collection, so to speak, to more than one book it would be much more effective at filling the void.