“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” (Reinhold Niebuhr). In the novel Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya, a young boy name Antonio Marez has faith to go through his childhood life to perceive in learning new aspects and independence in Catholicism in which he goes in the real world in order to create and establish new ideas and acknowledge himself into adulthood. Through the use of religious symbolism that connects to different cultural beliefs, the author, Rudolfo Anaya seeks to explain how New Mexico’s cultures can combine with each other to create a new culture with combined religious beliefs using knowledge.
Antonio discovers more about the Lunas and how it relates to him and the world he is living in while also appreciating the Virgin of Guadalupe and the religious beliefs he has for the Catholic Church. Not only that, but also becoming a true believer and having struggles going through understanding religion as the golden carp appears. Anaya does this in order to compare and contrast New Mexico with Antonio’s rite of passage into adulthood and with the growth of others during World War II. The golden carp and the Virgin of Guadalupe are two different cultures, while the moon is the one that explain who Antonio really is.
The Spanish word for Luna is the moon, which is representing The Virgin Guadalupe and the Virgin Mary in the Catholicism religion. In this novel, the moon shows up frequently expressing wisdom and how it relates to Antonio and the land he is living on. Not only that but also how it relates to the Luna of his family. For example, Antonio goes to his uncle’s house and hears stories about the power of the moon because “…the moon ruled… almost every part of their lives.” This is the reason why they are called the Lunas. At night, the moon would fill “the valley with her soft light… listening to the resting earth” (pg. 264).The land of the Lunas was once called El Puerto, which is a Spanish word meaning doorway. The quote “El Puerto de los Lunas” defines as the doorway of the moon, which is leading the way to the Virgin Mary. Los Puerto can be used for the characteristics of a men and women also known as feminine and masculine describing the moon.
When Antonio learns about the moon and its power, he gets a better understanding of Lunas which makes him stronger and it pushes him to grow into his adulthood as he learns more about the land he is living in. Anaya combines feminine and masculine to describe the moon involving other cultures as of an example of the Virgin Mary into the Catholic culture using religious symbolism and the symbol of moon during World War II in New Mexico. Since Antonio is a Luna, he is part of the moon culture. Not only that, the Virgin Mary is also part of the moon goddess and the Catholic culture meaning that the Virgin Mary is also part of Antonio’s religion. The mother of Antonio is named Luna. Luna, meaning moon, worships The Virgin of Guadalupe. There are many cultures Antonio is part of, and The Virgin of Guadalupe is one of them which is important to Antonio.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is the goddess and righteousness that looks over and protects others, especially the Lunas. In this novel, Antonio has many things on his mind as the Virgin of Guadalupe is the forgiveness and mercy that looks over and protects Antonio as he finds out the world he is living in between his mother and his father. For example, Antonio’s mother explains to Antonio how the Virgin brought miracles. She tells him “…the Virgin was the saint…” and “loved none as dearly as the Virgin…” As Antonio felt as if he, “was looking at a real person, the mother of God, the last relief of all sinners…” (pg. 47).Antonio believes that the Virgin of Guadalupe is more loving than God. Saints have the power to perform miracles, so the Virgin of Guadalupe is the Saint that Antonio loves the most because of its miracles and loving power.
The Luna family from the mother side is quiet people, so the Virgin of Guadalupe relates to them and to the culture they are since the Virgin of Guadalupe is quite. There is a reason why the Virgin of Guadalupe is forgiving, quiet, and peaceful. Antonio’s family are Catholic and so is the Virgin of Guadalupe, so worshiping her is what the Marez and Luna family do. The Virgin of Guadalupe is a way to help and protect Antonio in the world he is living in. Since Antonio appreciates the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Virgin is going to appreciate Antonio. Antonio views the Virgin as an ameliorating in the world he is living in since he is living in two worlds, the Lunas and the Marez. This way, Antonio can grow into his adulthood and decide if he should be a quiet farmer like a Luna or become a priest since he worships and appreciates the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Anaya combines the symbolism of the moon and religious symbolism of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Antonio’s life and the world he is living in to describe the combination of the Catholicism of his mother and indigenous of his father during World War II in New Mexico. In the world Antonio is living in, there are many cultural and religious beliefs. The Catholicism culture Antonio believes in and the Virgin of Guadalupe he loves and appreciates for the protection; the golden carp is another god seen by a true believer. Antonio believes in God and the Virgin of Guadalupe, but does that mean he can change or combine his religious beliefs as he grows into his adulthood.
The golden carp, a god, represents a Pagan religion and the struggle Antonio is going through in understanding religion. Antonio does not want to acknowledge any other God other than the god of Catholicism; however, Cico tells Antonio the story of the golden carp. Antonio responds that he is “Catholic”… and “can believe only in the God of the Church.” (pg. 112). The golden carp is another god that can only be seen by a true believer and Antonio does eventually see the golden carp. He ruled when the humans were destroyed for their sins. The golden carp lives in the water and rules the blue lakes in New Mexico. The reason why Antonio does not want to believe in the golden carp is because he only believes in the God in Catholicism, which makes him a true believer and a priest in the Catholicism religion.
Cico was able to let Antonio see the golden carp by making a commandment and was swearing, which he never did before because if he brakes the swear then it would be a sin. Antonio’s mother wants him to become a priest while Ultima wants him to become a man of learning. Believing in the golden carp would not make him a priest because he would be believing in the wrong god, but he will be a man of learning since he is learning new gods. Antonio is a good person and is acting like a priest, just like what his mother wants him to be. He is telling Cico that he only believes in the God of the church, as for Cico, he only believes in the god of the golden carp. Since Antonio is from the Catholicism religion and the golden carp is from the Pagan religion, it makes Antonio struggle going through understanding religion.
This makes Antonio struggle in going into adulthood since he is learning new religions and does not know which one he should believe in. So instead of making Antonio a priest, he might as well become a man of learning. Anaya uses the golden carp as a symbol of Pagan religion to show the struggle Antonio is having in the world he is living in. There are many religions, gods, and cultures that Antonio has to choose and believe in order to grow into his adulthood during World War II in New Mexico with the family he is living with. There are many religions Antonio learns and does not know if he should believe in it or no. Since he is Catholic, it is important for him to believe what he really is such as the Virgin of Guadalupe instead of the golden carp, as he is a Luna, the moon, and a Marez, the sea.
The author, Rudolfo Anaya, expresses New Mexico’s cultures and Antonio’s culture in order to discover or create a new culture. Antonio learns more about the Lunas and how it relates to him and the world he is living in while appreciating the Virgin of Guadalupe and the religious beliefs he has for the Catholic Church. Not only that, but also becoming a true believer and having struggles going through understanding religion as the golden carp appears. Anaya ends up showing Antonio’s rite of passage into adulthood in New Mexico during World War II. Antonio Marez starts to learn more aspects about religion and Catholicism in the real world in order to create new ideas. Antonio goes into his life to change the ideas he can to understand the wisdom of religion that God seeks in order to know the difference.
Courtney from Study Moose
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