The Winds Which Stir Antonio
Though it does not play the most important role in Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, wind does play a significant part in the story. Throughout this coming of age story, important changes become predictable through the wind. This symbol is used as both a foreshadowing tool, as well as a metaphor. When Anaya, mentions “wind,” the reader can rest assured that the story’s protagonist, Antonio is about to experience an event that will leave an impression on his soul. The type of wind that Antonio speaks of can also predict the nature of such events. The winds that stir Antonio strip away his innocence and help him to realize that he is in control of his destiny. They lead to spiritual growth and understanding. These winds gave Antonio a deeper understanding and knowledge than his peers.
In the first chapter, Anaya refers to the wind on two different occasions. The first is during the birth of Antonio, when his parents’ families feuded over the future of the newborn. However, when Antonio first meets Ultima, Anaya uses the wind in a more significant manner. To Antonio, this meeting was the beginning of the changes that were to come. He says, “She took my hand, and I felt the power of a whirlwind sweep around me” [italics mine] (12). From this point on, Antonio began to see the world in a new and exciting way.
Unfortunately, the winds in Bless Me, Ultima do not always bring forth enjoyable changes for the young boy. Though the wind brings changes that cause positive spiritual growth, they tend to do so in a more ominous manner. In chapter six, Antonio describes the dark, evil power of the wind or dust devils. All of Antonio’s acquaintances know the unnatural, evil power of these vicious winds; therefore, they ward the devils off with “the sign of the cross.” Out of curiosity, Antonio purposely does not ward off the dust devil and says after he was struck by the wicked wind, “its evil was left imprinted on my soul” (55). Afterward, Antonio takes his first step toward losing his innocence. He now enters school where he begins his long, tumultuous quest of learning.
More innocence is lost as Antonio’s family learns of a curse that has been put on an uncle, Lucas. He had happened upon the Trementia sisters, known witches, celebrating their black mass. During this encounter, the wind was dreary and cold, which gives a sense of death. The winds are just as menacing as Pedro, Antonio, and Ultima travel to free Lucas from his curse. All around the trio, a brutal dust storm violently rips through the landscape. The skies are dark. This gives the reader with an impending sense of doom and wickedness. The events that followed signified an important turning point in Antonio’s life. This was when Antonio first began to question God and his faith. Antonio could not understand how Ultima had the power to free Lucas from his curse, but God did not. This moment caused a struggle between faith and magic that would follow Antonio throughout the book. Another important event that lead to significant change and reinforced the struggle between magic and faith was the death of Narciso. Before his death, Narciso challenged the blizzard, or, in order to warn his friend, Ultima, of Tenorio’s threat on her life. This cold, fierce, blinding north wind was symbolic for the death that was soon to follow. However the death that coincided with the blizzard was not only the death of Antonio’s friend, but also the symbolic death of his admiration of his older brother Andrew.
Though other winds blow throughout the book, the winds in the final chapter bring an end to this particular journey in Antonio’s life. The winds here bring forth peace and clarity. His father, for the first time, allows Antonio to be free to choose his future. He tells the young boy that he is descended from people “who held the wind as brother, because he is free” (247). His father goes on to tell him that his mother is from the earth and the two are often “at odds” with one another. Furthermore, the final winds in Bless Me, Ultima are mournful and serene, and they are even found in Ultima’s final words. She tells Antonio he will be able to find her in the gentle winds of the evening (261). This final change and final mention of the wind had brought Antonio closer to maturity than his peers. It left him stripped from his innocence and in control of his future.
Anaya, Rudolfo. Bless Me, Ultima. New York: Grand Central, 1972.