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Bless Me, Ultima: Novel Summary: Chapter 10

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In the summer there is a crucial event in young Antonio's life. His uncle Lucas has been sick since the winter and is now dying. The local people believe that a bruja has put a curse on him. The story is that Lucas observed three witches performing a dance to the devil, and that was why  they cursed him. The witches are the daughters of a man named Tenorio.

Doctors cannot cure Lucas, and the priest's attempt to exorcise the curse has failed. The family therefore decides to ask Ultima for help. She insists on taking Antonio with her to effect the cure. When they arrive at the house, Ultima tells Antonio's grandfather that she can cure Lucas. They agree on a fee of forty dollars. But before she starts work, Ultima says she must confront Tenorio. She and Antonio go up the street to the saloon. Tenorio speaks aggressively to Ultima and tries to intimidate her. She demands that he tell his daughters to lift the curse. She knows how they did it. Tenorio is the town barber, and after he had cut Lucas's hair, Tenorio's daughters gathered up the cut hair and used it to create the curse. Tenorio threatens Ultima, but she stands her ground. She says the daughters will face consequences because they tampered with fate. She then leaves the saloon.

Back at the house, Ultima begins her cure. Lucas is thin and looks almost dead. Ultima bathes him. She tells Antonio that the cure will be difficult. She mixes up some herbs and roots and forces it down Lucas's throat. He groans in pain and convulses, but finally sleeps.

Ultima tells Antonio that good is always stronger than evil. Soon the evil daughters will be regretting what they did. Outside, they hear the sound of Ultima's owl as it attacks the marauding coyotes. But Antonio is confused. He wonders whether Ultima's magic is stronger than that of the doctors and the church, since they failed to cure his uncle.

Ultima gives Lucas more medicine, and Tony seems to feel his uncle's pain as if it were his own. He loses track of time. Eventually, the death spirit in his uncle is defeated, but he still has to vomit the evil spirit out of his body. Ultima makes three dolls out of clay that resemble three women and sticks pins in them. Finally, Lucas vomits green bile and a huge ball of hair. It is his own hair that was used to curse him. The curse has been defeated. The cure has taken three days.

Ultima wraps up the hair ball and the soiled linen, and takes it to the exact place where the curse was uttered and burns it.


This chapter is really the centerpiece of the book, since it brings into clear focus the theme of good magic versus evil magic. It shows the persistence of these pagan beliefs and practices alongside the Catholic Christianity  that dominates the Mexican-American community. The two belief systems are at least partially integrated, however, since the evil magic is considered in Christian thought to be the work of the Devil. But the "white magic" of Ultima is outside the Christian framework. Ultima does not perform her miracles in the name of Christ; the local church will not even allow the family to ask for Ultima's help. They do not want people to put their faith in a curandera, but only in the teachings of the church.


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