I found this short interview with Rudolfo Anaya, author of Bless Me, Ultima, very interesting; it reveals many of the traits of Anaya’s childhood and personality that influenced the novel beyond his “culture, traditions, and history”. He came from a background of oral storytelling, which I believe greatly influences Bless Me, Ultima. The nature of Antonio’s remembrances of Ultima feel like the stuff of legends passed orally from generation to generation, retaining the air of myth while being presented in a first person narrative.
Similar to Antonio not being exposed to the English Language until he went to school, Anaya was not introduced to the “magic of words” until entering school, for he had no books at home. Once he began to read, he became immersed in mystery novels featuring young protagonists, such as The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.
I believe the content of these novels also influenced his story. Like Bless Me, Ultima, Nancy and the boys are children thrust into mysterious situations and forced to make conclusive decisions through reasoning. Though Antonio is not out to solve a mystery, he is grappling with very mysterious things such as religion, destiny, and magic, and must make up his mind about what it all means. The darkness of mystery novels could have also been an influence on the gothic nature of Bless Me, Ultima, as both genres incorporate the unknown, the grittiness of life, and a sort of “spookiness.”
Anaya also states that Antonio is a version of his childhood self and that they share many similarities. I immediately remembered Antonio’s introspective nature and eloquent detailing of his life and thought that he would make a wonderful writer as well. Then, near the end of the interview, Anaya suggests that the novel was meant to have an open ending so that the reader could guess what Antonio chose to be; he then quipped, “Maybe he became a writer!”