In the story Bless Me, Ultima, Antonio was faced with several cultural conflicts that influenced his moral compass and cultural identity. First, he is faced with a cultural conflict between his mother and father’s aspirations for his destiny. His mother, who came from a family of farmers and known as men of the people, wanted Antonio to pursue a future life as a priest. While his father, who came from a family of cowboys and rode the llano to find new discoveries wanted Antonio to follow in his footsteps. These conflicting views between his parents made Antonio struggle to find his future identity.
Similarly, I grappled with the same battle as a child. My mother, who was an allopathic medical practitioner wanted me to pursue medicine, while my father, who was a chemical engineer wanted me to become an engineer. Just like Antonio had learned from Ultima, this was an element I had to decide for myself. I found out through experiences in life that my passion for science, the human body, and the desire to prolong and save people’s lives, ultimately made my decision to pursue medicine. Another ultural conflict Antonio faced was between his Spanish- speaking self and his English-speaking schoolmates.
Throughout his life, he has followed the Spanish culture of his family, who mainly spoke Spanish in their home. His first day of school, he notices that his English-speaking schoolmates were not used to his language when he spoke Spanish in front of the class. During lunch, he gets humiliated again when he unpacked his lunch filled with “hot beans and green Chile wrapped in tortillas”, which differed from the sandwiches his schoolmates brought for lunch and were accustomed to. Antonio quickly realizes his schoolmates were less accepting of his culture.
He learns to accept these cultural differences by learning to speak English and adapting to his environment. I understood this cultural conflict completely since I had a similar experience when I came to Los Angeles, California at the age of seven from the Philippines. My first day as a third grader, I was humiliated by my schoolmates because I spoke little English with a strong accent and was different from all of them. Like Antonio, I learned to accept my differences and adapted to my nvironment by learning how to speak English and hanging out with students, who were similar to my culture.
The third cultural conflict was between the Golden Carp and Antonio’s Catholicism. The Golden Carp symbolizes the beliefs of the Native American Indians, who were rewarded with a residence and a lifetime supply of food for being faithful to their God, except for eating the golden carp. After countless years of no rain and hunger, the Indians finally ate the golden carp in order to survive. Their Gods were insulted and sought to destroy all he people, but one God asked for forgiveness, which resulted in the Gods turning the people into carps and sparing their lives.
Antonio realizes that the golden carp provided a different belief compared to his own Catholic religion, but similar due to both stories containing sin, punishment, and forgiveness. Furthermore, he realizes that there is a possibility to have more the one god and a different belief system. Since I am a Catholic just like Antonio, this conflict opened up my eyes to a different belief that contained other Gods and similar elements of beying rules and being accountable for one’s actions.
The fourth cultural conflict was between believers and a nonbeliever of Catholicism. Antonio and his friends were believers in the teachings of God due to their Spanish Culture of Catholicism. On the other hand, Florence was a non-believer of God due to God’s inability to save his parent’s death and his sister from their sinful act, which made him believe that God did not exist. Antonio realizes from this conflict that individuals act based on their own experiences and Florence was not a believer based on virtuous reasons.
He further exemplifies this knowledge by courageously defending for what he believes was right by forgiving Florence, for not believing in God and accepting the physical punishment he received from his friends. I learned from this conflict that making the right decisions in life involves knowledge from other cultures and the courage to defend and stand up for what I believe in. The final cultural conflict Antonio faced was between the Indigenous culture of Ultima’s folklore and his Spanish culture of Catholicism. Ultima’s folklore was the belief in herbal medicine and white magic.
On the other hand, Catholicism contradicted to this view, as they believed only in the God of the church and their view in magic as witchcraft. An example of this conflict was when Antonio witnessed that Ultima was the only one who could heal Uncle Lucas from the evil curse of Tenorio’s daughters by using her magical herbs and discovered that no doctor or priest was able to revive him. Furthermore, this conflict was illustrated by the town’s Catholic culture when Tenorio and the townsmen were quick to accuse Ultima of evil witchcraft due to the death of Tenorio’s daughters, ven though they have witnessed Ultima save a life.
Although Ultima has a divided perspective in the society’s view consisting of one side being a curandera and the other side a bruja, she still encompasses the qualities of an admirable mentor discussed by student doctors Neal and Sharma. They mentioned that Ultima is a character that impacted them the most because she is a “guiding light, a comforter, a protector, and a moral educator. ” Throughout the story, Antonio struggles to find his own identity. Antonio questions his own Catholic belief when he is faced with all of these cultural conflicts and
God’s failure to save the lives of innocent people, Narciso and Florence. His experiences with Catholicism, Golden Carp, Ultima’s traditional folklore, Narciso and Florence deaths present Antonio with questions about his destiny, religion, good and evil, life and death, and forgiveness. He realizes from Ultima that one belief system will not be able to answer all of his questions of morality and human existence. Student doctor Sandhu said it best when she mentions, “Antonio can be open- minded by embracing other cultures aside from his own, which will shape his individuality.
With this in mind, he will make his own decisions and find answers to his questions by maturely gathering the knowledge he gained from his environment and coming up with his own conclusions. Overall, the story was inspiring and demonstrated examples of several cultural challenges that I had experienced or will face in life. I learned the importance of being open-minded; curious and nonjudgmental; defending morally correct beliefs, and voicing my opinion. I learned to use the knowledge I gathered about other cultures to be a better individual by enriching my belief nd adapting to my environment.
As a future osteopathic physician, I will be around other colleagues, coworkers, and patients with a different cultural background. I have to be aware of this difference so that I can work with my coworkers and treat my patients effectively and efficiently. As student doctor Neal mentions we have to be aware of patients, who behaves in an unfamiliar fashion because the way people act are based on where they came from and their individual experiences. For instance, the cultural conflict between DOs and MDs due to their different philosophical views of healing heir patients.
A DO will attempt to heal their patients holistically by identifying the root of the disease; applying manipulation methods; and teach disease prevention, which differs from an MD, whose main focus is to treat the disease. Just like Antonio, I plan to manage this cultural conflict with my MD counterparts by being open-minded and not judgmental. I will have to formulate my own decisions based on other philosophical views I have gathered within my surroundings so that I can arrive at the best possible solution in providing and fulfilling the best interest of my patients.