Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
Antonio has often heard the story of how the Virgin presented herself to a little Indian boy in Mexico. She had performed miracles there. María has told Antonio that the Virgin is the saint of their land. Antonio knows of many other saints, but loves the Virgin the most dearly. Antonio finds it hard to say the rosary because of the long time he is required to kneel. While his mother says the rosary, he keeps his eyes on the Virgin and imagines he is looking at "a real person, the mother of God, the last relief of all sinners."
Antonio knows God is not always forgiving. God makes laws to be followed. If people break them, they are punished. The Virgin, on the other hand, always forgives. Antonio knows God has power, but he also knows the Virgin is full of quiet, peaceful love.
María lights candles for the brown Madonna and they kneel. She says, "I believe in God the Father Almighty--" and Antonio thinks of how God created people and can also strike them dead. He thinks God moved the hands that killed Lupito. María continues, "Hail Mary, full of grace--" and Antonio thinks of how God is a giant man and Mary is a woman who can go to Him and ask Him to forgive people. She and her Son can persuade the powerful Father to change His mind.
On one of the Virgin's feet the plaster has chipped off to reveal the pure-white plaster underneath. Antonio thinks of it as "her soul without blemish." He knows the Virgin had been born without sin while the rest of humanity had been born in the sin of their fathers that Baptism and Confirmation began to wash away. He knows it is not until communion when the believers "finally took God into their mouths and swallowed Him" that they are free of sin and do not need to fear the punishment of hell. María and Ultima sing some prayers for the safe delivery of María's three sons. Antonio is made sad by the voices. When the prayers are over María kisses the feet of the Virgin and blows out the candles.
Antonio goes up to his room and hears Ultima's owl singing. He dreams of his mother calling to the Virgen de Guadalupe to bring her sons home. He hears a voice saying the sons will return safely. Then María asks that her fourth son be a priest. The Virgin stands on the bright, horned moon of autumn and she is in mourning for the fourth son. Antonio screams out "Mother of God!" and he feels Ultima's hand on his forehead. He sleeps.
Ultima teaches Antonio how the gather herbs and roots and she also teaches him the history of that medicine that she uses. Antonio is not always able to take in her lessons. After all, he is a child of seven and although he is a precocious child, he is still a child. Anaya nicely balances Antonio's mentoring by Ultima, his innocent seriousness in learning her ways, with Antonio's need to play. Ultima tells Antonio that her medicine comes from the Indians of several nations and she tells him of a the history of the land's conquest and the peoples who left their traditions there. She even mentions the Moors, who conquered Spain long before Spain conquered the New World. She also tells him of the presence of the river, but only within a certain limit. Antonio, the wise child, understands she only tells him what he is able to understand. He has learned her lesson that knowledge comes slowly.
Antonio's child's mind takes the family metaphor of God the father, Mary the mother, and Jesus the son literally. He prefers Mary who is kind and forgiving. Like many children, Antonio experiences an idea of God based on his idea of his own earthly father. Antonio's father is a good man, but is morose, distant, and dissatisfied with his life choices, blaming others for them. His mother, on the other hand, is warm and loving, ever-present, and devoted to her children.
Antonio's third dream foresees that his brothers will return home, but it also provides the disturbing image of the Virgin mourning for Antonio when María asks that he be a priest. It seems that already in the novel, the reader is aware that Antonio will not enter the priesthood.