Bless me, Ultima: A reader’s glossary for teachers

A Short Glossary for Bless Me Ultima by Rudolf Anaya

UnknownI just completed a wonderful read of Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolf Anaya. As I work extensively in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, presenting my “Songs & Stories of Texas,” I’ve realized how important vocabulary is to students’ studies.  I know that since 1972, the book has been a reading selection for high school (and I would assume junior high) readers. I encourage you to research the awards and recognition this book has earned. To help you and your students with this read, and in case you or some of your students are not bilingual, I selected 33 words that are probably new to many students and teachers. I added simple definitions as the words are  used in the book. Some of the meanings of the Spanish sentences can be determined by context, but some cannot. There are so many good translation tools online that this should not present a problem.  Teachers teaching this book may want to use this list as a quiz, review, or bellringer. I did not list any of the what  might be considered as swear-words or crude language that is used in the book. Students probably already know these words and phrases anyway.  I encourage the teacher/student to use the Internet to find pictures and more details of the words listed here. If you have studied this book extensively and  I am wrong on any of these words, please email at rickeyp at and I will make a correction or addition if it is warranted.

adobe – type of clay brick

atole –   hot corn based  beverage

bizcochitos – crisp lard- or butter-based cookie, flavored with cinnamon and anise.

bruja – witch

chicos – dried sweet corn

crudo – hungover

cuentos – songs

curandera – healer

doily – small lace mat placed under plate.

empaniditas – sweet cookies

el encanto – curse

farol – lantern

gabacha – white girl

grillos – crickets

llano – grassy plains

la llorona  – ghostly, weeping woman

manzanilla – chamomile tea

molino – mill

la misa de gallo – midnight mass

mitote – dream,dance

novena – private or public prayers repeated for nine successive days

nopal – prickly pear cactus

pesadilla – nightmare

piñon – a small pine with edible seeds.

oshá – an herb, root used for healing.

ristras – strings of dried chile peppers.

scapular – necklace with religious and personal significance.

vaquero – cowboy

velorio – wake

Virgen de Guadalupe – Mexico’s patron saint, honored on Dec. 12.

yerba del masno – medicinal plant of the Southwest

yerba de la vívora (also víbora) medicinal plant

yucca – a plant of the agave family with stiff swordlike leaves.

Here’s a photo of a scapular: blue-immaculate-conception-scapular-2010825

*Teachers may use this list freely as long as credit is given to:

Rickey Pittman, Bard of the South,