News Release - Apr. 7, 2008

Note to editors and news directors: Professor Roberto Cantú and Director Theresa Larkin are available for advance interviews. Photographs, poster art and resource links are available below.

For a special invitation from author Rudolfo Anaya to the County of Los Angeles and Cal State L.A., click here:


‘Bless Me, Ultima’ to star Alejandra Flores April 10 and 12 as Cal State L.A. takes The Big Read from page to stage – for free

Anaya’s coming-of-age classic transcends cultures, eras, city-rural divide as it offers mythic lesson ‘to face violence and fear with moral courage’


Los Angeles, CA – “Bless Me, Ultima,” Rudolfo Anaya’s classic coming-of-age novel of a boy in post World War II New Mexico, will jump from the page to the stage in a free dramatic reading at Cal State L.A.’s Music Hall Thursday, April 10, and Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m. A discussion will follow.

Starring veteran television and film actress Alejandra Flores (“A Walk in the Clouds,” “Friends with Money”) as Ultima, the production is adapted and directed by Theresa Larkin, a theatre arts professor at Cal State L.A.

Seating, though free, is limited to 115 for each performance. To reserve seats or for other details, call (323) 449-4942.

“This story is especially relevant for the youth of our time,” said Larkin. “Our young Antonio is a questioning mind, encouraged by Ultima (an elderly healer), his parents, and some exceptionally caring teachers. He is shaped by the natural scenery of New Mexico, by his family, by significant educational influences, and by his highly impressionable friends.”

And with the questions come choices between good and evil, roots and wanderlust, faith and doubt, the traditional and the fashionable.

Anaya, born in New Mexico in 1937, begins the story in the immediate wake of World War II, from which Antonio’s three older brothers return as changed young men. Anaya wrote it during the Vietnam War; and the novel’s explorations into how wars shape those who fight them resonates with the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

CSULA Professor Roberto Cantú, expert on “Bless Me, Ultima”

Roberto Cantú, a professor of Chicano Studies and English at Cal State L.A., conceived the idea for staging “Bless Me, Ultima” at the University, obtained the author’s permission, assembled a team, and coordinated the production. Intimately familiar with “Bless Me, Ultima,” he first reviewed it when it was published in 1972 and subsequently became close friends with Anaya, who has visited Cal State L.A. three times. Cantú has published and lectured extensively on its art, structure, and significance.

"The novel,” according to Cantú, “is a political fable that uses the language of myth to represent a world of conflict and continuous wars. Such myths teach us, from the weight of them, to face violence and fear with moral courage."

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) selected “Bless Me, Ultima” as The Big Read for 2008, an effort that encourages communities and schools to read, ponder and explore a single book collectively. In the East Los Angeles community, the County of Los Angeles Public Library and the Cal State L.A. University Library have collaborated to arrange numerous events.

At Cal State L.A., the University Library will host a discussion group Wednesday, April 16, from noon to 1 p.m., in Library North, Room 530; and Cantú will address the narrative cycles in Anaya's novels in a free public lecture Thursday, April 17, at 6 p.m., in King Lecture Hall 2.

In its introduction to the novel, the NEA writes of the main character: “And if Antonio doesn’t find an absolute truth in his search, he still comes to believe with his father that ‘sometimes it takes a lifetime to acquire understanding, because in the end understanding simply means having a sympathy for people.”

Adorning commemorative posters and T-shirts to celebrate the staged reading of the novel is a painting by renowned muralist and painter George Yepes. It is a detailed portrait of a gazing Ultima, appearing younger than her role in the book, and surrounded by Antonio and other key elements of the story.

As did every contributor to the production – the actors, the director, and others — Yepes set aside other work to donate his time and talent for the simple honor of helping to bring this story alive for a new generation.

The stage production is sponsored by Cal State L.A.’s College of Arts and Letters.

“Bless Me, Ultima” and The Big Read - additional resources:

Cal State L.A. University Library site:

National Endowment for the Arts site:

Images available:
Photo of Roberto Cantú with the book (/sites/default/files/univ/ppa/SC/ultima/)

Commemorative Poster by George Yepes (/sites/default/files/univ/ppa/SC/ultima/)

(High-resolution images are available from the link at /sites/default/files/univ/ppa/SC/ultima/1A%20size/.)


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