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Banned Chicano book on big screen

Bless Me, Ultima, the movie, stars 11-year-old Luke Ganalon and the renowned Puerto Rican actress, Miriam Colón Valle

Bless Me, Ultima, the movie, stars 11-year-old Luke Ganalon and the renowned Puerto Rican actress, Miriam Colón Valle

It took 30 years but, in February, film aficionados will see a big-screen version of a Chicano literary masterpiece, Bless Me, Ultima. 

The movie is based on the 1972 novel by New Mexican writer, Rudolfo Anaya, and directed by Carl Franklin.

This classic story describes how Antonio, a young boy in New Mexico, learns about life and spirituality from the elderly Ultima, a curandera.   

One of the reasons it took so long to make the movie was because the novel was controversial to some, who tried to ban the book from being taught in schools. 

Anaya’s novel was one of the books banned by the Tucson Unified School District when it shut down the Mexican-American Studies Program. 

Since the book was published, parents in other school districts across the U.S. have claimed that Bless Me, Ultima treats religion irreverently and has bilingual cuss words, according to Banned in the U.S.A: A Reference Guide to Book Censorship in Schools and Public Libraries.  

This book quotes Deidra DiMaso, a parent in Wappingers Falls, New York, as saying, “The book is full of sex and cursing.” 

Anaya, a prolific Chicano author and playwright, told the Los Angeles Times in 2009: “What are these people afraid of? … We have ample evidence throughout history of what happens when we start banning books, when we are afraid of ideas and discussion and analytical thinking. The society will suffer.”

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This Article appears on the February 2013 issue of LPM under LP Journal

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