Now, a Literary Moment...
A healer with special powers plays a central role in Rudolfo Anaya's novel, Bless Me, Ultima. Ultima is a curandera … she knows how to find herbs that heal, and how to remove a curse. When she appears, a magic owl is never far away.
The novel is set in rural New Mexico. Santa Fe artist Charles Carrillo says the owl in the novel has traditional origins.
Charles Carrillo: It's a story about culture, it's a story about tradition, it's a story about a woman who represents all the essences of Hispanic New Mexico. A lot of times New Mexicans would actually take salt and sprinkle salt around their homes, and if they heard an owl outside at night, they would say in Spanish, 'Tecolate,' which, 'Tecolate' is a word for owl, 'Tecolate, Tecolate, manana vendras por sal' -- tomorrow you come for salt. And what it was was a tradition that if somebody came to borrow salt from you, or borrow anything from you, whoever knocks on your door to borrow something is the owl. And the owl is a witch. And you gotta be careful with her. Or him.
New Mexican artist Charles Carrillo. A mysterious owl like the one he describes turns up at key moments in Rudolfo Anaya's novel Bless Me, Ultima.
This Literary Moment was created by the National Endowment for the Arts.
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