Ultima's character is the most complex, and although the deuteragonist, or the character second in importance, she can be seen as the heroine of the story. Ultima is a person of action, the one who performs the healings and provides guidance to others. She is the one who nurtures Antonio's spiritual awakening.
Ultima is a strong, confident woman who uses her knowledge and power to do good in the world. Her character combines elements of indigenous and European cultures (that is, paganism and Catholicism) into a coherent unity that provides an alternative to the Church and to the rational, scientific knowledge of the Anglo Americans. Ultima can be seen as the scapegoat of a cosmic struggle between good and evil.
Ultima is described in detail by Anaya. She is very old and wrinkled. She has a brown face, black hair, withered hands, and brown teeth. She has clear, brown, laughing eyes that sparkle like those of a child. She has the sweet fragrance of herbs about her, dresses in black, with a shawl about her shoulders. She keeps her possessions in a large blue tin trunk.
Ultima's owl is a good owl, in contrast with the usual alignment in the culture of the owl with the dark side of life. Unlike other owls, hers hoots softly.
Ultima is a practical and helpful person. She has been a midwife, she is a healer, and she helps María with daily chores around the house.