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[80] The Hummingbird’s Daughter – Luis Alberto Urrea

hummingbird.jpg“Let her go. It is her destiny.” (274)

The Hummingbird’s Daughter sets in Mexico on the eve of the Mexican Revolution as a dictator rises to power and appropriates the Indians’ land by force. Grounded in historical truth, it is a manifesto that traces the life of Teresita Urrea, whose incredible gifts as a healer lends the aura of a saint in an age rife with threat. Beleaguered people in agony and pain pour into the ranch to call upon her. That Teresita is not of noble pedigree, that she is left to her aunt Tia, one acrimonious and parsimonious woman, allows her a taste of the cross of life before she even conceives who she is. To her life sometimes is only meant to endure. What most powerfully catches people’s attention and makes them ervere her is this humble origin. The intellectual and moral qualities of the girl. There is a palpable contrast to the vice and ignorance in which she had been raised, which intensifies the power of her virtues.

That myths, folklore and history makes up and intertwines the narrative lends the ability to arrive at the deepest truths about events of Teresita’s life. So intuitive and suggestive are the events that led to her acquisition of power, owing to Huila’s tutelage. Hust as nobody could explain to her why there was suffering, pain, death, and hurt in the world, how she taps in the power of healing is inexplicable. While she heals many and console a people in turmoil, she realizes no matter how much good she tries to do in the world, she would always be alone. Maybe that’s what she means when she says “the world of reason would be lonely place.” Indeed the church denounces her and labels her a witch, the government deems her the most dangerous girl in Mexico–not out of good will for the people but out of vileness, greed, and fear of losing power.

Not to denigrate church and religion but again we see that what gives a saint the ultimate passion is not authority but a cause. Teresita reaps unfounded charges against her–treason, insurrection, instigation, fomenting revolution–all because she is faithful to her cause. The so-called religion which she denies is nothing more than words without feelings. They are mere practices that focus on the surface of things, that affect only the senses, but that fail to touch the soul because at the first place they fail to evoke from the soul.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter captures the dark side of globalization and thus provides a devastating look at the conditions of racism, greed, and corruption that helps spark the Mexican Revolution. The historical novel is a fine balance between magical realism, metaphysics, and the everyday life of 19th century Mexican life.

2 Responses

  1. I bought this a few months ago and can’t wait to read it!

  2. Great review Matt! I finally finished this and so far I’d say this is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

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