The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005)

by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Hummingbird’s Daughter is a novel about a real person in late 19th-century Mexico whom rural people called “the Saint of Cabora.” Teresita, the illegitimate daughter of an impoverished Yaqui Indian and a wealthy rancher, grows up on her father’s ranch. She is taken under wing by the healer Huilu, who recognizes Teresita has a gift, and Teresita’s healing powers surpass her mentor’s. When she apparently rises from the dead after a brutal assault, Teresita’s fame spreads and pilgrims flock to the ranch. She is perceived as a threat by President Diaz’s officials, who fear that she is fomenting a peasant rebellion. The book ends suspensefully with the flight of Teresita and her father.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter is recommended for not only its epic story and vivid characters but also its depiction of the tumultuous time in Mexican history that preceded the country’s civil war. Its magical realism, characteristic of Latin fiction, is integral to the plot and not off-putting.

Teresita was the great-aunt of author Luis Alberto Urrea, who spent 20 years researching the book and is working on a sequel called The Queen of America. Urrea, the son of a Mexican father and an American mother, has written 13 books and has received prizes for fiction, poetry, and a memoir. He is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


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