Book Review: The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Louis Alberto Urrea

This book is an epic about the life of the author’s great aunt, Teresita Urrea, also popularly known as La Santa De Cabora or Saint Teresa. Teresita was the illegitimate child of Don Tomas, the owner of the ranch where she was born. Her mother abandoned her early on in her life. She was left to be raised by a mean aunt until she comes in contact with Huila, the healer of the ranch. Huila is well respected on the ranch for her healing powers, even by Don Tomas. Huila takes Teresita under her wings and teaches her various healing techniques. Don Tomas is forced to move out of his ranch in Sinaloa when Teresita was still a child. He takes all of his ranch help with him and moves to Cabora, another ranch owned by the Urrea family. This is where Teresita becomes La Santa De Cabora. Her father accepts her as his child and even begins to love her as a father at the Cabora. Following a violent incident that left her in a near dead state, Teresita does not move for several days. She lies on the bed without eating or drinking. She is assumed to be dead on one particular day when her body goes soft. Her father orders a coffin for her. Her body is dressed up for the funeral. As several people gather to mourn her death, she wakes up, notices the coffin and declares that she will not be going in there. Her life changes after this when she reveals that she had an encounter with God. She is equipped with magical healing powers after this incident. Her compassion for the sick and the poor, combined with her extraordinary healing powers make her famous in the area. People flock to her in thousands every day to see her and get her blessings. This is how she becomes La Santa De Cabora. Teresita denounces religion and preaches equality and freedom, for which she gets noticed by the President Diaz’s regime. She is forced into exile by the regime along with her father, Don Tomas.

I picked up this book to prepare myself for a family vacation to Mexico. I didn’t know at that time that this falls under the genre of Magical Realism. This is not a genre that I would usually pick on my own. This is definitely one of the best books that I have read in the recent years. I will admit, I slogged through a few chapters in the middle. That’s because they required some mental effort from me and I was in the vacation mood. I had to put this book away and return to it again in my four hour flight back home to be able to really enjoy it. This is epic storytelling about the life of a female protagonist who carved her own way and lead by compassion and kindness. Despite the elements of magical realism in the story, Teresita’s courage and strength of character cannot be ignored. The writing was beautiful. I can see why this book took twenty years to write. There was a lot of research that went into it. There was a lot of violence in the story which I did not particularly care for but I accepted it as appropriate for the time and place setting of the story. I loved how the author immersed me in the Mexican history and culture via vivid descriptions of food, beliefs, use of Spanish words and sentences, etc. Teresita inspired the Mexican revolution in her own way. Reading about Teresita in this book inspired me to do my own research about La Santa De Cabora and The Mexican Revolution. My main purpose behind picking up this book was more than fulfilled.

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