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Winner Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize 2006
Available now hardcover, paperback, for your e-reader and as a downloadable audiobook, read by Luis
In Spanish: La Hija de la Chuparrosa
Teresita is not an ordinary girl. Born of an illiterate, poor Indian mother, she knows little about her past or her future. She has no idea that her father is Don Tomas Urrea, the wild and rich owner of a vast ranch in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. She has no idea that Huila, the elderly healer who takes Teresita under her wing, knows secrets about her destiny. And she has no idea that soon all of Mexico will rise in revolution, crying out her name.” “When Teresita is but a teenager, learning from Huila the way plants can cure the sick and prayer can move the earth, she discovers an even greater gift: she has the power to heal. Her touch, like warm honey, melts pain and suffering. But such a gift can be a burden, too. Before long, the Urrea ranch is crowded with pilgrims and with agents of a Mexican government wary of anything that might threaten its power.” The Hummingbird’s Daughter is the story of a girl coming to terms with her destiny, with the miraculous, and with the power of faith. It is the tale of a father discovering what true love is and a daughter recognizing that sometimes true love requires true sacrifice.
“”Her powers were growing now, like her body. No one knew where the strange things came from. Some said they sprang up in her after the desert sojourn with Huila. Some said they came from somewhere else, some deep inner landscape no one could touch. That they had been there all along.” Teresita, the real-life “Saint of Cabora,” was born in 1873 to a 14-year-old Indian girl impregnated by a prosperous rancher near the Mexico-Arizona border. Raised in dire poverty by an abusive aunt, the little girl still learned music and horsemanship and even to read: she was a “chosen child,” showing such remarkable healing powers that the ranch’s medicine woman took her as an apprentice, and the rancher, Don Tomás Urrea, took her—barefoot and dirty—into his own household. At 16, Teresita was raped, lapsed into a coma and apparently died. At her wake, though, she sat up in her coffin and declared that it was not for her. Pilgrims came to her by the thousands, even as the Catholic Church denounced her as a heretic; she was also accused of fomenting an Indian uprising against Mexico and, at 19, sentenced to be shot. From this already tumultuous tale of his great-aunt Teresa, American Book Award–winner Urrea (The Devil’s Highway) fashions an astonishing novel set against the guerrilla violence of post–Civil War southwestern border disputes and incipient revolution. His brilliant prose is saturated with the cadences and insights of Latin-American magical realism and tempered by his exacting reporter’s eye and extensive historical investigation. The book is wildly romantic, sweeping in its effect, employing the techniques of Catholic hagiography, Western fairy tale, Indian legend and everyday family folklore against the gritty historical realities of war, poverty, prejudice, lawlessness, torture and genocide. Urrea effortlessly links Teresita’s supernatural calling to the turmoil of the times, concealing substantial intellectual content behind effervescent storytelling and considerable humor.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Twenty years in the making, Urrea’s epic novel recounts the true story of his great-aunt Teresita. In 1873, amid the political turbulence of General Porfirio Díaz’s Mexican republic, Teresita is born to a fourteen-year-old Indian girl, “mounted and forgotten” by her white master. Don Tomàs Urrea later takes his illegitimate daughter into his home, where she learns to bathe every week and read “Las Hermanas Brontë.” But Teresita also continues a folk education as a curandera, discovering healing powers and a mystical relationship with God. Indian pilgrims swarm to the Urrea ranch, where “St. Teresita,” a mestiza Joan of Arc, kindles in them a powerful faith in God and a perilous hunger for revolution. The novel brings to life not only the deeply pious figure whom Díaz himself dubbed “the Most Dangerous Girl in Mexico” but also the blood-soaked landscape of pre-revolutionary Mexico.” —The New Yorker
“Everyone raves about the grand, exquisitely detailed storytelling of the first-time novelist, though Urrea has written 10 previous books of nonfiction (see The Devils Highway, HHHH July/Aug 2004). The Hummingbirds Daughter is a history lesson that follows the brewing rebellion in 1889 against a longtime Mexican dictator. Urrea meticulously captures day-to-day life among the poor farmers and their populist beliefs in their saint. Of course theres also humor, heartbreak, torture, and perhaps a few too many descriptions. To sum up, well leave it to The New York Times: “These 500 pages though they could have been fewer slip past effortlessly.”” —Bookmarks Magazine
About The Hummingbird’s Daughter
I worked for twenty years, on and off, trying to create this epic novel. I had to learn a lot of things. I had to learn Mexican history, revolutionary history, Yaqui and Mayo cultural history, Jesuitical missionary syncretistic history, family history. I had to study with medicine people and shamans, midwives and curanderas. That’s a big load of study for someone who didn’t much like school. But fortunately for me, I had all this juicy kind-boggling story to play with.
Teresita, aka The Saint of Cabora, was indeed a relative of mine. She was always presented to me, back in Baja California and Sinaloa, as my aunt. I hunted her story down all over the US and Mexico, and even found some interesting roots for the novel in France. I learned things in sweat lodges, in kitchens, in desert outbacks and tumbledown ranchos as much or more than I learned in libraries and museums. I even lived in a haunted house full of scary shadows. I don’t know that I’ll ever have the strength to undergo such a journey again.
Because it is, literally, my life’s work—particularly when you pair it with the sequel,Queen of America, I am very fond of the book(s). People from all over the world still write to me about Teresita, and it is very moving to me to think that my aunt is known in India, or China. Israel, Italy and France.
For all its history, I am no historian, I am a story-teller. My goal was to write a story, big and wild. Those who have a more cosmic bent can see embedded in the adventure a guidebook into the mysteries of sacredness. Here’s what every shaman told me: every moment of your life is sacred.
I want to note here that I have had many, many amazing book club chats over the years about this book. There is even a Teresita club in New Delhi. They have Hummingbird t-shirts. I can’t get to all of your meetings, but there’s always the phone and the Skype. Thank you all!