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"This Land Is Holy!" Intersections of Politics and Spirituality in Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter


This essay discusses the intersections of politics and spirituality during the Porfiriato era in Mexico, an oppressive period that initiated northward migration into the United States; specifically, Lopez examines Luis Alberto Urrea’s 2005 novel, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, which blends narrative, history, and biography. Merging a historical focus on the political impulses of northward migration with attention to spiritual and religious epistemologies, Urrea’s narrative of "Teresita," a regional folk saint of northern Mexico, highlights a critical time that would significantly determine the intertwined futures of both nations. As the author brings Teresita and her community to life for readers, he simultaneously describes the Porfiriato era’s relationship with US interests, the state’s violent push towards modernization, and power struggles over indigenous land rights, all of which would eventually culminate in the Mexican Revolution and mass migration into the United States. Ultimately, Lopez argues that, in its narrative representation of political conflicts over land rights during the Porfiriato, The Hummingbird’s Daughter functions as a form of witnessing to state violence and, further, highlights a complex, embodied spirituality through which indigenous and mestizo peoples responded to state violence with contestation and counterdiscourse. This essay highlights Urrea’s work as a substantial contribution to the further development of Border Studies, Chicano/a Studies, and Transnational American Studies.

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