This essay will review the book of Graciela Limon ‘Song of the Hummingbird’, which describes the story of the Aztecs’ fall told from the perspective of a Huitzitzilin, a Hummingbird. The main point of the book is in uncovering the similarities and differences of Christian and pagan culture. Moreover, it discovers the concept of morality from contrasting points of view. The predominant ideas and themes of the novel that the article would be focused on is in white supremacy, morality, sexism and gender expectations in different cultures, identity, forgiveness whether personal or divine. In my opinion, the book perfectly depicts the dissimilarities within cultures and their perception of the world. Both Hummingbird and Benito are repulsed by the culture of one another, which they actively demonstrate despite the obvious similarities between them.
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The book made me feel that the situation is alike throughout the world: people have little understanding of one another despite the similarities. The lesson I enjoyed the most was that every human being deserves freedom, forgiveness, sympathy, and understanding, which is also the lesson the book offers to the students.
“Song of the Hummingbird” demonstrates how the two seemingly opposite worlds clash together. They lack understanding and they seem oblivious to the distinct similarities they possess. Moreover, religion seems to be the main divider of these people since Hummingbird tries not to speak of her personal pagan beliefs as it might offend the Catholic priest. Benito is scared to hear about these traditions because he believes them to be the way to praise the devil (Limon 23).
Benito’s beliefs root from the time when he was a child and when within the schools he was taught that pagans were cultureless animals incapable of understanding the Christian concepts of good and evil. Furthermore, he seems astonished when Hummingbird reveals that she felt that making love with Zintle was wrong, but she did it anyway. “How, Benito asked himself, did she understand that it was evil at a time when she was not yet a Christian?”, which demonstrates his initial disbelief and clash of interests with the Christian morality and his logic (Limon 22). However, the fault is not within the priest, but rather the system, which teaches that anything alien is wrong. American educational system sometimes perfectly represents this idea by demonizing other countries such as Russia.
During my life’s journey I have seen how morality like in “Song of the Hummingbird” is true. The lesson is valuable since it showcases that each person has their own truth even concerning the same event. For example, when Hummingbird dismissively tells the priest about her first abortion, she is rather calm and explains that it was a necessity to ensure her survival. However, Benito shrugs in disbelief that a woman dared to kill an unborn child. He had little concern over her safety; he was more interested in the fate of an unborn baby.
Moreover, when he asked her about her Christian name, he acted and felt mundane, while for the Hummingbird even pronouncing that name was similar to stripping her honor, since it indicated that the conquerors took everything from her, even her name. Furthermore, while explaining certain rituals, including human sacrifices, the old woman is calm, while Benito claims that these traditions are beyond his expectation of morality. Therefore, each person has their own perception of morality based on the principles they grew up with, which is why it would be unethical to judge a person’s behavior as one cannot know their moral principles.
I really liked the lesson of forgiveness in “Song of the Hummingbird.” The concept of personal and divine forgiveness can be found throughout the plot of the story. For example, when talking about abortion that Hummingbird had to undergo to ensure her survival, she asked the young priest whether God forgave her, and the answer was positive (Limon 43). However, when she repeated the question only with a slight modification, whether the priest forgave her, he hesitated. Nevertheless, when his answer was positive, she answered that only then she could be sure that God forgave her. Therefore, the old lady connected divine and personal forgiveness.
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She wanted to hear that God personally forgave her, because if God can do so, why Benito cannot? It was obvious that Hummingbird was hurt, and when Benito asked whether she forgave her husband, she said. “I cannot forgive him, because it happened to the Hummingbird, she should forgive him” (Limon, 1996). In this line, the reader can observe how the old lady differentiated personal forgiveness and a divine one, and it is apparent that she would never forgive her husband for the hurt he caused. I liked this lesson because it connects the divine entity such as God to the person, tying their emotions to each other. In life, when I do something bad and someone forgives me, I assume that God has also forgiven me.
As a student I see how “Song of the Hummingbird” can teach about sexism and gender expectations to other students. Students can link the past expectations of women to the modern ones. For example, in the past it was normal to beat one’s wife when she was unfaithful or did not keep her virginity before marriage. This practice, although not as common in America, is terrorizing women throughout the world. Within the Indian community, a female had to be obedient and quiet, she had no right to choose her destiny and to marry the one she loves. In the case of Hummingbird, she could not marry her first love, and instead became a wife to the person she despised and hated.
Through the words of the priest, the reader can also observe that such gender norms were present in the Catholic Christian community since he disproved the sexual freedom of women and the right to do anything they want with their bodies. In the present time, sexism can be widely observed throughout the planet, similar to the gender norms.
To conclude, the main idea of the ‘Song of the Hummingbird’ is in the dissimilarities of two different cultures and their perception of the world. Both main characters appear dismissive of each other’s culture and they both despise various aspects of the opposite civilization. Hummingbird appears as if she hates white people for taking everything from her and her people, including her name. Benito, on the other hand, despises paganism, barbaric rituals, deeming them as diabolic.
However, what they both fail to realize is that they are similar. It is analogous throughout the planet – people have little understanding of one another’s culture, which is why they tend to hate and despise it. In my opinion, this novel should be read by high schoolers and adults since they are most likely to understand the true meaning of the novel. I will remember the concept of confusion most about this book. I like the quote “They say a man is not dead until he is forgotten” (Limon 216). I will loan my copy of the book to my friend because she needs to understand the topics described in this novel.
Limon, Graciela. Song of the Hummingbird. University of Houston, 1996.