Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea

Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea is the second half of the life of Teresita Urrea, the Saint of Cabora, so imaginatively told in The Hummingbird’s Daughter. Forced to leave her home in Mexico, she begins a new life in Arizona in 1892. 

Things aren’t easy for Teresita. Endless petitions for healing, unscrupulous business conglomerates running the show, and a husband that tries to murder her on their wedding night. Somehow, she manages not just to get by but thrives in the turn-of-the century New York world that clamors for her attentions. 

While I was fascinated with the story of the girl who inspired a revolution, I didn’t find the second installment as interesting to read as her childhood in Mexico had been. Perhaps because there were more documented facts about her life in the US from newspaper clippings and interviews, the author didn’t let his imagination take wing as he had when writing about her youth. That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable read, just not as good as The Hummingbird’s Daughter.

The title confused me somewhat since the only reference to the Queen of America in reference to a servant in the Urrea household. However, in a commentary by the author, he indicated that he wanted a title that had the same number of syllables as The Hummingbird’s Daughter. He also made an allusion to one of the titles of Mary, Queen of the Americas, although I think he would have done better to choose a name from the titles granted to la Virgen de Guadalupe such as Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas. After all, she was indigenous and often credited with miraculous healings in Mexico, just as Teresita was.

Regardless of where the title comes from, Queen of America is an interesting read, especially if you were captivated by this little Yaqui girl’s story from the onset.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea is a story that flows. Those of you who know Mexico will see all sorts of true reflections of that diverse, troubled land as you read. You’ll find yourself nodding along in understanding of those strange and wonderful customs and beliefs described which are found nowhere else. You might even learn a few new tidbits.

Set during the turbulent years just prior to the Mexican Revolution, in Sonora, Mexico, the story centers on Teresita, the illegitimate daughter of the ranch owner, Tomas Urrea, and a 14-year-old indigenous servant, Cayetana Chavez. The author’s imaginative story about Teresita’s early life is absolutely riveting.

Teresita lives with her aunt after her mother abandons her as a child. Then Teresita is trained by Huila, the ranch’s curandera (healer) after she is rescued from the aunt’s abuse. She suffers a fit of some sort as a teenager after an attempted rape, which gives her divinely inspired healing powers once she recovers.

As the legend of her healing ability grows, the indigenous patients she treats begin to venerate her as a folk saint. This angers both the Catholic church and ruling dictator Porfirio Diaz. Eventually, her notoriety becomes so powerful that she and her father are exiled from Mexico.

Her story north of the border continues with Queen of America.

If you’d like to read more about this fascinating woman’s life, you can do so here.