Song of a Hummingbird: A Battle of Consciousness
Who is right, and who is wrong? Imagine living in a civilization where ritual dances and human sacrifices, and other rare traditions are practiced by your people, and one day, a new civilization opposite to your, comes demanding authority over you. Your civilization, the one that has being consider as the most powerful no longer persists. You have been colonized and forced to forget about your practices, and everything you ones believed no longer exist. In modern society, these people are called the Aztecs. In the novel, “Song of Hummingbird” by Graciela Limon, it has been illustrated how cultures like Mexican and Aztecs quickly diminished because of Spaniards, who had very inadequate understanding about certain traditions of the Aztecs. Graciela Limon introduces two characters in the story; Hummingbird a women that went from aztec princess to slave and concubine, and Father Benito a Spaniard priest who is constantly in conflict with this old woman because of her believes and ways of thinking. These characters demonstrate that even though we all come from different ethnicities, with different culture, traditions and beliefs there is a point where we can all understand and respect each other, and by doing so we can all grow as individuals.
Ethnicities/ Cultures (where are they from?)
Limon mentions Hummingbird and Father Benito the main characters that revealed that no matter how complicated it is to understand each other; as soon as perception is achieved, the point of views that have collapsed can be mended. In the novel, the two main characters are in constant battle in understanding each other, because of there different ethnicities and cultures. Many people would not consider this so important but Father Benito was twenty-seven year when he meet Hummingbird and she was eighty-two years old, the differences of ages can be a struggle in understanding each other. In an article written by Zawn Billines a therapist for Georgia, he explains that, “No matter how understanding you are, it’s likely that you’re going to bump up against some generational differences. You might have different political views, …or have no understanding of historical events that profoundly influenced your partner’s life.” Age differences make it hard to understand the older persons point of view, but this wasn’t the only conflict Father Benito had in understanding Hummingbird. She came from the aztec culture, something he didn’t knew a lot about. She was from the culture that the spaniards considered as inferior or uncivilized. Even the nun who introduce him to Hummingbird didn’t liked them and she even said, “These people are not like us, Father. They have no spirit!” (pg.11) She expresses her taught by saying that the Aztecs are not as them. They are savages and they do have feeling like they do. The nun in a representation of how the spaniards taught and saw the Aztec. The two characters Father Benito and Huitzitzilin represent two different cultures upon which this story is based. Father Benito comes from those adults who are protected by their elders from facing the harsh realities of life so that they do not become part of it, but all of this changes when he is asked by Huitzitzilin to absolve her from her sins. Benito discovers that he doesn’t know to much about Aztec culture and even though Hummingbird’s confessions makes him uncomfortable but he enjoys listening her. “He was amazed at himself because he has not imagined that he could sympathize with a woman who had betrayed her husband.”(pg.38) All that Spaniards have taught Father Benito about Aztec is who inhuman they are, and that they needed help and salvation. Father Benito’s religion blind him at the beginning not letting him see that both Hummingbird and him had similar feelings and ideas. Another thing that block him in thinking about Hummingbird in another way is that she is not regretful for those sins. “ Father Benito on he defensive. He glared at her silently hesitating to answer because he was torn…One the other hand, the old woman has uttered her thoughts with such conviction and intelligence that he felt himself unsure and nearly agreed with her.” He “understood” her reasons but that wasn’t enough in his religion, she needed to feel regret in order to absolve her. His culture was very different to Hummingbird that is why it was difficult for both of them to understand each other. When the past of Huitzitzilin is discussed, there come so many ethical dilemmas in the novel. She killed her unborn child and that means she committed a crime but it happened because there where were threats attached to conceiving a child. Such instances opened eyes of Father Benito. He had never experienced such situations therefore; he was perplexed regarding what to do in that situation. At that, it was observed that Huitzitzilin is trying not to convert Father Benito to her religious form but she wanted to open his eyes for harsh realities that occurred in her life.
Tradition/religion (what where her/his practices)
One may agree with the statement of Huitzitzilin when she expresses how Catholics wanted to dissolve her gods yet they continue to worship idol. One may also agree with Huitzitzilin that one cannot be forced to do worship. Chanting and forced recitations of prayers that they do not understand is useless. The repetitions of prayers are in vain when recited in a way as mentioned by Huitzitzilin. This is something that persists to this day. There are number of people who do not have any idea about what they are praying and why, but they do it just because it has to be done as a part of religion.
There were major differences shown in the two religions. The religion of Aztecs was considered as more inclined towards devilish and satanic acts. One example of it includes human sacrifices, with which Christianity is in contradiction. There is lack of consensus about whether Aztecs involved in cannibalization also. There is no support shown that human flesh was part of Aztecs diet therefore human sacrifices might be done because of their religious beliefs. These acts are considered as extremely sinful in Catholics. Aztecs believed in worshipping idols whereas Catholics believed in Jesus. Aztecs dominated large parts of Mexico between 14th to 16th centuries. When Spaniards invaded Mexicas, they imposed their culture and religion on them, which is still prevalent in Mexico.
Along with the religious beliefs, also comes woman’s point of views. What Huitzitzilin experienced is a worst nightmare a woman can have. Getting deceptive and not being able to live with the one you love is the worst nightmare a woman can have. It is difficult for any person to cope up with such problem. Huitzitzilin was forced to marry a person whom she does not love and he used to treat her as one of his many concubines. It is something very hard to accept as a woman. Woman has to face number of issues not because of sexual encounters but other petty issues as well. Such men create number of issues with which it becomes hard to survive
Beliefes (what did she believed about Father Benito/ What did he believed about Hummigbird?
In the novel, it was shown that it was not easy for Father Benito to understand Huitzitzilin, “ He was torn by repulsion and fear, as well as by an inexplicable desire to know more about the old woman and her past. However, he knew that he had transgressed the boundaries of a mere search for knowledge and information when he willingly listened to what was forbidden by his own religion. He felt bitterly culpable because it was he who had encouraged her to invoke that sordid past”(p.29) she used to believed in idols and he believed in Jesus. He also attempted to compare them but it was considered as a sin in his religion that is, in Christianity. (WHAT ABOUT CHRISTIANITY). Every time Huitzitzilin approached Father Benito to discuss about her idols and gods, he prevented her from doing so “Stop! Stop! Please don’t say any more! You should try to forget these unholy words.. that is Saran himself” and wanted a sudden change of subject, “Señora, why don’t you tell me about what happened that night.” (p.28). He considered human sacrifices and ritual dances as acts pertaining to Satan. It was difficult for him to understand her spiritually because of differences in their beliefs due to their cultural norms.
The concept of the novel of Graciela Limon defines a unique way of living in this world. It helps in developing an understanding that one can survive either by creating conflicts with other or by understanding the differences and moving forward with them. It is truly based upon individual’s choices. It was seen in the novel that Spaniards did not attempt to understand Aztecs and conquered them. They imposed their religion and other cultural norms and them therefore; Aztecs were compelled to be converted to Christianity. On the other hand, the second part of the story where Huitzitzilin meets Father Benito, it was seen that despite of coming from the same religion as that of Spaniards, Father Benito was very sympathetic and welcoming to Huitzitzilin. Even though he asked her to conceal some of the information from him which is considered as sin in his religion, he tried his every effort to assist and absolve Huitzitzilin for her sins. Father Benito was that person who showed respect to Huitzitzilin for who she was instead of imposing his religion on her. That is how we are taught to live in this world. Both hummingbird and Limon help to open closed hearts and broaden narrow minds by reminding listeners and readers that there is often a fine line between fact and fable; and that one must look to the past, not only with a discerning mind, but with an understanding and human heart. Our ancestors influence us and the lessons they have passed down throughout generations; however, not all lessons were the same. All were influenced by their time period and personal sense of morality. That influence was then conveyed to their child–or whoever was willing to listen. These stories are what provided us with culture. It is obvious that what may be wrong to me maybe seen as appropriate in the eyes of another. However, we live in a world where many of us have come to accept people’s differences in cultures, morals, and ideologies. These differences are what make us a more educated society. Although we may not believe the ideas of another, we have been taught to respect others for who they are. Graciela Limón’s Song of a Hummingbird focuses on the idea of morality between two different cultures.
Song of a Hummingbird: A Battle of Consciousness