Here in Mexico, hummingbirds — or colibrís in espanol — are fortunately very common, even in the deep urban quarters of my neighborhood in Mexico City.
Across our patio is a large tree, which must be the home for at least 100 different pairs of birds, including doves, red-headed finches, pigeons and hummingbirds. This week we installed a hummingbird feeder, meaning I get to watch the little guys swoop back and forth, and lately, fight it out for access to the feeder. It’s a bit like watching two Tinkerbells fight — they divebomb each other, then hover, staring at each other with their little angel-like wings flapping madly. I can usually hear their chirping before I see them.
Hundreds of years ago, these same birds — with their bright plumage, spunky attitudes and amazing flying abilities — inspired the Aztecs to name their greatest temple after the important hummingbird god, Huitzilopochtli. This temple was located in the heart of Tenochtitlan, the vast Aztec city that existed long before Mexico City, and as recent as this month is still being discovered below the soil.
And among the Mayans over in the Yucatan, the hummingbird is the center of several myths, including one that says the Tzunuum (you can hear the hummingbird’s wings when you say that word) would pierce the tongue of kings with its beak. The blood was poured onto scrolls and burned, allowing ancestors to appear.
(I sometimes wonder if the incredibly vivid dreams I have in Mexico have something to do with the land I’m perched upon — its soil is rich with story.)