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Sacred Hummingbirds
from The Broken Hummingbird

December 3, 2023

by Ann Marie Jackson

This is the second in a series of excerpts from The Broken Hummingbird, my new novel, set here in San Miguel de Allende. The book has been named a 2023 International Book Awards Finalist for Women's Fiction and 2023 American Fiction Awards Finalist for Women's Fiction and Best New Fiction.

Many of us see something special in the tiniest of birds. Some indigenous peoples, such as the Yaquis in Sonora, the Mayans of the Yucatan, and the Purépechas of Michoacan, believe hummingbirds are divine messengers sent by the gods or by the souls of our dearly departed to bring us messages, messages that it is our job to interpret. The god Huitzilopochtli, often represented as a hummingbird, guided the Mexicas' long migration to the Valley of Mexico, and thus the hummingbird is a symbol of strength in life's struggle to elevate consciousness and follow our dreams. More generally, hummingbirds symbolize joy, luck, and endurance.

The protagonist of my new novel has vivid dreams that are perhaps guided by such a messenger from the hereafter. In this excerpt the protagonist, as a child, has her first encounter with a hummingbird.


Jane and Thomas watched for branches. That was the tricky thing about bringing the horses. They could put the tools and lunch in the saddlebags and not have to carry it all themselves, which was great, but riding through the dense forest on the edge of the ranch meant watching constantly for branches that could scrape a kid off a horse. Jane spent half of each ride lying flat over her mare's neck, feeling branches slide roughly over her back, occasionally taking a chunk of shirt or skin, once tangling in her hair. She screamed that time, which made the horse bolt, and some of her hair stayed on the branch. She learned to wear a sweatshirt with a hood after that and to pull the strings tight. Mom always told them to stay on the cleared trails, but that would defeat the purpose. The point was to build their secret forts in the wildest, most hidden parts of the forest. She and Thomas ended up getting down and walking a lot.

Thomas said he wanted to strike out on his own this time. But after they staked the horses, he picked a tree only twenty feet from Jane's.

Some of their forts were just nooks where they had cleared out the underbrush, but these would be real tree forts. They'd borrowed an old handsaw from Dad's tool shed. Taking turns, they used it to saw off the lowest branches and then nailed sections of the branches across a fork in each tree to create rough platforms.

Sitting on her platform while Thomas finished his, Jane surveyed her shadowed domain. Absolutely everything in her world was green. Jewel green cedars and dark green firs with black-green trunks loomed over alders covered in leaves of late spring green, many with trunks shrouded in still more shades of green mosses. Even the sunlight, filtered through the branches above her, had an emerald tint. Something green grew from every inch of moist earth, including wild blackberry vines with their evil thorns in the patches of sun between trees. She loved the berries in summer, but the rest of the year blackberry bushes were an impenetrable barrier to be cursed. Getting through a thicket unscratched, on foot or horseback, was impossible. Blackberries had to be gone around unless you had a machete to hack through like Dad, which still involved a good amount of swearing. She and Thomas might borrow the handsaw but never the machete. That long blade gave Jane the shivers.

She noticed the first early buds beginning to unfurl into tiny white blossoms on the blackberry vines nearest her tree and felt better about their presence. In a couple months, she and Thomas could come here and feast on the first berries of the season. The tallest vines grew to within a few feet of her platform, and she wondered if she could reach them. She lay on her stomach and had stretched her arm over the side when a flash of color commanded her gaze.

A hummingbird hovered over the most fully developed blossom. Part of the bird was green, too. The feathers on the tiny creature's chest and back flashed a gorgeous iridescent blue-green, like verdigris on copper. The head, deep rose, had caught Jane's attention, and the wings were a dusky brown. Jane watched, enchanted, until the hummingbird disappeared behind the brambles.

Thomas stood below her tree. "It was an Anna's Hummingbird," he whispered, his voice reverent. "Dad told me. Only a few hummingbird species come this far north, just for summer, and only the Anna's Hummingbird will stay here the whole year. The others fly south, like to Mexico. So it had to be an Anna's Hummingbird, I think. It's still a bit too early for any others."
"It's very cool that you know that."
"They're rare. It's lucky to see one."
"It felt lucky."

They rode home in silence but remembered to slip the handsaw back into the tool shed.


"A powerful story beautifully told, both lyrical and compelling. This book is for anyone who has ever felt their world coming apart and chosen to embrace a courageous journey forward. Here is one woman's story that you do not want to miss."
—Jan Baross, author of José Builds a Woman

"Psychologically profound and realistic, The Broken Hummingbird is a remarkable debut from a talented author."
—Readers' Favorite five-star review


Ann Marie Jackson is co-founder of microlending organization Mano Amiga and former Vice President of Casita Linda, which builds homes for families living in extreme poverty in San Miguel de Allende. Early in her career, after earning degrees from Stanford and Harvard, Jackson joined the U.S. Department of State to promote human rights in China and other East Asian and Pacific Island nations. She has worked with Human Rights Watch, A Better Chance, and Internews to further social justice causes and advance respect for human rights. Her essays and short stories appear in Mexico News Daily, San Miguel Life, Sanctuary Magazine, Solamente en San Miguel, GirlTalkHQ, and more. A 2023 International Book Awards Finalist for Women's Fiction and 2023 American Fiction Awards Finalist for Women's Fiction and Best New Fiction, The Broken Hummingbird is Jackson's first novel.

The Broken Hummingbird is available in San Miguel at Aurora Books, at the Biblioteca Pública's tienda, and at other boutiques around town. It is also available on Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play,,, and at U.S. bookstores. Photos by Lander Rodríguez. A portion of the proceeds from book sales will benefit Casita Linda and Mano Amiga. Learn more at:


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