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First hummingbird fest set to take flight

By Antonio De Jesús Aguado

The importance of the hummingbird to the environment as well as in ancient Mexican culture will be made clear through the workshops, lectures and birding tours offered during the First Festival of the Hummingbird in San Miguel de Allende from September 6 to 8.

The hummingbird (colibrí) is the smallest bird in the world; many are just seven centimeters from beak to tail and have an average weight of 1.8 grams. The bird can flap its wings from 80 to 200 times per second, and its heart can beat up to 1,200 times per minute. Hummingbirds are only found in the Americas, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. There are more than 300 species; 50 of them live in Mexico and 12 in the US.

For 17 years, Alfredo García Lucio and Jim McKeever have manufactured feeders for hummingbirds and supported the Hummingbird Society in the US, an organization that protects the bird by educating people about its importance to the environment and also sponsors reserves in the US, Mexico and Central America. This organization also organizes a festival in the US. After working with the association, García and McKeever came up with the idea of creating the First Festival of the Hummingbird in San Miguel, which will also be the first of its kind in Latin America.

Meaning of the colibrí over time

Huitzilopoxtli, the hummingbird god, was the most powerful and feared god of the enemies of the Aztecs, whom he led on their journey to “the promised land” from Aztlán (a mythical land) to the valley of Mexico. This was the war God, and for that reason when warriors were killed in battle the Aztecs believed that they would return reincarnated as hummingbirds.

In Mayan mythology the birth of the god is fantastical; the web page of the National Institute of Anthropology and History states that in Coatepec (near Tula) lived Coatlicue, mother of 400 warriors called surianos, among them Coyolxauhqui. Coatlicue was a penitant and used to sweep daily; one day, while she was sweeping, a ball of fine feathers fell from the sky and she picked it up; at that very moment she became pregnant. When the 400 surianos found about this, they exclaimed, “Whoever has done this to us is challenging us, is dishonoring us!” Coyolxauhqui encouraged them to murder their own mother. Coatlicue found out about the plan and was afraid, but Huitzilopoxtli talked to her, saying “Do not worry. I know what I have to do.”

The 400 surianos heard Coyolxauhqui and prepared for war, but before they could get close to Coatlicue the hummingbird was turned into a warrior. Huitxilopoxtli first killed Coyolxauhqui by cutting off her head, and her body rolled down a mountain (a sculpture of Coyolxauhqui is on display in the museum of the Templo Mayor in Mexico City). The other warriors were killed one by one.

The hummingbird’s significance as a symbol remains to this day: According to Alfredo García, people still believe that when a loved one passes away a day or a week later a colibrí will appear in the garden.

Event to benefit nonprofit organizations

For the first edition of the festival, the organizers are expecting more than 300 visitors to the city. Proceeds collected at the event will go to support El Charco del Ingenio, the nature reserve and botanical garden located in the upper part of the city that covers more than 70 hectares.

Audubon de México will also benefit. The vision of this organization is to protect and appreciate the birds and other elements of nature in the city. Its mission is to preserve, restore and protect habitats and natural resources to benefit birds, wildlife and humanity.

Schedule of events

On Thursday, September 5, there will be a private gathering to welcome special guests in San Miguel Viejo. On Friday, September 6, at 5pm a series of events will be open to the public, such as the inauguration of an art exhibit called “Friendship and Hummingbirds” at the Florencia Riestra gallery in Fábrica la Aurora. The work of six artists inspired by the colibrí will be on display. The Audubon Society will organize bird walks.

The same day at 7pm in the Museo la Esquina (corner of Núñez and San Francisco) an exhibition of 50 cardboard masks based on the colibrí will be inaugurated. Twenty of the masks were given to local and outside artists to decorate; they will be for sale at the museum and the profits will go to the museum. Proceeds from the sale of the other 30 masks will go to organizations that work with children, such as Ojalá Niños, La Biblioteca, Centro de Crecimiento and Casa Hogar Santa Julia.

The official inauguration will take place on Saturday, September 7, at El Charco del Ingenio at 9:30am. Later there will be simultaneous talks, workshops and lectures, including talks by Sheri Williams and Rodrigo Rodríguez. Some talks will be in Spanish and others in English. The festival includes activities for children such as bird watching, a rally, a parade with puppets and masks as well as workshops. The cost is 350 pesos for one day and 700 pesos for two days (in advance).

Tickets for the gala dinner cost 1,200 pesos; it will take place on Saturday, September 7, at 7:30pm at Z Club and will feature a short talk by Sheri Williams, music by Gil Gutiérrez and Camille García, and dishes from the region.

Tickets and more information

Tickets can be purchased at Camino Silvestre at Recreo 46 or Zacateros 46. For more information call 152-3918 or send an email to

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