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J.Lo’s “This is Me...Now: A Love Story”: Is the hummingbird legend real? A historian weighs in

The singer's new visual album “This is Me...Now: A Love Story” features a fabled hummingbird legend. But is it real? An expert breaks it down to TODAY.

Jennifer Lopez has just released her visual album “This is Me...Now: A Love Story” on Amazon Prime. The fantastical musical film was largely inspired by her first relationship and then, later, marriage to Ben Affleck. But is also a personal ode to Lopez's journey as a "hopeless romantic" — and the film opens with folktale that may partially explain why.

“This is Me...Now: A Love Story” begins with the singer — who, in the film, plays a fictionalized version of herself called "The Artist" — recalling a story from her childhood. According to the opener, when J.Lo as "The Artist" was a girl, her mother would tell her a Puerto Rican legend of two star-crossed lovers, a couple named Alida and Taroo, who have been forbidden from being together. Desperate, the couple turns to the gods for help, which manifests in Alida turning into a flower and Taroo into a hummingbird.

In the film, Lopez recalls how the story of Alida and Taroo became a symbol of love in many cultures, including for Puerto Ricans. But many viewers might be left wondering: Is this hummingbird legend real? And what are its origins?

Jennifer Lopez / a hummingbird
In the film, Lopez recalls how the story of Alida and Taroo became a symbol of love in many cultures, including for Puerto Ricans.Getty Images

Dr. Antonio Sotomayor is an associate professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Speaking to TODAY.com, he said that it can be hard to trace the true origins of a longstanding folktale. Currently, there are various versions of Alida and Taroo’s story floating around on the internet, with shades of similar titles.

Sotomayor pointed TODAY.com to a collection of legends by Pura Belpré titled “Once in Puerto Rico,” which was initially published in 1973. Belpré was an Afro-Puerto Rican educator and collector of folktales who, according to Sotomayor, became the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City.

Between the pages of her collection, “Once in Puerto Rico,” Belprée includes “The Legend of The Hummingbird,” which weaves a similar story to Lopez’s opening for “This is Me...Now: A Love Story.” 

Belpré’s story adds more details, however. In addition to sharing that Alida and Taroo’s story is set on the island of Borinquén, the indigenous name for the island known today as Puerto Rico, Belpré’s story notes that the two lovers specifically met at a waterfall-fed pool located between the towns of Caye and Cidra.

The context of the background is a reminder that the truth behind folktales might hold little weight, but can certainly be grounded in historical places or events. In the case of Belpré’s story, there's truth in the setting. Today, Cayeyor Cayey de Muesas — exists in Puerto Rico, and so does the town of Cidra.

The story also details how Alida is a native of the island, and her father is a chief of a hill-inhabiting tribe. Meanwhile, Taroo was left behind on the island by his tribe, Carib, which he says in the story often attacked Borinquén. Thus, the forbidden love Lopez describes develops through several meetings at the pool. The turn in the couple’s love story occurs when Alida’s father finds out and arranges for her immediate marriage to a stranger, and Alida pleads to “her god Yukiyú” to kill her.

Instead, the god turns her into a red flower. Taroo is left to his own once again, this time with a broken heart. He prays to Yukiyú, who turns him into a hummingbird with instructions to search for Alida, who’d been turned into a red flower.

In the morning, the people on the island saw a new bird and named it a hummingbird for the music it made with its wings. 

“Ever since then, the little mini-colored bird has hovered over every flower he finds, but he returns most often to the flowers that are red. He is still looking. He’s always looking for the one red flower that will be his last Alida. He has not found her yet,” Belpré’s story concludes. 

Sotomayor says it’s likely that Belprée’s collection is the oldest, most reliable printed source of the folk tale. For him, it's understandable how a person like Jennifer Lopez would have grown up being told such a legend — and why she would be compelled to share it now.

“Folktales have a very important role in our societies in the construction of identities of ideas of communities that are different from other communities,” he explains. “They help to give shape to our culture.”

“This is Me...Now: A Love Story” is an Amazon Prime-exclusive narrative film that debuted on Feb. 16, in tandem with her ninth studio album, titled “This is Me...Now.” Her music documentary “The Greatest Love Story Never Told” will be released on Feb. 27, 2024. Combined, the three projects track Lopez’s life as a romantic, as well as her love life and reunion with Affleck.