This morning my sister-in-law’s mother dropped by with our niece, her granddaughter, to bring her to a woman who can help “cure” her, as she has become sick enough to visit the hospital twice recently. Many people in El Salvador use home cures, herbs, and even witchcraft to help cure what ails them.
We drove from our home in Jicaron to Nances, only about 10 minutes, but a good 45 minutes walk by foot. Nances is a rural neighborhood up the road from us. The road we drove on goes through neighborhoods Jicaron and los Naranjos, then crosses through (yes, through) the river Metayate to get to Nances, which is on the other side of the river. When the river is engorged in the rainy season, the only road to get there is from Agua Caliente. A hammock bridge for pedestrians crosses the river above the road.
When we got to Nances we asked a neighbor where the healer (called a “Curandera”) lived. She told us which house but that she had gone into town to shop, it being Thursday, the big “market” day in “El Pueblo,” Agua Caliente. So much for timing. A man at the healer’s house answered the door and attempted to entertain us. He was old and appeared to have Dementia. My relatives said he was “Norteado”. The word literally means “Northed,” and takes its meaning from the commonly used word for wind here: “El Norte,” which translates to “the North”. One who has been “Norteado” has lost their mind in some way, affected as if the wind has stricken them severely.
Here is a video I found on YouTube of The Curandera of Teotitlan del Valle
It is curious how this Curandera believes in both Christianity, with emblems and statuettes of Christ in her home, and the often superstitious, indigenous healing practices. Both are integrated into her personal belief and medicinal practice, and she appears to find no conflict between them. I believe these healers can be effective, especially in the use of herbs, which are natural pharmaceuticals. The faith aspect, which she stresses at the end of the video, takes it a long part of the way, when her patients believe she can heal them.
Later that day, our neighbor Lupe (pronounced “Loo-Pay” and short for Guadalupe), came by and I went for a visit next door. Lupe, 2 older sisters, and 2 brothers were there with their mother. The kids were keen to ask what the lyrics in many American songs meant. They played songs recorded on a cell phone, and Magali, the oldest sister, sang verses from her favorite songs. I was impressed at how she sang the song refrains, humming and mimicking the words very well considering she doesn’t know a lick of English. I could figure out most of the songs she hummed out, and promised to look up the titles I didn’t know. Hilda played her favorite Britney Spears songs on her cell phone, and I translated live while the songs played out. Everyone got a gas out of that. They told me there were some ‘gringos’ staying in Agua Caliente, the nearest town to us.
The gringos are here to teach English, as part of a program done every year, through the church. Agua Caliente is a rural township with a small town hall, a big white stucco church, a few small shops, and all but dead except on “market” day, which is Thursdays, when dozens of vendors come to sell vegetables, clothing, and odds and ends items for the house like plastic dishes, toilet paper, laundry soap, etc. Sundays see a few vendors, not as much as Thursdays, who come to take advantage of the church congregation.
On Sundays you will find the church in Agua Caliente full, with a small crowd spilling outside of the front and side doors. Part of the excitement is being able to “get out” of the house; a lot of teenage boys and girls stand in the crowd outside the doors, peering here and there to see which other young-folk also came that day. My niece would often ask if I’d go to church, so she could come with. Once we got there, I had to give her “mucho ojo,” or watch her like a hawk, as she spent more time checking out other worshipers than on the worship itself, and wandering off at times. I suppose that’s to be expected of almost any teenager.