Folk healing casts spell over city Many area residents practice, believe in /curanderismo/ - Brownsville Herald: News

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Folk healing casts spell over city Many area residents practice, believe in /curanderismo/

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Posted: Sunday, March 13, 1994 12:00 am

By PATRICIA A. GONZALEZ

Herald Staff Writer

#Maria Luisa Jimenez closed her eyes softly as she held a candle.

"/Quita las envidias,/" Jimenez said. "If someone is jealous of me, it (the

feeling) goes back to them."

The homemade candles Yerberia Cerrillos sells are made of wax and chili

peppers. To keep away negative forces, the candles must be placed in the

corners of a home, said the store's owner, Olivia Cerrillo.

Jimenez said she often buys candles and herbs from Cerrillo to avoid any

negative energy from taking over her business, a bakery, in Mexico.

"I know that it (envy) is there because I feel it," the Valle Hermoso

resident said. "I can feel it in the sales."

Faith moves mountains, Cerrillo said.

"Faith is what picks things up," she said. "Sometimes you need other forces

besides the one of God."

Jimenez and Cerrillo are among the thousands of people on the border who

believe in folk healing.

One man who placed his faith in a /curandera/ received unusual advice: Find me

a hit man and I'll make your marriage work. Daniel "El Guero" Garza took the

deal and is now serving a life sentence for being a middleman in the murder of

Joey Fischer.

Garza said he consulted Maria Mercedes Martinez because he believed that his

marital problems would go away.

Martinez, in turn, connected him with Dora Garcia Cisneros' offer. Martinez

pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and Cisneros is serving a life

sentence for capital murder.

Folk healing is not evil, said University of Texas at Brownsville professor

Tony Zavaleta.

It is a tradition based on a culture in which practitioners use different

techniques. /Barridas, cura de susto, empacho/ and /limpias/ are common

methods used by believers along the U.S.-Mexico border, he said. /Limpias/,

sweeps, purify people's spirit, said Cerrillo's husband, Juan Tinoco.

Tinoco used burning charcoal, oils, incense, herbs and /albacar/ during a

brief ritual on a Brownsville woman.

"God, help her so that no evil crosses through her path," Tinoco whispered.

Tinoco trembled as the Brownsville woman stood near the fumes of the burning

charcoal.

"Help her succeed in her job and in her life," he said as he passed the

/albacar/ through her body.

Faith is necessary for the rituals to be enacted, Tinoco said.

Zoila Sanchez, of Brownsville, shared the same thought.

"If you believe in it, it will bring positive energy," she said as she

walked out of Yerberia Cerrillo. "If you have faith, it will work."

Folk healing is an "active, living vibrant tradition," Zavaleta said.

"People everywhere have folk healing traditions," he said. "There will

always be the need that people have beyond medicine as a science."

Cerrillo said she often reads cards to clients with marital, financial, or

emotional problems.

"You have to have faith in the cards," he said. "You have to believe in

them."

Cerrillo said she believes that she could have prevented two deaths when she

read the cards to two of her customers.

Cerrillo said she told one of her clients to take care of her father's back

because she foresaw a negative force affecting the man.

"I told her that her father was being betrayed," she said in Spanish.

"Three hours later they shot him from behind and he died."

Cerrillo said the cards recently predicted another death.

"I told the woman that I saw the death of a child when I read her the

cards," she said. "Weeks later, her baby drowned."

Cerrillo said she cannot predict danger for her clients. However, she said she

does prevent it for her children.

"I don't let them out of the house because I believe in the cards," she

said.

People's beliefs affect their behavior, said University of Texas at

Brownsville professor William Davis.

"They affect them physically," he said. "You can have a physical effect on

your body."

He said faith has a placebo effect.

"If you take a vitamin, many individuals will report that they feel better

even though the drug has no effect on them," Davis said. "The mind is

incredible. It could have a strong and short term effect on our health."

Sandra Robles of Brownsville agreed.

"Scientists can say what they want about it," she said. "I believe that I'm

going to heal with the teas and herbs. When I take my herbs I can feel the

difference."

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