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San Malverde, Nino Fidencio

Date: Sun, 7 Jul 2002 22:23:36 -0500
From: "E Bryant Holman" (
Subject: San Malverde, Nino Fidencio

Don MartIn MartInez,  a famous curandero here, who now spends a lot
of time traveling to Texas, mainly, and to San Luis PotosI, is the
son of an even more renowned curandera, DoOa Crispina Gonz.lez Vda.
de MartInez. Don MartIn simply does not make enough money to get by
in Ojinaga, because he does not charge for his services, and the
tiny amounts that people give him are not worth his time, hardly.
When he is in town, however, he sees an incredible number of people.
The last time I saw him, a couple of weeks ago, before he went to
Midland, Texas, to attend to the community there, he told me that he
had seen close to 50 persons the day before, almost all of whom came
to him because they believed that they had been "mal puesto" - which
is to say, that they had been placed under an evil spell by a
sorceress (bruja), most likely.

This is mostly what don MartIn does, a process known as a "limpia"
(spiritual cleaning), and I have his complete prayer in English at and the
original, in Spanish, at

Don MartIn passes a brass crucifix all about the head and body of
the "patient" while reciting these prayers. I have talked to members
of the Tarahumara tribe, who are friends of mine, and their
curanderos do pretty much the same thing, including the use of the
brass crucifix, albeit that they pray in their native tongue, and I
am not sure what their prayers are all about, but I intend to find
out. Don MartIn, of all of the curanderos and curanderas that I
know, is the one whom I am closest to - so close, in fact, that he
has asked me to learn the trade from him, but I am certainly not
about to do so! Frankly, I find the whole thing to be quite
frightening, and I don't think I have the aptitudes for this anyway.

For the longest time, I was quite convinced that MartIn, with the
longest track record and most solid background in this than anyone
else around here, was definitely the most astute and the most
powerful, but I have since changed my mind. Even more powerful than
MartIn is Paty, a woman that I met in 1999 precisely because MartIn
was out of town when Michael Wood was scheduled to showed up, in
course of the filming of the Cabeza de Vaca segment on his
"Conquistadors" series, which was later aired on BBC and then on
PBS. With only a few days to go, we searched for another likely
candidate, and we found Paty, who did appear in the series, under a
section wherein Wood alleged that Cabeza de Vaca was, in effect, the
first Mexican Curandero, as he was the first to use Spanish prayers
with Indian rituals, and established the norm that is almost
completely intact among the Tarahumara, where, indeed, it was Alvar
NuOez Cabeza de Baca himself who established the forms that the
Tarahumara curanderos continue to use, almost without any
modification whatsoever, right down to the present.

That the practice of "generic" Mexican curanderos and curanderas
throughout Mexico is so similar, then, is no coincidence. Certain
fundamental beliefs of all Uto-Aztecan speakers throughout all of
Mexico, all the way from the Tanoan speaking tribes of the Norhern
Chihuahua and their cousins in New Mexico, down to the Nahuatl
speaking tribes such as the Aztecs in the Valley of Mexico, and even
their cousins in the Valley of Oaxaca, for instance, took up these
norms quite readily, and with the widespread practices from Europe
that Cabeza de Vaca had in mind in that which he proposed to do, the
pattern was almost an automatic thing, and therefor it is no wonder
that it has turned out to be such a homogenous belief system.

Even more conducive to its homogeneity is not the Indian elements,
but the European element, which, as I mentioned earlier, can be
traced back to San Cipriano, and through him, back to such persons
as Moses and Solomon, who are mentioned in his book, the "Tesoro del
Hechicero". For these reasons and more, it is becoming, for me,
continually more and more easy to understand this subject.

Central to the practices of most curanderos are the cults of various
saints, and I should put that word in parentheses, really, because
some of these persons are really not saints at all, or else they
have struck from the roles, as it were, by the church, because it
was shown that they were quite mythological all along, in more than
one sense of the word. Others of these person, or spirits, actually,
are "banned saints", which is to say, the church is officially
opposed to their cults, and if one were to not include, exactly, the
practices of the persons who are most properly called "curanderos"
and "curanderas" as opposed to "brujas" and "brujos" - terms which
some people would use interchangeably or view their use as possibly
dubious in one or another case, or ambiguous, perhaps - you might
have to try and distinguish between the "good" "banned saints",
which the practitioners of "white magic" adhere to, and those bad
ones, which the other guys use.

So, for instance, the most famous "good banned saint" of all time, I
think, would be El NiOo Fidencio, who is revered by both Paty and
don MartIn, and who was a neighbor of MartIn's mother, such that
they were contemporaries, and protEgEs, after a fashion, and MartIn
believes that he can conjure the spirit of Fidencio to help him with
his work, one might argue, judging from the information that MartIn
has revealed to me.


The most notorious "bad banned saint" would have to be Jesus
Malverde, a bandit who was hanged by the rural police in Sinaloa, I
don't know when or under what circumstances, but he is the "saint"
to whom the narcotraficantes pray, and he is very popular right now.

Affectionately known by the most common nickname for an person named
Jesus - "Chuy" - my father in law, don Fausto, told me that the
narcos, whenever they are about to cross the drugs in to the US,
mutter to themselves "ay.danos, Chuy" (help us, Chuy). The other day
this kid came into the store and asked me if I have any images or
prayers to "San Malverde". I have since located a place where they
sell them, and they were just about out of everything! I got a
candle from them, and it shows a hanged man on the front.

Okay, well, I am mostly rambling at this point. All of this
information will be in my book, and right now I am still
investigating, and I have yet to transcribe and translate all of my
interviews, of which I have several hours on tape. My next project
will be to interview the federal police about the narco-brujerIa,
about which I already have a wealth of information, so that I will
know what to ask them and how to interpret what they tell me. My
brother in law, a lawyer with plenty of connections to them, is
going to arrange for me ot talk to the local office of the Federal
Judicial Police here (my other brother in law is a federal judge,
and all I have to do is to mention his name and they practically
snap to attention!).

I am not so much interested in "San Malverde", or in another banned
saint from around here, "El Anima de Leyva", but in an entirely
different subject: that of how the narcos pray to regular saints for the
matter of their business, particularly San Judas Tadeo (Saint Jude), San
MartIn Caballero (Saint Martin of Tours), and San MartIn Porres. I
already know a lot about this, but I want to hear it from them, and to
take pictures of the statues they have right there at police


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