Monday, March 23, 2009


Christ in the Desert, Benedictine Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico

Last weekend I met two graduate students from the University of Texas. They had a flat tire on I-10 returning from a weekend at the famous monastery in Abiquiu, south of Taos, New Mexico, Christ in the Desert. I met and talked with them at Jim's Tire Shop in Saragosa, Texas, close to Balmorhea.

One of the stundents is working on a dissertation in Southwestern Culture. We began talking about Ojinaga and a famous curadero, Don Martin. A curandero is basically a cross between a Native American medicine man and a Catholic lay saint/healer and represents a phenomenon known to anthropologists, philosophers and theologians as synchrotism.

In the case of the famous curandero of Ojinaga, Don Martin is reportedly an ancestor of the "diaspora" of the San Carlos and Ojinago people visited by Cabaza de Vaca in the late 1530s [cf. painting left]. De Vaca was known by oral tradition to the Native Americans of the region as a spiritual healer; both his religion and his healing arts are said to be carried on by the curanderismo tradition.

The following article can be found on the Ojinaga Home Page, writen by Bryant "Eduardo" (also known as "Pancho") Holman, which provides information on Don Martin and curandisos like him.


by Bryant "Eduardo" Holman

When I first came to live in Ojinaga, I immediately became intrigued as to how much the people here are influenced by what is almost an obsession with what we might term the supernatural. I came to find out that this fact is almost the cornerstone of the culture here, and that this is really the norm throughout Mexico. It amazed me that anthropologists and writers seem to have missed the point on this issue, by and large.

In the course of studying this phenomenon it finally became clear that the only way I was going to really understand it would be to befriend an actual curandero, and thus I came to seek out and to know Don Martín. I have since discovered that he is quite famous both here in Ojinaga and in the San Carlos region, besides having a large following all around the area of the "diaspora" of the Ojinaga and San Carlos people in the United States.