One year ago, I read about a convention of curanderos (traditional holistic healers from an Hispanic heritage) taking place in Albuquerque. I sent the article to a dear friend I’ll call “Raquel” who lives on the East Coast. Since she and I share a passionate interest in folk healing, she became as excited as me and ordered a book authored by the course organizer, Eliseo “Cheo” Torres, an administrator at the University of New Mexico. Raquel met him the next time she was in Albuquerque. Stimulated by her encounter, she insisted, “We have to attend next July.”
Enthusiastically, I agreed. She would fly to El Paso, take a shuttle to Las Cruces, then drive us in my car to Albuquerque and back.
The first obstacle was an ignition problem with my car, so over six weeks before the course, I visited a repair shop and explained that although the key turned on, I often could not remove the key after the car was in Park. Accordingly, they installed a new ignition system and tumbler and assured me that the car was fixed. It wasn’t, yet each time I brought it back to the repair shop to show them, the key worked.
After returning four times, the owner and repairmen discounted me. Since I felt insecure about the car’s reliability, I took it to another repair shop that believed me because they encountered the key problem a few times themselves. Although they kept the car for two weeks they found nothing wrong, and only days before departure, they returned it to me unaltered. Feeling apprehensive, Raquel and I rented a car.
Simultaneous with my car problem, Raquel’s daughter discovered a lump in her upper arm that turned out to be malignant. After removing it, her oncologist recommended chemotherapy. Instead, the daughter flew across the country to another specialist who prescribed radiation rather than chemo. Raquel and I breathed a temporary sigh of relief. Now we could resume our travel plans because the radiation would not begin until after the two-week course was over. In spite of the breather, Raquel’s daughter still had a life-threatening condition that Raquel would have to deal with later.
Next, the week prior to the class, my hearing aids stopped working and had to be returned to the manufacturer. They wouldn’t be ready until after the class. Although I can hear somewhat without them, I frequently lose words and often have to bluff during one-on-one conversations. Being without them would put me at a disadvantage while trying to absorb new information in an academic setting.
Finally, the appointed day came for Raquel’s arrival. The three-plus-hour drive to Albuquerque was uneventful except for the continuous ringing of Raquel’s cell phone that was tucked inside her pocket. Since she is an opera buff her ring tone is the “Habañera” from “Carmen.” Each of the at-least six times it played made us laugh – but not for long.
As soon as we arrived at the hotel, Raquel called home. As she listened, her face fell and her breathing became more rapid. Bad news. Another family crisis had arisen with her other child. Raquel’s husband wanted her to return at once, and we hadn’t even checked in.
Despite Raquel’s contemplating an immediate return home, we still registered at the hotel. At the same time, I began mulling over my own Plan B, but we actually stayed and enjoyed the course for one week. However, after more distress calls from home, Raquel felt she had no alternative but to leave. Apologetically, she drove me back to Las Cruces and flew home the next morning.
So how was the Curanderismo course? FANTASTIC! I will write about it soon – unless another calamity interferes with my schedule.
Norine Dresser is a folklorist who forgot to mention that while in Albuquerque, her second great-granddaughter was born in Colorado with the cord wrapped around her neck causing pneumonia and an infection. At this moment, she is improving but remains in the neonatal ICU.