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Click HERE to read more about Teresita in Curandero: A Life in Mexican Folk Healing, by Eliseo Torres & Timothy Sawyer



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Teresita Urrea, a.k.a. the Saint of Cabora, led a life that reads like a movie script. She was born in 1873 in Mexico, the illegitimate daughter of a fourteen-year-old Indian peasant and a dashing but philandering member of the aristocracy. She lived for a while in a dirt-floored village hut, but evidently hankered for something more. Legend has it that she confronted her father and demanded her rightful place, but she herself in an interview said that her father sent for her when she was sixteen years old.

After she came to live with him at his house, Casa Grande, Don Tomas Urrea, her father, became impressed with her spirit, and acknowledged her as his daughter forevermore. As she grew up on this enormous ranch, located at Cabora, Teresita became informally apprenticed to a woman named Huila, a bone-setter and herbalist. Soon this old curandera realized that Teresita possessed powers exceeding her own.

Hypnosis appeared to be one. On more than one accasion Teresita was able to calm patients and relieve them of their pain with her eyes alone. Another appeared to be prophecy. She once predicted to a close friend exactly whom she would marry and when the marriage would take place -- before the friend had even met her eventual betrothed.

One of the more dramatic incidents in her life took place when a man attempted to rape her. In the aftermath of the attempted rape, Teresita apparently went into a coma -- but to all and intents and purposes she appeared to be dead. She was dressed for burial, and her hands were bound across her breast. Suddenly, in the middle of the wake, Teresita sat bolt upright, puzzled by the funeral preparations. Three days later, Huila died, and was buried in the coffin intended for Huila. Teresita subsequently assumed Huila's duties as local curandera.

As Teresita's reputation grew, more and more people came to see her. Eventually, even the president of Mexico heard of her -- because she had urged the Yaqui Indians to fight for their land rights against the president's corrupt government, which was bent on confiscating their lands to give to his own friends. Chased into exile in America, Teresita's reputation was such that rebels fighting against the corrupt Mexican president actually went into battle with pictures of her pinned to their clothes and calling themselves Teresistas, or followers of Teresita.

These are only a few of the dramatic incidents that took place in Teresita's life. When she died at the age of 33, in 1906, her death was partly attributed to overwork -- she saw hundreds of patients per day, and slept little, and, like El Niño Fidencio, most likely compromised her own health to help others.


Most of this information is adapted from The Folk Healer: The Mexican-American Tradition of Curanderismo, by Eliseo Torres, Nieves Press.

This page was last updated on December 10, 2004