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by Eliseo Torres & Timothy Sawyer


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Don Pedrito Jaramillo is perhaps the most famous curandero of all time. Known as "The Saint of Falfurrias (Texas)," Don Pedrito was a great folk saint -- a personage to whom people pray to combat their illness, change their luck, or as a simple expression of faith, who is not a canonical saint of the church but is neverthless acknowledged as one by the people.

Don Pedrito was born in 1829 in Mexico. Nothing is known of his childhood, but he was aeither a shepherd or a laborer; in either case, he was poor. When he was 52 years old, Don Pedrito is said to have asked God to heal his sick mother, pledging that, if his mother were not healed, he would leave Mexico. Thus, when his mother died, Don Pedrito crossed into Texas. This was in 1881. Don Pedrito is said to have been familiar with the Texas territory he entered from previous experience partly because he had helped run booze illegally into the area when he was younger.

Don Pedrito is said to have learned of his healing gift when he suffered a fall from a horse (he was, apparently, a mediocre horseman at best). In the fall, he injured his nose badly, and the pain was excruciating. Then something led him to a nearby wallow where, for no reason he could name, he dabbed mud all over the injured spot. This assuaged the pain and he was finally able to sleep after several sleepless days and nights. Don Pedrito later said that during that sleep, God spoke to him, commanding him to spend the rest of his life healing the sick and injured. From then on, Don Pedrito was a healer.

Most of his cures, like the one that he applied to himself, involved bathing and poultices of one kind or another. Others involved drinking lots of water, often in ritualistic patterns, for prescribed numbers of days, usually in threes and nines, the so-called mystical numbers. He was said to have psychic powers, and an ability to detect non-believers that was uncanny. Sometimes, when someone who had suffered a susto, or traumatic shock, came to him, he was able to identify the traumatic event the person had undergone without being told beforehand what it was.

Some tales revel Don Pedrito's sense of humor. One cure involved a woman suffering migraine headaches who sent a surrogate to seek a cure. Don Pedrito, perhaps irked that a surrogate had been sent, prescribed that the headache sufferer have her own head cut off and fed to the pigs! The woman was so furious when her surrogate returned and told her this that she sputtered and fumed -- and never suffered another headache for along as she lived!

Don Pedrito's shrine in Falfurrias, Texas, at Los Olmos (The Elms), is a famous South Texas pilgrimage to this day. The walls of the chapel at Los Olmos are covered with testimonials of people who have been cured by the spirit of Don Pedrito, and stowed in the rafters are the crutches of pilgrims whose lameness apparently vanished. The gravemarker of Don Pedrito, who died in 1907, calls him "The Benefactor of Humanity."

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 January 10, 2006