I was ushered in through the front gate after being quizzed about who I was and who had sent me. Sitting down in what looked like a dentist’s waiting room, I began to question if I was in the right place. Pictures of a nurse’s graduation framed on the wall did nothing to appease my doubts that I had indeed come to the wrong address. It wasn’t until I heard the distant slap of leaves on skin, that I knew for sure that the man behind the consultation door was Don Pancho the Curandero.
The scene couldn’t have been any further from what I had imagined, when I decided to go and see this renowned local healer for a limpia (a traditional cleanse treatment). I had envisaged a dark and mystical place with spiritual music playing and the strong smoky scent of copal engulfing my senses. I imagined a waiting room of people in some kind of spiritual mediation waiting esoterically to see their healer. What I got was a light and airy, magnolia painted waiting room, with floral print sofas and a television blaring out a morning TV show called Hoy!
Waiting patiently clutching my basil and eggs and trying to block out the children’s talent show taking place on Hoy! (the content of which could fill a blog in its own right), I built up images of this renowned figure I was about to meet. Would he be wearing a headdress, perhaps some feathers? Certainly he would have some kind of bone necklace and a Mesoamerican tattoo or two, right? He would most definitely have wise eyes that penetrated my soul and would speak very little and most likely only in profound incantations to the spirits.
Three hours later, my turn came to see this special man. With excitement and some trepidation, I got up, opened the consultation door and stepped into the office of an accountant!
I would have turned and walked out, thinking I had entered the wrong room, if Don Pancho hadn’t got up from his desk to introduce himself to me and if I hadn’t just at that moment, spotted the piles of basil leaves that had been swept neatly into a corner. My traditional healer was sat in a green pressed shirt and beige chinos, that were struggling around his slightly chubby waist. His little round glasses were perched on his nose and his mouth was stretched into a huge warm smile. My dark and mysterious healer was the jolly taxman!
Within minutes, however, I wasn’t sure how sweet and jolly Don Pancho was. I was being hit with basil and having my body twisted and turned and pushed in all directions. I was taking deeps breaths and then screaming out the pain. “Louder” he would shout, and louder I would scream. “Louder” he would bellow again and even louder I would yelp, to the delight, I’m sure, of the people still waiting in line outside. Hitting me harder he rubbed a mixture of alcohol and essential oils into my hair and neck. Then suddenly he shouted, “Rip” thrusting the basil in my hands and I tore the leaves apart. “Throw” he yelled and I threw the shredded basil with all my might onto the tiled floor. Then it was over and there was silence for a few moments, making the sound of my heartbeat thunder in my ears.
Quietly and gently Don Pancho bent down and picked up some basil “Look” he smiled “it is burnt, you burnt it with your energy, that is a really wonderful thing”. He gave me a warm hug, and casually told me a number of incredibly accurate details about my life and the health of my family members. Then, just as casually, he told me I was good to go and led me to the door.
Slightly shell-shocked, I left the session and wandered back into the day, reeking of patchouli and mandarin, with remnants of basil leaves still in my hair…
So glad this guy wasn’t my curandero!
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in BBC Travel, CNN Travel, Conde Nast Traveler, AFAR and The Independent among others . Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Instagram and Twitter.