The Jungle Journal

go on adventures in the tropics, discover sacred cenotes,

visit the home of a Maya family, and much, much more...

Voodoo in Mexico?

Head brujo in Catemaco

There are connections—odd, even troubling at times—connections that happen here, often unexpectedly. One happened yesterday as we were poking around in Leona Vicario looking for a good place to give away some clothing and kitchen supplies. I usually do not know who donations will go to until I find them. This was a day like that.


Max and I took three big bags and drove down La Route De Los Cenotes (a road that goes through the jungle) to a small village called Leona Vicario. We saw a HUGE boa in the road on the way. Perhaps it was a sign. (After you read this whole blog post, go back and look closely at the first photo.) We were chatting about travel and Max mentioned a place in Veracruz that he visited many years ago. It was a small town with an island in a lagoon within its borders, an island only inhabited by monkeys who came down from the trees to eat little critters that lived along the shore.


Monkeys eating from the water's edge in Laguna Catemaco

The town was, and still is, famous for its ties to voodoo. It was the town where African slaves were originally brought into Mexico and I guess some of the slaves settled there and have built a rather interesting community over the centuries. The name of the town is Catemaco.

Laguna Catemaco

Max did not go out to the island, so he didn’t know what was out there. But I knew.

You see, just a few days before our conversation, I stumbled on a video about the brujos (witches) of Catemaco. The video showed a cave on the island where people leave photos of loved ones and little offerings. They also hire local brujos to work magic for them. I was a little disturbed by the video because some of it was quite dark. Apparently, the witches there will do just about anything for you if you pay them. That includes everything from casting spells to attract love to casting curses to exact revenge on your enemies.


Now remember, this story is about our adventure in Leona Vicario.


Not the home of Mary Elena, but a similar home in Leona Vicario

We reached the town and began driving down little streets, admiring the banana and mango trees and cute little grass-roofed houses wearing bougainvillea flowers like colorful wedding veils. The idea was to just drive around until we felt like we should stop. We had a lot of clothing to give away and wanted it to go to someone who could really use it. It's like intuitive gift giving. You follow your intuition and let it lead you to whomever is best suited to receive the gift.


Soon, we saw a small, circular home built from narrow tree branches. They pound the branches into the ground one after another as close together as possible to create a continuous wall and then put a grass roof on top. It is a very traditional building style. There was an open door, no apparent windows, and a woman in a wheelchair sitting just inside in the gloom. In front of her house was a beautiful noni tree full of fruit. We had been looking for a ripe noni because we wanted to use the seeds to try growing our own noni tree, so we stopped and politely asked if we might have one of the very stinky fruits. I think she happily would have given all the fruit away. It is considered a super-fruit, but it both smells and tastes awful and when it falls from the tree, it makes a mess.


The woman told us to take as much as we wanted and invited us to chat. We felt she was the right person to give our donations to, so we brought the bags from the car and entered her tiny house to find one little table with a sewing machine sitting on it. She fixed clothing for a living! She was thrilled to receive the donations we brought. But there was MUCH more to our conversation than just clothing and sewing and noni fruits.


Almost immediately the woman, Mary Elena, told us she was sure God has sent us to her. She believed that everything happens for a reason. Of course, at first, I assumed she meant that God sent us to her to bless her by bringing her something she could make use of. But it was not long before I realized my assumption was incorrect.


Mary Elena was not referring to what we had given her. She was referring to something she had to give us.


You see, Mary Elena told us that she was from a little place in Veracruz that was the home of Voodoo in Mexico. A little place called . . . Can you guess?


Catemaco.


What followed next surprised me. Who would have thought we would be on a mission to bring donations to the poor and find ourselves on the receiving end of spiritual advice?


Mary Elena told us she was from “the plant” of Catemaco. She explained that her family roots were from there. She said that magic is very real and that before I went on anymore “adventures” I needed to drink a special drink. She told Max that it was his job to make sure I was safe and she gave him the recipe for this very special drink and told him to make sure I drank it every day.


The trouble is, we often find that people in the little pueblos that we visit speak in a very circular fashion, much like the construction of their homes. So, it can be difficult to get to the root of things. Mary Elena would not explain why I needed her potion, but she was adamant that I drink it. At first, I thought she wanted me to drink it for my health, but then it became obvious that it was for my benefit not just in the material realm, but also in a realm beyond.


There is a duality in the people here. I am still trying to understand it. Never-the-less, I have found that it is sometimes beneficial to just trust, even without what I would consider satisfactory explanations.


And so, I am adding a drink to my morning routine.

(NOTE: Its just fresh fruits and veggies and would be good for me even if it had no spiritual significance.)


Following the breadcrumbs,

Laura

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© 2015 by Laura LaBrie

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