Cradled between the breathtaking Apoyo Lagoon and the astonishing Mombacho Volcano, lay two small towns: Diría and Diriomo. Over the years, they have garnered a reputation very few towns and cities would like to have. They are colloquially known as the “pueblos brujos”, or witch towns, by locals, due the high amount of curanderos and natural healers living and working in both towns. Nonetheless, Diriomo is more famous, due to the fact that is has several dozen of these people scattered across the urban core’s simple grid. Curanderos rely on traditional forms of medicine to treat their patients, but what makes them remarkable is that they treat mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual illnesses based off their own personal assessments.
On Friday September 22, ninth graders traveled to Diriomo, continuing a tradition that has been going on for more than four years now. The reason for their trip, is because they read Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima, a captivating coming of age story that describes the constant struggle over identity and spirituality that the protagonist, Antonio Márez undergoes. Ultima, one of the novel’s main characters, is a curandera, who mixes her Catholic and indigenous heritage in her healing.
Ninth graders left the school early in the morning, and they made their way to Diriomo accompanied by their teachers and one parent chaperone.
In Diriomo, they met with one of the town’s practicing curanderos, who explained his profession and answered some of their questions regarding the topic. Juan Fernando Castillo, one of the freshmen who went on the trip told the Eye of the Tiger that he “found the curandero very odd, because he stated he owned an ouija board and a set of tarot cards”.
The visitors also toured the Casa de las Cajetas, where cajetas are made, the town’s park and the Catholic Church. They then had lunch at Golden Pizza. They also traveled to Diriá, where they were able to enjoy the spectacular views of Apoyo Lagoon below them.
Regarding the whole experience, Nicole Metz commented that it was a very interesting field trip, as they were able to observe and learn about curanderismo, a set of beliefs that are generally disregarded and not viewed highly by our society.
Student reactions were mixed, as the curandero’s work is seen as mystical and worthy of speculation. Students also told the Eye of the Tiger some of the intriguing things mentioned to them by the curanderos. Daniela Ordoñana said that she “really liked the field trip. We met two curanderos, one of them told us that he could talk to spirits, another one called himself a ‘brujo’”. When asked whether the treatments provided by curanderos actually worked, Victoria Crowe was skeptical, and told us that “he did not give evidence about his rituals, so I cannot know what if what he said was true. To a certain extent, I think what he claimed was not true”. Ana Rizo, on the other hand affirmed that “she believes in their work as healers, as long as it is dealing with diseases; but I don’t believe they see spirits or are able to brew working love potions”.
Ms. Lippay, the freshmen English teacher, and the one who organized the trip commented that “All Diriomo trips have been eye opening and informational, but we have had a different curandero each time because we want to meet one who is a true healer, more like Ultima, the character from our class novel. We like to meet curanderos who perform ‘good’ and not ‘bad’ work.”