Veracruz, once part of the Aztec empire, is considered one of Mexico’s most diverse states in terms of tradition and culture. One of its intriguing and somewhat hidden corners is Catemaco, a town famous for its sorcerers and the remedies they provide.
The history of Catemaco began before the Spanish Conquest. In pre-Hispanic times, the Mexica, rulers of the Aztecs, classified 40 types of healers. They enjoyed high social positions, since communities considered their skills and knowledge essential. When the conquistadors arrived, the Spaniards brought African, Cuban and Haitian slaves, resulting in a mix of ethnic groups and cultures.
That’s when the Catholicism, Cuban Santeria, Haitian voodoo and Mexica and Olmec curanderismo blended.
Due to Catholicism’s insistence on eliminating indigenous practices, Catemaco’s native people got creative. They transformed their culture to worship saints in their own, singular way.
And that’s how Catemaco’s sorcerers and shamans’ population grew. Today in Catemaco, there are sorcerers who practice white magic and black magic. Some openly venerate Santa Muerte and Satan.
Catemaco’s sorcerers perform various mystical tasks — from spells to invoking spirits to guide the paths of those in need. They practice natural medicine and recommend remedies based on herbs, grains or seeds to recover from illness.
People in Catemaco make their living as healers, which means they offer charms to remove diseases from your body. Cleansing spells can cost from 100 to 200 pesos ($5-$10). Healers perform cleansings using a raw egg, fresh herbs and some additional charms they claim extracts energy when passed near your body, allowing you to start anew.
These practices are promoted to attract curious people who visit Catemaco or those who seek the sorcerers’ services. Catemaco is located seven kilometers (4.3 miles) west of San Andrés Tuxtla, which is recognized for its artisan tobacco production.
In the Los Tuxtlas region, people embrace traditional medicine. Many specialize in herbs, others in being “snakebite” healers, midwives, nurses or bonesetters, a traditional practice that preceded chiropractic.
Visitors might want to consider a cleansing or hand reading if they want a truly authentic Catemaco experience.
(Translated by Gabriela Olmos. Edited by Rafael Prieto and Fern Siegel)
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