Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chihuahua - The Curse

My mother was cursed. It happened in the town of Chihuahua, Mexico when I was a boy. My parents and I were driving from Los Angeles to Mexico City to visit my uncle Carl and my aunt Pepita who lived there with their children Carl Jr. and Monica.

We drove across the American southwest in our new Dodge Dart station wagon. It was in the summer of 1965. I recall that the days were long and hot during the trip and I used to look forward to swimming in the pools of the motels recommended in the AAA guides that were popular at the time. This was my first trip to Mexico. We drove south into Mexico from El Paso, the blue tourista decal affixed to our windshield. You didn't need passports back then.
We arrived in Chihuahua early in the afternoon and checked into a beautiful hotel on the hills overlooking the city. The front of the hotel consisted of large balconies instead of hallways and with the doors to the rooms opening to the stunning vista.

After checking in, we toured some of the classic streets and buildings of this beautiful colonial city, one of Mexico's greatest treasures. My mother, a first generation German-American, was excited to explore the city's many historic colonia, aqueduct, government buildings, the old, wide cobble stone avenues and photograph the classic architecture with her Kodak Instamatic camera.
She insisted on going inside the great cathedral in spite of having nothing to cover her head. It was hard to pass up such an historic building and she was a Protestant, unfamiliar with the Catholic traditions practiced there and by most of the members of the paternal side of my family, except for my father. Even I was schooled through Catechism and wondered at this, but no one warned her as we entered.
The interior of the cathedral was dimly lit from the stained glass and many prayer candles. A few locals sat in the pews, deep in their own thoughts and conversations with God. One old women dressed in black looked up from her rosary and muttered something in Spanish, first to my mother and then to the crucified figure of Christ at the head of the church.
My mother asked my father, who was fluent in Spanish, what the old women had said. He simply said "Nothing."
We were about a block away when my mother started to vomit. We got her back to hotel room quickly, where she endured a long and uncomfortable evening while my father and I went off to dinner. She had no interest in eating and wanted only to lie down.
Upon returning, she told us that someone had repeatedly knocked on the door, but that no one was there whenever she could bring herself to open the door.
The next day, my mother was weak, but recovering and my father finally told her that the old woman had cursed her vehemently for her transgression.

Later, we learned from the hotel staff that it was common for bats to bang into the walls at twilight, in search of prey.
Afterwards, whenever we visited other churches, and later, at weddings and funerals, my mother always covered her head.

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