Curanderismo Along The Rio Grande
There are two Fiestas for Nino Fidencio each year one in March and one in April.
Writers of the Rio Grande covered the one in March that is held in Edinburg each year.
For those unfamiliar with Nino Fidencio, we should start at the beginning.
El Niño Fidencio (born 1898; died Espinazo, Mina, Nuevo León, October 19, 1938) was a famous Mexican curandero. His birth name was José de Jesús Fidencio Constantino Síntora. Today he is revered by the Fidencista Christian Church. The Catholic Church does not recognize his official status as a saint, but his following has extended through the northern part of Mexico and the southwest of United States. This situation allows El Niño Fidencio to be recognized as a folk saint.
While in elementary school, he met Father Segura, as well as Enrique López de la Fuente, who was the janitor as well as his friend, and later, his protector. They both worked to help the priest with religious services, and it was at this time that Fidencio learned to work with herbs and how to to cure
Fidencio was famous for performing operations without anaesthesia without causing pain to patients, and provided cures related to specific parts of town, such as a pepper tree which the congregation threw offerings around, and a mud puddle in which his followers bathed.
According to devotees, Fidencio continues to work miracles through objects called Little Boxes.
There is much more to be learned about El Nino Fidencio.
One thing that might strike curiousity for people new to the folk saint called “El Nino” is the name. Nino means boy child or at times baby boy. El Nino repeatedly never grew a beard, never went through puberty, had a soft, high voice ( I’m picturing Tiny Tim here) and never had sexual relations as well. So that is how he got his name.
At 12 years El Nino performed his first healing, and never stopped. He established a sancturary in Espinazo Nueva Leon Mexico, until the time of his death in 1938.
He had two very iffy relationships with two very powerful establishment institutions in Mexico, namely The Catholic Clergy and the M.D. establishment. He survived both relatively easily. El Nino did not have a medical license or an authorization from the church to administer Catholic ritual. He did not let that slow him down much. A curious historical side-note is that he had a consultation with the ex-president of Mexico, Plutarco Elias Calles, who previously had initiated a war against the Catholics of Mexico, called The Christero War, meant to break the power of the church, and for payback as well, for the church siding with the wrong side during the Mexican Civil War. The early Pri party in the late 1910’s and early twenties was extremely anti-clerical and secular. El Nino never did claim to be anything other than Catholic. Calles came very quietly and left the same, and we will never know what was discussed. It remains a mystery.
And amongst the followers of the Fidencio Christian Church and many others El Nino survives today; he is said to have promised his followers that would continue his work on earth and his promise has been fulfilled in the form of “materias” or mediums. We would call them “Channelers” in New Age Speak. There are dozens and dozens, officially recognized by the “Church of Nino Fidencio” And many others are totally independent of any sanction, and some are only part time.
For myself, I am unclear as to the distinction of what channeling, or being a materia is apart from possession, angelic or demonic, whatever. I think the distinction here is the intent beneficent and good, or evil and wicked; otherwise it appears substantially to be much the same thing. Judge for yourself in the video of another “materia” or medium. One is female, yet she channels Nino Fidencio
José de Jesús Fidencio Constantino Síntora, or Nino Fidencio is the most popular folk saint in Mexico today. He has no recognition at all from the Catholic Heirarchy, yet many Catholic Priests will perform masses at religious festivals concerning El Nino, and of course most of his adherents and followers are comprised of Catholics
Alberto Salinas Jr. is one of El Nino’s primo “materias” north of the border. People come to see him from all over Texas and from around the world, Alberto Salinas was born in Raymondville Texas, over 61 years ago. He felt the call to be a healer at an early age. For the story of a journey of a curandero. you can read his autobiography The Border Healer. Today he has a compound on the outskirts of Edinburg Texas where he welcomes seekers and the afflicted of both physical and mental conditions to consult with him, many times when channeling El Nino Fidencio.
The advice ranges from prayers to specific herbs, to of course requesting divine assistance. There have been exorcisms performed as well. I talked to Alberto when in trance and asked him several questions. He speaks in a soft voice much as El Nino did when he was in the physical. When I asked how long he would be coming to help assist the sick here on earth he replied: “As long as God wants me to.”
The trances seem to take their toll. Alberto, as El Nino, grows tired and longs for rest. But old time faith healers as well as old time medical doctors would not turn a line of patients away. Healing was seen as a sacred calling. How much of that is true today is up for debate. The original El Nino passed away at an early age, presumably from overwork and not enough rest. The ” sleeping seer of Virginia Beach” Edgar Cayce, received advice from his own spiritual connection to cut way back on the readings he was doing. as it was injuring his health. This advice he ignored and not too long afterward passed on to an early demise.
It seems these guys, at least, weren’t in it just for the money.
March 16, was the El Nino Festival… The normally verdant semi-desert of the Rio Grande Valley was seared and scorched with drought. Two weeks before I had been there with my associate who was there both as a reporter and as participant. Earlier that morning there had been a mass and service. Now there was conversation and food and people were enjoying each others company. Readings and consultations were available from a variety of curanderos and curanderas. Alberto was enjoying the day, the queen of the Fidencio Festival following him everywhere. She had been selected by Nino Fidencio himself and was a very pretty young girl. She was, of course, dressed all in white. At first I though she had just had her 15th birthday party.
Personal involvement into the world of the curanderos and medicine people of the Mexican-Catholic tradition seems to almost require that the individual becoming involved be from that tradition. Or so it seems. Without the belief and humble and willing acceptance of the petitioner, not much will probably happen. Doubters, scoffers, and skeptics must do all their doubting, scoffing etc. from the sidelines. As Jesus has said: “By your faith you are healed.” Not much will happen without it.
The Eastern Religions, from Hindu to Buddhist, to spiritual traditions from all across the world have expanded beyond their core ethnic group, and have made an impact on American society in general. Some of the shamanistic and Native-American traditions as well. Witness how New Agers hang on the Hopi Indian prophecies and the Mayan 2012 end of the world imbroglio.
The El Nino Fidencio sect centers it’s appeal to “la gente” the common people of the Mexican tradition, who as a matter of course are imbued in the Catholic tradition. When they are blessed first by the Catholic priest, then by the Fidencio “materista” they do indeed feel doubly blessed. Wherever the blood of Mexico flows there is the Virgen of Guadalupe and also El Nino Fidencio. This is for sure.
If you would like to find out more you can call Alberto Salinas, the Nino Fidencio “materia” in Edinburg. He is the author of The Border Healer, My life as a Curandero”
also “Conversations with a Curandero”
The website is elninofidencio.com
Alberto Salinas Jr. and
Lydia Posas Salinas
5616 E. Mile 18
Edinburg, Texas 78542
(Three Blocks East of
Alamo Road on Rogers Road)
The major American scholar on El Nino Fidencio is Dr. Antonio Zavaleta currently at UTB-SC in Brownsville. He is the author of three books on El Nino Fidencio and other subjects concerning the U.S. Mexican border. He can be contacted at The University of Texas Southmost College in Brownsville.
Our Thanks go out to Dr. Zavaleta, he was extremely helpful in sharing his knowledge of El Nino with us at Wotrg. He also has been a long time friend of the materia Alberto Salinas
Dr. Antonio “Tony” Zavaleta
Professor of Anthropology and Sociology
Behavioral Science Department
Ph.D. from The University of Texas in Austin 1976
M.A. from The University of Texas in Austin 1972
CV/VITAE: Zavaleta Vitae
Anthropology and Sociology
Area of Specialty and Responsibility:
Anthropology, Sociology and Border Studies
First Dean of the College of Liberal Arts
Interim Dean of the College of Science, Math and Technology
Interim VP for Partnership Affairs
Interim VP for Institutional Advancement
VP for External Affairs