Growing up back in Port Isabel during the 1950`s, it seems that my grandmother (Mama Sarita) on Apa`s side of the family was constantly busy, administering and applying some kind of healing treatment to us kids.

My Tia Rosa and her four children lived next door. Mama Sarita, lived with them. I should say rather that my Tia and her kids lived with Mama Sarita. It was her house.

My parents had six children of their own. Between the two houses located on the property there were ten children and five adults, not to mention the numerous cousins that seemed to stay over for days and some times weeks at a time.

Someone was always feeling sick with one kind of aliment. It was either the dreaded empacho, colico, aire, ojo, susto, la mollera caida, ipo, punsada del oido, dolor de muela, falciada del pie and the ever present cuts, burses and bumps on the head.

We did have a doctor in town, but with these many children frequently needing treatment, the two – four dollars it cost per visit added up and our parents frankly were not able to afford it.
The doctor was used only in cases of broken bones (to set the bone back in place and wrap it with a cast) or other major life treating illnesses like appendicitis (operation to remove the inflamed appendix).

For this reason Mama Sarita, kept and cultivated an herbal garden. For the most part she was the only one that tended to the garden. She worked the garden daily, mornings and late afternoons. She seeded, planted, watered, weeded, hoed, pruned, harvested, bagged and canned her herbs. She kept her dried herbs on some shelves next to the religious alter with blessed lit candles, pictures and statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, La Virgen de San Juan y La Virgen de Guadalupe and other saints. Us kids were allowed to run and play freely throughout the property except her garden. The only times we entered the garden was when she invited us in.

The invitation to go with her into the garden was to help her pull weeds, hold her big straw basket while she trimmed, cut leaves, stems and other parts of her plants and put them in the basket.
All the while she reminded us to step carefully around her plants. She said the plants were alive and could feel our presence. When we spoke in the presence of the plants, we should speak in a low voice and never use “maldicionces” (“bad words”) while we were in the garden. She pointed out, identified, made us touch and smell her herbs. She had Yerba Buena (for stomach aliments), Albacar ( keeps evil spirits away), Ceniso ( for susto), Menta (for heartburn), Estafiate (for empacho), Sacate de limon ( tea for girl things) and to keeps away mosquito’s, Oregano, Cilantro, Rosemary, Zabila and other plants.

Folk Healing Along the BorderThere was one plant in her garden we were not allowed to go near or touch. She was the only one that tended to it. Off to one corner of the garden, the southeast corner, protected from the strong winds by wooden planks with a gate. The gate and wood planks came up to her neck. Inside of that 10×10 square she grew Marijuana. The kids knew what it was but as ordered we stayed away from it. The only contact we had with her Marijuana was by peeking between the wooden planks at them. She always kept several of those plants growing. Once the plants grew taller than the wooden planks she would cut them down.

Next to the Marijuana fence between a Mexican line tree she had a small shed where she kept her garden tools. Outside of the shed on the east side she had a bench table the length of the shed. On the table was where she laid out her herbs and plants for the morning sun to enrich and dry.

The other contact we had with Mama Sarita`s Marijuana, was when she would rub her rubbing alcohol on us. She always kept three to four bottles of rubbing alcohol with Marijuana in them. Anytime we had growing pains in our arms and legs, legs mostly. She brought our one of alcohol/marijuana bottles and rub the solution keep into the pain area. She also used it for any other outer body aches, like arthritis and rheumatism.

Mama Sarita, had the gift of healing. She treated and cured us of ojo, ear aches, aire, stomach aches, muscle aches, susto, fever, common colds, cuts, bee stings, ant bites, rooster pecks, dog bites, cat scratches, empacho, sprained / twisted ankles, dislocated fingers, skin boils, rashes and many other childhood maladies. She had strong hands and fingers that rubbed and embedded healing into you. This along with her devoted faith and prayer made for powerful medicine. Often times when she massaged the afflicted and sprained body parts, the necessary deep rub made us cry out in pain. But soon after her treatment, application of rubbing solutions and ointments (Vicks and marijuana/ alcohol), a drink of her special mixture of teas and a long restful nap, we would wake up and feel a whole lot better.

Author: Rudy H. Garcia

Rudy H. García, from Port Isabel, Texas, has a Master’s in Education from the University of Texas at Brownsville and earned a B.A. in psychology from Pan American University in 1976. He is a participant in the Narciso Martínez Cultural Arts Center Writers’ Forum, and is a founder of the Laguna Madre Writers Forum. Rudy has also been featured on the radio program “Themes and Variations.” His poems are published with “Poets of the East Village” in New York and he has been a featured reader for the El Paseo Arts Foundation and is published in numerous other magazines.

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