The good witch-doctor
María de la Luz Matuz began her career (or is it “found her calling”?) at the age of seven. That was in 1922. With her death earlier today (Monday), at the age of 97, what was surely the longest medical practice in the world ended.
Matuz was a traditional curandera, whose backyard clinica in Vicam, Sonora became something of the Mayo Clinic of witch-doctoring, attracting patients from throughout the America, Europe and Asia. Considering how much we attribute a curandera’s skills to psychology, the fact that Matuz spoke only Yaquí (although she understood Spanish), her remarkable skill in diagnosing illnesses and successfully alleviating, and often curing, physical and psychological illnesses is hard to explain.
The only complaints ever made about her practice were not directed at her, but at people in nearby Ciudad Obregon, who claimed to be her relations and have been taught her skills… and who charged handsomely for what were said to be remedies personally concocted by María Matuz. Most of her patients left “donations” more in the range of a visit to a Dr. Simi clinic… ten or twenty or fifty pesos… and that included her home-brewed prescriptions. She was not in competition with the medical profession, taking referrals from them (especially psychologists, who respected her special gifts) and had been under medical care since breaking her hip after a recent fall.
How much of her skill was due to faith healing, how much to some inborn diagnostic sense and how much to a genuine understanding of herbal remedies, is probably a fruitless area of speculation. Whatever it was she was doing, she did it well, and did some good for a lot of people, for a very long time… and that was more than enough.