The Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, where I currently reside, is a very religious place. Historically, it was a Catholic region, due to the colonization that took place by Spanish conquistadors in the Americas. Here in the borderlands, curanderos (healers) played an important role in providing spiritual advice and remedies for physical and emotional ailments to people who could not afford to see doctors. Curanderismo is quite diverse, but traditionally incorporates elements of Catholic and indigenous medicine. The most well-known folk healer from this region is Don Pedrito Jaramillo, who was born in Mexico but spent the last quarter of his life here in a small town called Falfurrias.
My friend and I decided to drive up to Falfurrias and visit the shrine on a hot, sunny day in South Texas. It was a magical place, and here’s what I saw…
When you exit off the highway in Falfurrias, you turn in the opposite direction of downtown and drive a couple miles. There’s a sign telling you to turn, and two miles down, a brown Texas historical marker sign points to the shrine. The site is unassuming, so if you are driving too fast or not paying attention, you may miss it. My friend, who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, remembers visiting the shrine when she was younger, and she recalled it being packed with visitors. On the day we went, it was completely deserted, and I have a feeling that is how it usually is now.
There’s a cream brick building that looks like a house from a distance, but once you get closer, you realize it’s one large room that is used as the shrine. The front and back doors were propped open, and on the front door was the sign above, advertising the services of a curandero.
The photo above that one, the statues of saints, has a cat hiding at the bottom. She was a friendly young mama cat that followed us as we walked around. Everywhere we went, she was right there. We quickly decided she was the protector of the shrine, and maybe even Don Pedrito himself reincarnated!
The room was filled with personal photos and notes, fake flowers, and candles, that people had left behind as offerings. Most of the notes ask for help in tough times, or give thanks when hardships work out in their favor.
When he was alive, people would camp out at the ranch that Jaramillo lived on, waiting to have their ailments healed by him. Some people even came from as far as New York City. He would use the donations he earned to buy food for the poor. He never married, but adopted two boys. The shrine is also the burial site of Jaramillo, and he still has some descendants living in the area today.
On the property there was a cemetery for the descendants of Don Pedrito Jaramillo, as well as a curio shop, that no longer appeared to be in operation.
Behind the shrine was a small field used for grazing animals. We observed some sweet cows and a donkey, who if I recall correctly, had a friend (another donkey or a horse) that he was chasing after and playing with.
Finally, we followed the mama cat to the covered side porch of the curio shop, where she and her kittens hung out on the nice cool tile.
It was kind of sad that the shrine was deserted, but at the same time, it made for a peaceful retreat. It combined some of my favorite things: animals, nature, old buildings, and historic cemeteries. I hope I can make it back there again soon.
For some people, visiting this shrine is a pilgrimage of sorts. For others, it is a way to give thanks, connect to their roots, or ask for guidance. Even if you don’t fall into one of these categories, you will still walk away with a sense of inner peace. It is well worth the visit.