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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sonoran History: Terecita

Teresita

By Lynn Prince

Local balladeer Eric Holland has written a captivating song entitled Teresita, about a green-eyed Yaqui Queen. In conversation with Holland, I found Teresita to be one of Sonora’s most interesting, but little known, historical figures. Her intoxicating story is a panoramic sweep about the clash of cultures, politics and corruption, religion and spirituality, love and heartbreak found in one extraordinary literary accomplishment entitled The Hummingbird's Daughter, written by Mexico’s acclaimed writer Luis Urrea, of whom Teresita was his great-aunt. Thousands of miles were traveled in the 20 years of research Urrea put into this epic fictitious novel that is rooted in historical truth.

Teresita was born in 1873 in Sinaloa when the fierce northern tribes were being systematically annihilated in a war of attrition. She was the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy rancher, Don Tomás Urrea. An involvement in a failed political maneuver to break President Diaz’s dictatorial grip on the country forced Urrea, under threat of death, to uproot the entire ranch and move to Sonora, where he owned two sprawling cattle ranches outside of Guaymas.

An old Indian woman, Huila, head of the ranch’s domestic staff, recognized the remarkable powers that Teresita would exhibit on occasion and taught her the use of herbs and plants. During midwifing rounds her remarkable gift of putting women in labor in a trance, so they could have painless childbirths, began to manifest itself.

In 1889 a ranch hand brutally assaulted Teresita and she died after 12 days in a coma. After lying in repose for three days, she suddenly sat up and was restored to life as the women prepared her body for burial. She claimed she had met God on the “other side” and would be given a gift of healing to help the poor and hopeless.

As local curandera, her reputation flourished with the miracles that occurred. At times ten thousand people would be camped out on Cabora, the huge Urrea ranch, hoping for a healing touch from “Saint Teresita of Cabora.”

Death claimed her at the age of 33 and the Indians took her body to a crystal cave in the desert of Sonora where it is said her body lies uncorrupted and guarded by a cadre of elite Yaqui warriors to this day.

Teresita has not been forgotten by the people of Mexico and is still highly esteemed and honored in scores of communities.