A couple weeks ago I walked past my neighbors house and there was a larger middle-aged woman sitting in their main room talking loudly. I hadn’t seen her before so I poked my head in and said hello. The neighbor invited me in and I sat and listened to the woman for a while and all she seemed to talk about was how she cured some man of his constipation within five minutes of meeting him. I thought to myself, she must be some sort of specialist in home remedies, not that curing constipation has ever been an issue in a country where unwashed lettuce and chickens hanging out in latrines is commonplace. Instead of telling me about how she prescribed him some remedy she simply explained that she cured him with the faith of Christ. Well this is my cue to leave, I thought to myself, but sadly my big fat American ego wouldn’t let me leave without uttering a couple sentences of skepticism. The neighbor dismissed me, apologizing to the Faith Curing Lady for my ignorance. She explained to the Curing Lady that because I was an American I couldn’t understand what they were saying and that I am like a little boy. I was offended by her statement so I repeated everything she had said, explained my opinion over again, told her that I was not a little boy but instead a grown man, and then asked her to do my laundry. A few hours later I left my site for a medical mission and my friend came down from the states, I was out of my site for several days.
When I came back my neighbor had two big stories for the last week. First, the woman was curing the blind, making the lame walk and children who were mute start speaking. He told me that I would have to see it to believe it; I shrugged it off because I have discovered that my neighbors aren’t particularly fond of skeptics. My other neighbor, who is a little more level headed, said there was a lot of Faith Curing Lady hysteria going on right now and that people were lining up in either direction down our little street to see her. The second major event to report was that one of our neighbors had died. I was told that she had an epileptic seizure and that she died almost instantly. It was pretty sad because she had lost her first baby in childbirth last month and both she and her husband where having some trouble coping. Her death came as a huge surprise to everyone because she was only 25 years old, no one mentioned where or when it happened.
I went to the funeral a few days later and in talking to the husband learned that she had been at the house with the Faith Curing Lady when she had the attack. It still sounded like a freak accident, as if she had been struck by lighting; a strange coincidence that she happened to die in the same house where she was supposed to be cured. The whole thing was a little too strange by American terms (but not at all by Dominican terms) and I decided to talk to the most rational Dominican I could find. The lady who I talked to always seems to be in the know about everything, American or Dominican, and this was no exception. She explained to me the situation that every couple years people pass through town “curing” and using the whole show to make a little money. Barrio Las Flores just happens to be the jackpot when it comes to people looking to believe in just about anything. The people that are cured are never really neighbors but instead people who have supposedly traveled great distances to see the miracle worker (so no one ever really knows if the blind person is really blind, or if the lame person can’t actually walk). There is also a trick they use to make people fall over and pass out by shaking their heads and throwing off their equilibrium, they pass it off as the power of Christ, this trick can also cause seizures in people with Epilepsy. At least that is what the hospital staff said in regard to my neighbor’s death, they also said that when she arrived at the hospital she had suffocated on her own saliva and that she could have been saved if she was simply laid on her side. The whole thing made me sick, it also got me thinking about how this situation would be handled if it happened in the U.S. I am sure there would be some kind of investigation and this woman would probably be tried for manslaughter, or at least made to stop what she was doing. Instead, there are still dozens of people lining up each afternoon to receive their miracle cure and blessing.