"Niño Fidencio"

Dore Gardner

Jose Fidencio Sintora Constantino was born in Guanajuato 1898 and lived in Espinazo, Nuevo Leon in northeastern Mexico. He worked in the ways of the traditional healers, preparing medicines from herbs and plants, and in mysterious ways with the supernatural. By his mid - twenties thousands of people were coming to Espinazo. There they would camp out awaiting his attention and hoping to be touched by him. At he time of his death in 1938, he was Mexico's most famous curandero (folk healer).

Today there are countless curanderos who are mediums for the spirit of Niño Fidencio on both sides of the Rio Grande. The curanderos are referred to as materias or cajones and act as cajitas (little boxes) for Niño Fidencio's spirit. During the healing rituals they are endowed with the Niño's healing powers.

During four days in October (Niño's birth and death) and again in March (his saint's birthday), the small village of Espinazo swells with thousands of people who come to pay homage to Niño Fidencio and renew their faith and healing powers. They come from Mexico, California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Idaho and Florida. The old materias, of Mexico and Texas still go back and forth across the border visiting misiones, sharing their traditional cures and bringing down the spirit of the Niño. The world changes all around them, but not so much here where history, culture, ritual and memory merge and the spiritual life looms over the material world.

I began photographing in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas because the valley has a rich tradition of curandismo (folk medicine, rituals, beliefs and practices that address psychological, spiritual and social needs). The photographs were made during the four day celebrations in March and October in Espinazo, Mexico and at "Fidencistas" missions throughout Texas.

Dore Gardner


Dore Gardner lives and works in Massachusetts, USA
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