Don Pedro Jaramillo

September 22, 2022

Don Pedro Jaramillo, more widely known as Don Pedrito, was a community leader and curandero, or folk healer, around the turn of the 20th century. From 1881 until his death on July 3, 1907, he lived in a modest adobe hut near the banks of Los Olmos Creek in Brooks County, where he prescribed equal doses of Catholic faith and homespun remedies to heal the sick. Thousands of pilgrims flocked to him by foot or wagon from throughout the Texas-Mexico borderlands.

Curanderos remain active in communities throughout Latin America. Unlike some curanderos, Jaramillo never charged for his services and often gave away the remedies he prescribed. He accepted donations of money and food but was revered for redistributing nearly all of it. Jaramillo’s prescriptions, or recetas, often incorporated herbs, vegetables, and simple measures like drinking water and taking baths. Many people with deep roots in South Texas still remember the stories their elders used to tell about the effectiveness of his treatments.

Born in 1829 near Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Jaramillo was a poor shepherd who, when riding a horse one day, crashed into a tree branch. The blow knocked him unconscious and broke his nose, tearing his flesh down to the bone. He felt an irresistible urge to go to a nearby lagoon and soak his face in the mud. The mud brought immediate relief. After lying at the lagoon for three days, Jaramillo heard a voice telling him that, from then on, he would cure in God’s name.

In 1894, a healing trip to San Antonio put Jaramillo on a collision course with professional physicians. They saw him as a dangerous competitor for patients. The esteemed South Texas attorney and politician José Tomás Canales—who later became the only Hispanic member of the state House of Representatives at the time—successfully argued for the case’s dismissal. He noted that Don Pedrito “never charged a single cent for his cures.” One of those cures had even healed Canales’ own mother of a grave illness when a professional doctor had failed, he said.

Today, the shrine to Jaramillo stands on his patch of land. It’s open to the public every day.

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