El Brujo de Lujo

Monday, March 2, 2009

Francisco "on stage" at the Brujo's home. The woman to his right is trained opera singer and the dude with the guitar played a handful of huapangos (argueably). That's Rafa on bass guitar.

brujo [broo'-ho], m. Sorcerer, conjurer, wizard, warlock, a male witch, (LAm.) Medicine mn.

lujo [loo'-ho] m. Profuseness, extravagance or excess in pomp, dresses, far, etc.: superfluity. luxury, finery. Vivir en el lujo, to live in luxury.
from Velazquez Spanish and English Dictionary
"Disculpame, pero, como aprender a ser un brujo," I asked the man sitting to my right.
He just looked me in the eyes, stood up and walked away.
In my broken Spanish I asked the brujo de lujo how he became a witch doctor.
I guess the answer wasn't mine to know -- maybe not yet -- but I asked.
We met on my second day in Mexico City in the afternoon following my morning visit to El Tepeyac.
Just the day before, Francisco, Nacho and Rafa were telling me about the Brujo. Francisco wanted the guy to see me.
"He's also a cancer survivor, so he understands," Francisco added during our meal at Don Chon's.
So an appointment was made.
We took the metro and then walked into what seemed like an upper class neighborhood. It was a gated-community. Amid clusters of apartment buildings that could have been in any city, we entered the lobby of his practice.
There were about 50 people sitting in a waiting room that was more comfortable than any waiting room created by Kaiser Permanente. Most people were watching television on one of the multiple plasma screens. A friendly woman took us back into a small, private waiting room.
Nacho joked saying it was for "veeps."
It was a smaller lounge. About five people -- what looked like immediate relatives -- were already waiting there. There were couches and magazines. Art of western scenes and photographs of indigenous ceremonies hung from the wall. It was very comfortable. In fact, from the waiting room, we had access to a small outside patio, or garden, where one could retreat for a smoke.
While we waited, I grabbed a brochure and looked closely. In Spanish the text offered answers to frequent questions from customers.
It said the brujo only worked three days a week because the work was tiring. It also explained that people with grave illness or visitors from the country-side, or in my case, outside of the country, were given preference to other visitors that day, even if there is an appointment.
When my name was called, I entered a small office -- no more than 56 square feet. Inside was just a desk and three seats.
I met a man wearing grey silk slacks, a sweater and a collared shirt. His skin was cafe colored and his eyes were brown. His hair was cut short. In all honesty, he had the appearance of banker dressed in business casual attire.
For this occasion, Francisco served as my translator, though I understood some of the brujo's questions and was able to respond.
He already knew I was a cancer survivor. He asked what I did for a living?
"Soy un reportero, un periodista," I responded.
Then he shut off the lights and the office plunged into total darkness. To my left, a handheld light, like a maglight, went on, and suddenly was infront of my right eye.
El Brujo was examining my iris. Then he did the same with the other.
He offered an explanation as to why my cancer appeared. He warned if I didn't take care, it could return. Then he prescribed a diet and regimen of teas that I would have to take for two months. I am a cancer survivor, he told me, and I would need to take care of myself for the rest of my life.
The following evening, we went to a party at his home.
As we arrived, it seemed like the Brujo did well for himself. The garage was capable of housing five cars comfortably. His home had another garden patio, though much larger -- the size of a yard in a small southern californian suburban home.
The party was held in honor of Francisco. But it became clear pretty quickly that Francisco was a captive of his own party as he was expected to play and entertain.
As we ascended the stairs from the garage into a small room, we found four folding chairs up against a wall, each with a microphone and mic-boom stand in front of it. The mics were run into a p.a. system.
The p.a. didn't make any sense as the room was small -- no more than 200 square feet, including a small kitchen.
In front of the mics, with about three feet distance, were two video cameras. Another camera was set up in an adjacent hallway. Actually, it wasn't just a camera. It was a camera boom that extended about ten feet.
Francisco just sighed at the site. We had arrived late to this and there wasn't even any food available. I laughed in delight, saying I'd end up in the footnote of some award-winning documentary that draws hundreds of thousands to theaters across Western Europe. He just smiled.
About 45 minutes later, Francisco, Miguel and I sat down together to perform about four son jarocho songs -- El Pajaro Cu, El Jarabe Loco con decimas, La Indita and El Colas.
"So this is what it takes to play with you?" I joked. "Get out of the country."
Across from us -- the entertainment -- sat about six people in benches and chairs with soft cushions. El Brujo was one of them. He just sat and stared as we played.
While we played, the "stage" was "dressed." In the middle of our first song, some one placed a crystal vase of towering water lillies in front of us. Then speaker towers were placed to our right and left, to act as columns to support more vases of more flowers.
Two photographers snapped away while the video cameras ran.
I couldn't help from laughing at the obsurdity of the whole situation.
Some time after midnight, I found myself next to El Brujo. I told him he had a nice home and he said to me visitors weren't allowed in the library. Then I posed my question, hoping to learn about his training. He looked into my eyes, stood up and walked away.
Later I saw him speaking with Francisco.
As the party came to an end sometime after one a.m., we embraced goodbye. El Brujo looked at me and said in Spanish we would speak in two months.
The next day Francisco said he asked the Brujo about me.
"He said you were in much better health than he expected. He said what ever you're doing is great and to continue," Francisco recalled.

I have a cup of the Brujo's tea sitting next to my laptop right now.

El Brujo de Lujo, Federico Cruz

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