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Susto: A Personal Experience

Since we’re talking about “susto,” I’d like to share a personal experience. When my son was only few months old, he fell. As new parents, we were sick with worry and fear, even though Diego showed no sign of injury. He didn’t seem in the least bit affected by his bump. My immediate reaction was to let out a cry and swoop him up in my arms, examining him and running my hand over his little body. Letting out a cry, it seems, is a surefire way of bringing about a case of “susto.”

Shortly after that, he always had cold, sweaty feet. When I say sweaty, I mean drops of sweat ran from his toes down to his heels. He began to wake up in the night crying, something he’d never done before, and any loud noise or unwelcome stranger would make him scream and grope at my neck. At my mother-in-law’s request, we took him to a woman known for having the ability to cure children of “susto.”

The “curandera” (healer) was a happy, round little woman with gray curls and a warm smile. She took Diego into her arms and gently took off his clothes all the way to the diaper. She then reached over to a clay bowl filled with a warm, herbal infusion. She quickly rubbed him from his head to his toes. He began to cry and look around the room for familiar faces, for mommy and daddy. I thought, “Well this obviously isn’t working.”

When she handed him over to me I noticed that his feet were a warm, pink color. They felt warm and dry for the first time in weeks. More importantly, he was back to being his happy, easygoing self. Some things are not easily explained.