Heart of Tlacote
by Bette Stockbauer
Once a month a bus leaves from San Antonio, Texas, taking pilgrims to the healing waters of Tlacote, Mexico. The bus departs on Friday afternoon and returns early Monday morning. There is an overnight stay in the Mexican city of San Luis Potosi. The cost is only $145.00.
The idea for the trips began when Tino Duran, editor and owner of La Prensa, San Antonios Spanish language newspaper, heard about Tlacote and decided to drive there. Duran sought help for his own medical problems and also wanted to report on the site for his newspaper. He was amazed at what he saw. After his account was published in La Prensa, people began to call, seeking more information. Because the trip is difficult by car - the highways are dangerous and accommodations sparse - he wanted to provide a bus trip that would make the experience more accessible to the people of San Antonio.
As I prepared for the journey, the words of Mother Teresa kept singing in my ears: Let us do something beautiful for God. Along the way, I would meet many people attempting to heed Mother Teresas words.
On the day of departure, a cold front has lifted the humidity of a hot Texas summer. The natural anticipation of my fellow passengers combines with the energizing air from the north to engender many smiles and cheerful expectations. Adding to the excitement is a three-person news team from the Channel 4 television station in Dallas. They will document the trip for a three-part series to be aired during the most heavily watched week of their season. A free-lance journalist and a photographer, also from Dallas, cover the journey as well.
Everyone has a story to tell and each bus stop finds reporters interviewing people, noting their illnesses and expectations. Interviewers question other interviewers. Wally, the cameraman, keeps a visual narrative of the Mexican countryside, the passengers, and the highlights of the trip. Santos, the bus driver, is the comedian of the group. Between hair-raising adventures on the highway, he entertains us with jokes.
Rolando Montes, a writer for La Prensa, and his wife, Isabel, accompany each trip, acting as interpreters, problem solvers, and goodwill ambassadors. It is a challenging job, as there are many special requests and some hardships each time. Nevertheless, they both attest to the rewards involved, and it is obvious that their time is given with an open heart and deep compassion.
Joe Morales is traveling with his mother. A car accident has left Joes brother brain-damaged, unable to swallow, and requiring constant nursing care. Joe is sharing the medical expenses with another sibling. A few drops of Tlacote water enabled his brother to swallow for the first time. Joe is hopeful that long term use will have a dramatic effect.
A brilliant smile always lights the face of Maria Guerra. This is the second journey for her and her husband, Geraldo. Three months before, their first use of Tlacote water lowered his blood sugar level from 275 to 67 within 10 days. A nephew on insulin has been able to decrease his dosage to one-quarter the original amount. Marias cholesterol level has dropped from 325 to 236. She feels there are many reasons to be joyful.
Lewis Thompson Mohr, a Dallas resident, is making the trip for his wife, Cathy, who has multiple sclerosis and can no longer walk. He cares for her during the day. At night he works, leaving her alone, but surrounded by a support system of telephones and nourishment to fulfill any need which might arise. He has tried many treatments and spent large sums of money searching for help. A Dallas chiropractor gave Cathy her first sample of Tlacote water. When Tom saw the light in her eyes and the energy it instantly imparted, he decided to make the journey. One reason for his faith is that the waters are free and the bus trip of minimal cost. A number of difficulties easily fell away as he made preparations to come.
Antonia Gonzales has suffered from arthritis for 30 years. It has deformed her feet and hands. At times her neck and spine are so stiff she is unable to move her head. Her doctor prescribed a spinal operation but Antonia thought the odds for recovery too slender and the cost too high. She decided to take her family on a vacation to Florida instead. On the plane she prayed that she would be relieved of her pain just enough to be able to finish the trip. By the time the plane landed in Florida she was able to freely move her head and neck.
Thus began a long journey of faith for Antonia. She says, Every day I wake up and I know that God has given me this pain. I know, too, that it is too great for me to bear, so I pray and I offer it back to Him. He gives it to me and I give it right back to Him. That is how I am able to bear it.
Maria Garza suffers from osteoporosis and arthritis. She first went to Tlacote as a sceptic, but eager to seek help for her epileptic granddaughter. After seeing a 70 per cent improvement, she started her own regime. Marias son is a chemical engineer. He was also sceptical until he analysed a sample. Noting the waters unusual properties, he now urges Maria to continue its use.
Leo and Aida Gomez are seeking an alternative to medical treatment. Dialysis has been recommended for Mr Gomez but they want to avoid the risk and expense it would impose. Mrs Gomez became disenchanted with the medical system after receiving 27 radiation treatments that she now believes were unnecessary. After a long life of hard work, they are hoping to find enough health to travel and enjoy their retirement.
My seatmate and translator, Bertha Cortez, has a visual impairment her doctor cannot diagnose. Her daughter has medical problems, and her grandson an attention disorder, so she is bringing water for the entire family. Throughout the trip we joke about the many vagaries of Mexican travel and Mexican time.
These are a few of the millions who come, their hopes expressed in myriad ways.
To Tlacote and
Approaching Tlacote, it is obvious the waters and cures are blessing some villagers with a bit of income. The pilgrims wait in line on the right side of the road, and on the left are vendors at small lean-to shops selling food, clothes, and curios. Other merchants sell jewelry, newspapers, candy, and trinkets, as well as 20-liter plastic containers, the standard measure given to pilgrims. After purchasing our bottles we pass through the special gate for foreigners. Antonia bravely navigates the rocky downhill path with her walker. Wally films her descent.
The next two hours we spend waiting in line to see the doctor. We talk to one another and to the others who have come. One woman has traveled alone from Guatemala. In her town there is also a wonder-working spring. When asked why she has come all the way to Tlacote, she says that the waters in her town will only cure baldness, and not other illnesses, like the well of Tlacote. Eventually, everyone speaks with the doctor, receives a prescription, and obtains their water. Trucks and special hired carts carry the heavy containers up the hill to the bus. Five hours after our arrival, we make our way through the street vendors and re-board the bus headed for a downtown hotel in San Luis Potosi, one and one-half hours away.
The bus ride is quiet and reflective. The land has just been drenched by thunderstorms. A brilliant double rainbow arches between two nearby peaks. One by one the passengers gasp in wonder as the rainbow comes into view. It grows in luminosity as we weave through the hills.
The hotel stay is an entertaining interlude. Mr Montes makes arrangements for a catered dinner of Mexican food. On this night there is a 15-member mariachi band with mandolins and guitars. The tambourine player is an artist, skilfully interweaving dance and tambourine in one motion.
On Sunday we depart at noon, wending our way through the tiny streets. The city itself is a spectacle for the eye -- its beauty punctuated by majestic cathedrals. That night, the October full moon illuminates the hills that we failed to see on the rainy journey down. At the last stop before Laredo, Texas, Antonia attempts a walk to the restroom without her walker. Wally films the triumph and Antonia returns to the bus, panting but exuberant. She and Angie whisper and giggle long into the night.
Monday morning at 5 a.m. we arrive in San Antonio at the La Prensa office. Isabel and Rolando Montes summon a final burst of energy in removing the 70-plus, 44-pound containers from the luggage hold and helping people load their cars. Wally, the cameraman, takes a few closing shots of people claiming their precious cargo. Friends and relatives arrive to share in the excitement.
This has been a
journey of hope. For some, it will be the beginning of a new relation
to life -- a relation built on faith and the power of renewal in that
spark of God which we call the human spirit. We have all been touched
by our companions on the road. Many of us feel we have shared in an
experience greater than ourselves. In some way we sense that in making
such a journey, we have, perhaps, done something beautiful for