Monday, January 30, 2017

EL NIÑO FIDENCIO AND THE FIDENCISTAS by Antonio Noé Zavaleta

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The vast stretches of the Texas-Mexico border region enfold some unusual cultural niches. The mediumnistic healer El Niño Fidencio, who died in northern Mexico in 1938, and his followers, the fidencistas, are unquestionably among the most intriguing of subjects for a history and an enthnography, and with El Niño Fidencio and the Fidencistas: Folk Religion in the US-Mexico Borderland, anthropologist Antonio Noé Zavaleta has just published precisely that.

Zavaleta's El Niño Fidencio and the Fidencistas crossed my radar because I did a fair amount of reading on this very subject, including Zavaleta's fascinating book with curandero Alberto Salinas Jr., Curandero Conversations, when I was writing my book on the "secret book," Spiritist Manual of 1911, by the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution, Francisco I. Madero.

(See my 2013 blog post on Niño Fidencio.)

I cannot say for sure, but I doubt that Niño Fidencio and Madero met. Niño Fidencio did not consider himself a Spiritist, and when Madero died in the coup d'etat that ended his presidency in 1913, Fidencio was still a teenaged worker on a remote ranch. 

But there is an intermediating figure who appears multiple times in Zavaleta's new book: Teodoro von Wernich, a wealthy hacendado of northern Mexico, personality in the San Antonio Texas Spiritist scene, friend and supporter of Francisco I. Madero, and employer, patient of, and mentor to his worker José Fidencio Sintoro Constantino, the boy who became the folk saint revered on both sides of the border as "El Niño Fidencio." 

(Researchers take note: With Teodoro von Wernich and his circle there may be rich lodes still to mine, and in archives on both sides of the border.) 

In sum, Zavaleta's latest is a must-read for anyone interested in Niño Fidencio, shamanism, and the cross-border cultures of northern Mexico and South Texas. 

More anon.

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