El Andalón is a thirty-minute documentary about the healing work of humanitarian Don Sergio Castro who lives in San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. It opens with a scene of Don Sergio swabbing a patient’s injury, all the while speaking kindly. He has been doing the same thing for nearly fifty years seeing about twenty people a day. His patients are the poor, coming to him from the town and surrounding area; and he makes the rounds to Maya villages where he’s much needed. The documentary contains several stories like this of a woman who had a severe injury to her leg:
I don’t know what kind of magic he has in his hands…but he heals…sometimes we aren’t so welcome in the hospital…(She breaks down in tears.)…I almost lost my leg and thanks to him I was healed…
My friend and colleague Carol Karasik said of Don Sergio: “He’s known as something of a saint here. He works with not even as much as most Americans have in their medicine cabinet.”
Don Sergio doesn’t charge his patients; they pay him with their blessings or tamales. His generosity has often made it difficult to make ends meet for his own family—or to fund the work to which he’s dedicated. Years ago, some patients began giving him their own traditional clothing. Don Sergio discovered that visitors were quite interested in these samples. He hit upon a brilliant idea and opened his own small textile museum, which doubles as a clinic. From that source and the occasional donation he’s somehow been able to keep going.
But his work doesn’t stop with doctoring. Villagers began asking him to help with other matters, including schools for their children where there were none. They had no help from the government. So far Don Sergio is responsible for raising funds to help them build twenty-five schools.
This clearly brought back my own remembrance of being asked by Q’ero spiritual leaders to help do the same for the high altitude village of Ccochmocco in the Andes of Peru: now operating since March 2010. It wasn’t an easy task.
With the dip in tourism to Mexico, Don Sergio’s ability to fund his work has been severely affected. At one point toward the end of the film he becomes overwhelmed with emotion. With a hand gesturing skyward he sends a prayer up that he finds a way to continue. It was heart-rending to me.
I somehow stumbled upon this documentary and then queried Carol. As a result we are now including an audience with Don Sergio and a visit to his textile museum in our “Entering the Maya Mysteries” program during our time in San Cristóbal. I have asked participants to bring any medical supplies they can as a part of our offering, aside from a donation I’ll make from Kenosis—and look at ongoing ways to support this self-less humanitarian work.
Viewers of the film will also get a glimpse Don Sergio with Don Antonio Martinez, with whom we engage in the Lacandón Maya village of Najá, as well as spiritual leader Chan K’in Viejo who passed in the 1990s. The village of Chamula will look familiar to folks who have traveled with us.
I want to personally thank director Consuelo Alba and producer John Speyer for bringing to light Don Sergio’s work; and to Culture Unplugged for sponsoring it on their website. You can view their documentary on Culture Unplugged. It’s well worth your time.