This is a blog of our first meeting with Don Felix on Monday, June 20th- Nate Butler and I met with Don Felix of Santa Elena today. Don Felix is a farmer, Mayan healer, teacher, Mayan historian and life philosopher. He lives in an 18’ by 12’ oval building with a painted concrete floor, stone cement and stucco walls and a thatched roof. In it are two hammocks, one is big enough for two people (the matrimonial hammock), the other for one. There is one large dresser and a table that contains a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, with some candles surrounding it, one is lit. There is also a wall hanging of the Virgin of Guadalupe. On the walls hang some pictures, including his wedding picture from 50 years ago. From the ceiling hangs a single fluorescent bulb. Two exposed fuses totaling 20 amps power the house and grounds. He moved into this house 50 years ago, for it is a tradition that a newlywed couple should move into a new house. Don Felix is 77 years old.
He and his wife had 10 children in this house, with the children being born in the small hammock with Don Felix presiding. The children are grown now, and Don Felix has 34 grandchildren. A couple of the sons live next door. The back yard contains his dog Primo, as well as chickens, turkeys, a black goat and hogs. It is well maintained. It also contains various fruit trees, including bananas, mandarin oranges, and limes. Interspersed are plants that have healing powers. One is used during childbirth to ease delivery, which Don Felix credits with the healthy birth of his 10 children.
We are going to visit Don Felix’s milpa of good deep soil today. It is a parcel, which means there is a deed to it. Much land is farmed and “owned” by tradition…everybody knows it is your land. This piece has a deed. Don Felix usually rides his bike the 5K to this milpa, but today with take the motorized scooter taxis, which are basically carts with seats and awnings, pushed by scooters. The land there is much different than the other land I have seen here in the Yucatan, with no rocks and a spongy soil. It is a deep rust color. The land is prepared by being burned, then allowing it to sit, and then tilled. The tilling is done by another person with large machinery…the sowing of the seed is done by Don Felix or his sons. He ties on his gourd filled with corn kernels around his waist with some nylon twine, then takes off down the row. About every three feet he pokes a hole in the ground with a pointed stick, drops in three seeds and then moves on. He allows me to try, and after finding the twine will not reach around my waist, ties it through my two front belt loops. I try to emulate Don Felix, but fall short. I had not noticed he was dropping three seeds into each hole…I was only putting in one. "Tres", he says, dropping more kernels into my hand, "Tres" It reminded me of a country saying from North Carolina…that when planting corn you always plant three seeds, one for the bird, one for the worm and one for you. After a short, pathetic effort, I untied the gourd and handed it, and the stick to Nate Butler. He had realized that Don Felix was left handed and attacked the row from the other side with much more success. He finished the row and was proclaimed "wi NEEK", which is Mayan for Manly man.
After viewing the pump that irrigates the land during the dry season we headed back to town.
Don Felix has seen Santa Elena grow much in his life, when he was little there was no school and no doctors. He is a healer, but does not dismiss modern medicine. He helps with his knowledge, and doesn’t charge much, as the people he sees usually do not have much money. He seems especially proud of his medicine for snakebites, which is a kind of poultice which draws out the venom. Some come to him for this, rather than going to the hospital in Merida.
As we go he lets us know that we are always welcome in his house. And, as foreigners, we are always welcome in Santa Elena. Santa Elena welcomes everyone.