From the Editors 29 (2011)Engineer and Editor Juan Hart Moved El Paso Forward 29 (2011)Elizabeth Garrett: Songbird of the Southwest 29 (2011)A Passionate Life: Josephine Clardy Fox 29 (2011)Forgotten No More: Korean War POW Tells Story of Survival 29 (2011)Janice Woods Windle Treasures Family History 29 (2011)Andy and Syd Cohen: The Men Behind the Name 29 (2011)Leona Ford Washington Preserved Black History 29(2011)Ingeborg Heuser Brought Professional Ballet to City 29 (2011)Lee and Beulah Moor Left Legacy of Love 29 (2011)
From the Editors 28 (2010)Chasin’ Away the Blues: Texas Sunday Legislation 28 (2010)Simeon Hart Pioneered Local Industry 28 (2010)Felix Martinez: Southwestern Renaissance Man 28 (2010)Teresa Urrea: La Santa de Cabora Inspired Mexican Revolution 28 (2010)Utopia in Mesilla: The Shalam Colony 28 (2010)Stahmann Farms Produce Pecans on Two Hemispheres 28 (2010)Betty Mary Goetting Brought Birth Control to El Paso 28 (2010)Maud Sullivan Made El Paso Public Library a Cultural Center 28 (2010)Lucy Acosta’s Legacy Continues in LULAC 28 (2010)Belen Robles: Voice for the Latino Community 28 (2010)Toltec Club: Of Ghosts and Guests 28 (2010)
Strong Women Building a Strong City -- From the Editors 27(2008)Notable Women of El Paso 27(2009)The Chew Legacy: The Story of Herlinda Wong Chew 27(2009)Desert Nightingale: Louise Dietrich 27(2009)1909-2009: YWCA Celebrates 100 Years in El Paso 27(2009)Mabel Welch: El Paso’s First Female Architect 27(2009)Myrna Deckert Remains Modest About Achievements 27(2009)Suzie Azar Still Reaches for the Sky 27 (2009)The Moocher: Callie Fairley, First Woman Vice Detective in El Paso 27(2009)Alicia R. Chacón Came to Politics Naturally 27 (2009)Rosa Guerrero: Cultural Dynamo 27 (2009)
From the Past to the Present -- From the Editor 26 (2007/08)Yandell Boulevard Named for Prominent El Paso Physician 26 (2007/08)Japanese Immigrants Came Slowly to Borderland 26 (2007/08)World War II Affected Japanese Immigrants 26 (2007/08)Living, Breathing New Mexico Ghost Town: Hillsboro 26 (2007/08)Canutillo Developed from Land Grant 26 (2007/08)Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher 26 (2007/08)El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)Ted Karam: Lebanese Immigrant Lived American Dream 26 (2007/08)Publication Credits 26 (2007/08)
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From the Director 24 (2005)From the Editors 24 (2005)Gypsie Davenport and May Palmer Ran Infamous Brothels 24 (2005)Pioneer Attorney William Burges Tackled Unpopular Issues 24 (2005)Richard Fenner Burges: Renaissance Man 24 (2005)Charles Kelly Wielded Power with Political 'Ring' 24 (2005)Tom Charles Wanted World to Know White Sands 24 (2005)Dripping Springs has Rich History 24 (2005)Thomas B. White Directed Innovative La Tuna for 19 Years 24 (2005)Cowboys on the Range --- Missile Range, That Is 24 (2005)Ranchers vs. the Feds: The McNew Saga 24 (2005)Mexican Repatriation in 1930s 24 (2005)White House Department Store 24 (2005)Thomason Hospital Celebrates 90 Years 24 (2005)R.E. Thomason Shaped City, State, Nation 24 (2005)
Postcards from the Past Editor's Column 23 (2004)From the Editors 23 (2004)Solomon C. Schutz Helped Bring Law and Order to El Paso 23 (2004)James Gillett Showed Courage in El Paso 23 (2004)Jim White Explored Carlsbad Caverns for Years 23 (2004)Ben Lilly: Mountain Man of the Southwest 23 (2004)Aldo Leopold Proposed Land Ethics 23 (2004)Escontrias Ranch: A Link to Hueco Tanks Park 23 (2004)Hueco Tanks is Site of Controversy 23 (2004)Marcelino Serna Became World War I Hero 23 (2004)Sam Dreben Soldiered All Over the World 23 (2004)Kern Place Neighborhood: The Man Behind the Name 23 (2004)Farah Manufacturing Now Just a Memory 23 (2004)Texas Knights of Columbus Began in El Paso 23 (2004)
Look for Us on the Web - Editor's Column 22 (2003)From the Editors 22 (2003)Victorio Fought to the Death for Homeland 22 (2003)O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead 22 (2003)S. H. Newman: Pioneer Newspaperman Fought Vice 22 (2003)Elfego Baca Lived More Than Nine Lives 22 (2003)Woman's Club Has Long Served City 22 (2003)Cathedral's Beauty Pleases 22 (2003)Albert J. Fountain's Achievements Eclipsed by Mysterious Death 22 (2003)Albert B. Fall's Career Ended in Disgrace 22 (2003)Cloudcroft Baby Sanatorium Saved Many 22 (2003)Dale Resler Worked Hard for El Paso 22 (2003)Price's Dairy Still Family Owned 22 (2003)Woodlawn Bottling Brought Pepsi to Town 22 (2003)Union Depot Witnessed Growth of El Paso 22 (2003)
We're Now on the Web --From the Editor 21(2002)From the Editors 21(2002)Downtown Opium Dens Attracted Many 21(2002)Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom for Texas Slaves 21(2002)Black Cowboys Rode the Trails, Too 21(2002)Ku Klux Klan Had Short Life in El Paso 21(2002)Mining Became Big Business in Southwest 21(2002)Smeltertown Still Exists in Memories 21 (2002)El Paso Played Important Role in the Mexican Revolution 21 (2002)Pancho Villa Led Northern Forces in Revolution 21 (2002)Soldaderas Played Important Roles in Revolution 21 (2002)Pershing, Villa Forever Linked to Columbus 21 (2002)Cristeros Became Mexican Martyrs 1926-1929 -- 21 (2002)Houchen Settlement House Helped New Arrivals 21 (2002)Otis A. Aultman Captured Border History in Pictures 21 (2002)
Hot Springs Have Long HistoryThe Building of a City -- From the Editor 20 (2001)From the Staff (Volume 20)Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy 20 (2001)Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire Terrorized Town 20 (2001)History Reveals Rivalry of Madams Etta Clark and Alice Abbott 20 (2001)Kohlberg, Krupp, Zielonka Became Business and Civic Leaders 20 (2001)Olga Kohlberg Pioneered Many Local Organizations 20 (2001)Henry Trost's Architectural Legacy Lives On 20 (2001)Sunset Heights Preserves History 20 (2001)Adolph Schwartz Built Local Retail Dynasty 20 (2001)Zach T. White Brought Progress to El Paso 20 (2001)Masons Became Leaders in Texas, El Paso 20 (2001)Smallpox Epidemic Showed Need for Hospitals20 (2001)El Paso High School Remains Classic 20 (2001)Bhutanese Architecture Distinguishes UTEP Campus 20 (2001)Elephant Butte Dam Solved Early Water Problems 20 (2001)
Pioneer Ranch became Concordia Cemetery 19 (2000)El Paso Grows Up 19 (2000)From the Staff 19 (2000)Chinese Immigrants Helped Build Railroad in El Paso 19 (2000)Volunteer Fire Department Grew into Professional Company 19 (2000)1880s Brought First Theaters to Town 19 (2000)Sisters of Charity Began Hotel Dieu Hospital 19 (2000)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso Into a Health Center 19 (2000)First Public School Built in 1884 19 (2000)Enigmatic Olivas Aoy Began School for Mexican Children 19 (2000)El Paso Public Library Began Modestly 19 (2000)Jesuits Continue to Influence Area 19 (2000)Sisters of Loretto Have Long Tradition in Southwest 19 (2000)Mormons Found Sanctuary in Mexico in 1880s 19 (2000)Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly 19 (2000)Flu Epidemic of 1918 Hit El Paso Hard 19 (2000)Early City Planners Saw Future in Scenic Drive 19 (2000)Prohibition Stimulated Economies of El Paso, Juárez 19 (2000)
The Editor's Column : The Building of a City 18 (1999)From the Editors 18 (1999)Magoffinsville Had Lasting Influence on El Paso 18 (1999)Town of El Paso Grew from Pioneer Settlements 18 (1999)Downtown El Paso Is Monument to Anson Mills 18 (1999)1848 War With Mexico Created Southwest 18 (1999)Colonel Doniphan and Volunteers Won Battle of Brazito 18 (1999)Gadsden Purchase Clarified U.S. Boundaries 18 (1999)Early Fort Bliss Occupied Pioneer Sites 18 (1999)Henry O. Flipper Paved Way for Integration of Military 18 (1999)Buffalo Soldiers Defended Western Frontier 18 (1999)El Paso Was Midpoint of Overland Mail Service 18 (1999)Salt War of 1877 Divided Southwest Residents 18 (1999)Geronimo Led Final Fight 18 (1999)Apache Indians Defended Homelands in Southwest 18 (1999)Texas Rangers Helped Keep Order on Frontier 18 (1999)Sarah Bowman and Tillie Howard: Madams of the 1800s 18 (1999)El Paso Grew Up with Arrival of Railroad 18 (1999)
Aztecs Ruled Complex, Rich Society 17 (1998)From the Editor 17 (1998)Aztec Beliefs Helped Conquer Mexico 17 (1998)Cortés Created New Order in Mexico 17 (1998)La Malinche Remains Controversial 17 (1998)Cabeza de Vaca: Travels in Texas 17 (1998)Estebán Furthered Legend of Cíbola 17 (1998)Coronado Searched for Cities of Gold 17 (1998)Oñate Conquered Desert to Explore Southwest 17 (1998)Festival Celebrates Oñate's Historic Arrival 17 (1998)Fray Garcia Left Great Legacy 17 (1998)Franciscans Brought Catholicism to Area 17 (1998)America's First Highway: El Camino Real 17 (1998)Pueblo Revolt Brought Tiguas South 17 (1998)Tigua Indians Survive 300 Years of Ordeals 17 (1998)Area Missions are Part of Living History 17 (1998)San Elizario Presidio Protected Settlers 17 (1998)Ethnic Terms Can Cause Confusion 17 (1998)
Oasis Restaurants Symbolized ‘50s Teen Scene 13 (1995)‘50s Cars Changed American Lifestyle And Image 13 (1995)Chevy Bel Air Charmed 1950 Car Buyers 13 (1995)San Jacinto Plaza Remains Heart Of Downtown El Paso 13 (1995)Smokey Bear: A Legend Is Made 13 (1995)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assaults 13 (1995)Company E Survivor Recalls Days As Prisoner Of War 13 (1995)El Paso Red Cross Essential to War Effort 13 (1995)World War II Took its Toll On The Home Front 13 (1995)Civil Air Patrol Protected Border During World War II -- 13 (1995)Quickie Divorces Granted in Juárez 13 (1995)Atomic Bomb Developed In Southwest 13 (1995)Former Crew Members On B-17s Remember Tough Times 13 (1995)Vintage Warplanes Keep Past Alive 13 (1995)The Cavalry Bugler: Essential To Horse and Man 13 (1995)Sun Carnival 1936 Style 13 (1995)H. Arthur Brown: El Paso Symphony Guru Of The ‘30s -- 13 (1995)Swing Music Helped Dispel The Blues Of The ‘30s and ‘40s -- 13 (1995)The General Store: A Hidden Treasure Of The Past 13 (1995)
Change on the Border 15 (1997)From the Editor 15 (1997)Latinos Work To Change Stereotypes In Hollywood 15 (1997)Cesar Chávez: Simple Man, People’s Hero 15 (1997)Shelter For Farm Workers Becomes Reality 15 (1997)Women’s Shelter Helps To Heal The Pain 15 (1997)Home Schools Become Popular Alternative 15 (1997)Renovation May Revive Downtown El Paso 15 (1997)Title IX Changed Women's Sports 15 (1997)Special Olympics Shine In El Paso 15 (1997)La Fe Clinic Serves South El Paso 15 (1997)ASARCO Works To Clean Up Its Act 15 (1997)A Growing Phenomenon: Single Fathers 15 (1997)Stepfamilies Become More Numerous 15 (1997)Teens Rebel Against Authority 15 (1997)Comics Retain Popularity 15 (1997)Tom Moore And Archie Have Timeless Appeal 15 (1997)
Life on the Border: 1950s & 1960s --14 (1996)From The Editors 14 (1996)A Baseball Team By Any Other Name 14 (1996)Drive-In Theaters Appealed to all Ages 14 (1996)El Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations 14 (1996)Barbie Doll Revolutionized Toy Industry 14 (1996)Rabies Took Bite of Sun City 14 (1996)Rabies: A Deadly Virus 14 (1996)Border Patrol Used Variety of Methods to Control Immigration 14 (1996)L. A. Nixon Fought Texas Voting Law 14 (1996)Douglass School Served Black Community Well 14 (1996)Thelma White Case Forced College Integration 14 (1996)Steve Crosno: An El Paso Original 14 (1996)Rock 'N' Roll Defined Teen Culture 14 (1996)A Shopping Mall by the People for the People 14 (1996)Chamizal Dispute Settled Peacefully 14 (1996)Turney Mansion Becomes Work of Art 14 (1996)First Hispanic Mayor Elected in 1957 -- 14 (1996)Flower Children Chose Alternative Lifestyle 14 (1996)
Three Decades of History 12 (1994)From the Editors 12 (1994)The Plaza Theater…Here to Stay!? 12 (1994)El Paso Broadcasting: The Stories Behind the Call Letters 12 (1994)Alphabet Agencies: FDR's Brainstorm 12 (1994)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio 12 (1994)Hobo Sign Language Targeted El Paso 12 (1994)Self- Sufficiency Key to Farmers' Survival During Depression 12 (1994)Hanna's Story A Holocaust Survivor Remembers 12 (1994)Former Members Recall Life in Hitler Youth 12 (1994)German Prisoners of War Interned at Fort Bliss During World War II -- 12 (1994)German POWs Remembered at Fort Bliss 12 (1994)One German POW's Story 12 (1994)Ration Books and Victory Gardens: Coping with Shortages 12 (1994)Women Changed Wartime Work Patterns 12 (1994)Bracero Program Hurt Domestic Farm Workers 12 (1994)San Pedro Pharmacy Retains Look of the Past 12 (1994)Teenage Fashions of the Nifty Fifties 12 (1994)Rebel Image of Motorcyclists Set in 1950s -- 12 (1994)
Border Customs and Crafts From the Editor 10 (1992)From the Editors 10 (1992)King on the Mountain 10 (1992)Piñatas! 10 (1992)How to Play the Piñata Game 10 (1992)Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts 10 (1992)Cotton Boll Entertains Too 10 (1992)Hands That Create Art and Soul 10 (1992)La Charreada - Mexican Horsemanship 10 (1992)Boots - A Family Tradition 10 (1992)Some Boys Still Grow Up to be Cowboys 10 (1992)Boot Capital of the World 10 (1992)The Magic of Mariachis 10 (1992)Ballet Folklorico - High School Style 10 (1992)New Generation of Mariachis 10 (1992)The Lady is a Bullfighter 10 (1992)The Midwife: Choices for Border Women 10 (1992)Retablos: Echoes of Faith 10 (1992)Tigua Indians: Dancing for St. Anthony 10 (1992)The Aztec and the Miracle 10 (1992)A Hispanic Girl's Coming of Age 10 (1992)Art - Low and Slow 10 (1992)Wedding Traditions on the Border 10 (1992)
Border Food Folkways From the Editor 9 (1991)From the Staff 9 (1991)Tortillas: Border Staff of Life 9 (1991)The Booming Tortilla Industry in Mexico 9 (1991)Where's The Beef? In El Paso! 9 (1991)How Do I Love Thee, Piggy? Let Me Count the Ways! 9 (1991)Tamales By Any Other Name Remain The Same 9 (1991)Rio Grande Thanksgiving 9 (1991)The Tigua Indians: Food for Thought 9 (1991)Corn: The Golden Gift from Our Ancestors 9 (1991)Border Pottery - Function and Beauty 9 (1991)Holy Hot Mole! 9 (1991)Looking Back at the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Men Behind the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Hot Peppers : They're Not Just for Eating 9 (1991)Food, Spices Double as Folk Cures 9 (1991)Weeds or Edible Desert Plants? 9 (1991)Cactus: It's Good for You! 9 (1991)Day of the Dead Celebrates Spiritual Tradition 9 (1991)Nutricious, Delicious Beans 9 (1991)Menudo Makes The Big Time 9 (1991)Mediterranean Cuisine: Old Tradition, Fresh Idea 9 (1991)Lenten Foods: From Fasting to Fabulous 9 (1991)Tarahumaras Rely on Nature for Food 9 (1991)Tempting Sweet Breads : Pan de Dulce 9 (1991)
Border Customs and Crafts II From the Editor -- 11 (1993)From the Editors 11 (1993)The Best Little Asaderos in Texas 11 (1993)Glass Work Disappearing on Border 11 (1993)Cockfights Legal in Surrounding Areas 11 (1993)Local Craftsmen Keep Art of Saddlery Alive 11 (1993)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers 11 (1993)Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes 11 (1993)Magoffin Home Preserves El Paso's Past 11 (1993)Bavarian Custom Celebrated in El Paso: Oktoberfest 11 (1993)Munich on the Border 11 (1993)Santo Niño de Atocha Called Miracle Worker 11 (1993)Lenten Customs Vary 11 (1993)To Ask is to Receive 11 (1993)Border Maintains Tradition of Posadas 11 (1993)A Visit from Three Kings 11 (1993)Matachines: Soldiers of the Virgin 11 (1993)Dichos Are an Intricate Part of Mexican Culture 11 (1993)Cultural Superstitions Affect Behavior 11 (1993)Que Onda Homeboy! Why Do We Talk Like This? 11 (1993)Traditional Hispanic Children's Games Disappear 11 (1993)
El Paso Women to ResearchEl Paso Women to Research (by name)El Paso Men to ResearchEl Paso Men to Research (by name)
From the Editors 30 (2012)From the Editor, Credits and Contents 30 (2012)Jessie Hawkins and Jenna Welch: Love, Loss and Laughter 30 (2012)Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million 30 (2012)David L. Carrasco Gave Back to Hometown 30 (2012)Cleofas Calleros Made Local History Important 30 (2012)Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy 30 (2012)Kate Moore Brown: A Woman of Many Firsts 30 (2012)Fun in the 1890s: The McGinty Club 30 (2012)
Borderlands Web Issue From the Editor 31(2013/14)Acknowledgements 31(2013/14)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 31(2013/14)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 31 (2013/14)Harvey Girls Changed the West 31(2013/14)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 31(2013/14)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 31(2013/14)
Borderlands 32 Tolerance. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 32(2014/15)Henry Kellen Created El Paso Holocaust Museum 32(2014/15)Bicycle Padre Still Working 32(2014/15)El Paso Connections: Ambrose Bierce: writer 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Tom Ogle, Inventor 32(2014/15)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 32(2014)Harvey Girls Changed the West 32(2014)
Borderlands 33 Service. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 33(2015)Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)Local Latino Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor Decades after Heroism 33 (2015)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 33 (2015)Will the Real Leon Blevins Please stand up? 33 (2015)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 33 (2015)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 33 (2015)
Borderlands 34 Inspiration. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 34(2016/17)Building Bridges Instead of Walls: Temple Mount Sinai 34 (2016/17)Ruben Salazar: A Bridge Between Two Societies 34 (2016/17)Luis Jimenez: Art Creates Dialogue 34 (2016/17)Richard "Tuff" Hedeman: The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riding 34 (2016/17)Rescue Mission of El Paso Provides Food and Opportunity 34 (2016/17)
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Teresa Urrea: La Santa de Cabora Inspired Mexican Revolution

Article first published in Vol. 28, 2010.

By Armando Rosales, Jr.   

Teresa Urrea building El Paso, Texas

View pdf version

Home to some remarkable people, El Segundo Barrio is one of El Paso’s oldest communities. In 1896, it was home to Teresa Urrea, one of the most important and influential women to walk the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Aside from her healing knowledge as a curandera, she is known for her political role in the years leading up to the Mexican Revolution. David D. Romo, author of Ringside Seat to a Revolution, writes that “in many ways, the Mexican Revolution on the border began with her.” Through physical and psychological healing and political encouragement, Teresa Urrea became an inspiration to indigenous groups of Northern Mexico, as well as to people in the United States during the reign of Mexico’s dictator, Porfirio Díaz, and the years prior to the Mexican Revolution.

Image caption: Teresa Urrea, known as “Teresita,” miraculously cured thousands, both in Mexico and the United States. (Photo courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso Library, Special Collections)

On Oct. 15, 1873, Niña Garcia Nona Maria Rebecca Chávez, later known as Teresa Urrea, was born in Ocoroni, Sinoloa, Mexico, on a ranch owned by her father, a wealthy liberal rancher named Tomás Urrea. Her mother, a servant on Urrea’s Rancho de Santana, was Cayetana Chávez, a 14-year-old Tehueco Indian. Teresa spent her first 15 years with her mother and aunt, living in a servant’s hut and working on the ranch. In 1888, Teresa’s father recognized her as his daughter and sent for her to live in the main house of the ranch.

Teresa did not go to school or learn to read until she was nine years old. About this time, it appears that she began to call herself “Teresa.” Others called her by the diminutive, “Teresita.” She became an apprentice to a folk healer or curandera named Huila at this time. Overseeing the household at Rancho de Santana, Huila not only used herbs to heal the sick and injured but was also a midwife. Teresa learned about the medicinal uses of some 200 herbs and folk remedies readily, assisting Huila on her visits to expectant mothers. It appears that Teresa could put women in labor into a type of trance or hypnosis, making the birth less painful, an ability she would later use with many who came to be cured.

Luis Urrea, novelist and grandnephew of Teresa, described one of her early cures on his web site. A young Yaqui ranch hand had been kicked in the head by a mule. Teresa picked up a handful of dirt and spat into it, rubbing the mixture on the man’s injury, resulting in instant healing. Word of Teresa’s miraculous healings spread among the people in the region very quickly, and they soon began calling her a saint.

William Holden, author of a book-length biography of Urrea, says that as a curandera, Teresa Urrea unselfishly provided aid to many people and took nothing in return. The art of curanderismo gave Teresa influence, something a half-Indian, half-Mexican servant girl could not even hope for in those days.

Teresa lived during the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, who ruled Mexico for 35 years, “modernizing” the country at a great cost to the poor and to indigenous tribes. Many natives were enslaved and sent south, notably the Yaquis. Her father was a political moderate who detested much of what the Díaz administration did to the native people. When he backed the wrong political candidate, Tomás Urrea left Sinaloa and moved his family to Cabora, Sonora, in 1880 to escape reprisal from Díaz.

Shortly after moving to Cabora, Teresa slipped into a coma. Theories suggested for the cause of this cataleptic state range from assault and attempted or completed rape by a miner who lived in the area to a form of epilepsy. This coma or trance lasted almost four months. Teresa had already been put in a coffin and was being prepared for burial when she rose up suddenly. Upon awakening, Teresa gave off an odor of roses. Urrea believed she had been visited by the Virgin Mary during her deep sleep, being left with an even more powerful gift of healing. The ranch Teresa Urrea called home in Cabora became known as the “Lourdes de Mexico,” according to Diane Telgen and Jim Kamp in their reference book Notable Hispanic American Women.

Teresa cured people suffering from everyday illnesses and injuries as well as from cancer, blindness, stroke and paralysis. Soon, the news of her extraordinary healing powers spread among Mexico’s Northern Indian tribes and the government her father was trying to stay away from. Not only was Teresa Urrea healing the poor and sick, but she became an inspiration to these people to rebel against the perpetuators of the injustices Díaz brought upon them. While the native tribes she helped and those who knew her looked up to Teresa, her fast rise to popularity and fame did not sit well with the Mexican government or the Catholic Church.

From early on, Teresa received many nicknames such as “The Mexican Joan of Arc,” “La Niña de Cabora,” and “Queen of the Yaquis.” However, when natives began calling her “La Santa de Cabora” and began treating her like a folk saint, the Church became incensed. In The Power of God Against the Guns of Government, Paul Vanderwood wrote that in October 1890 when lithographs of Teresa Urrea were presented by parishioners in Guaymas to Sonora’s Bishop Herculano to be blessed, the Bishop was disgusted and shocked, throwing the lithographs to the floor. Urrea was threatened with excommunication, as were those who believed in her. Historian Max Dashu said that from the onset, Urrea was denounced by the priesthood as a heretic. It did not help that Urrea felt true believers needed no intermediary to converse with God.

For years the Mexican government had subjected the Indians of Northern Mexico to genocidal wars and land seizures. With no one to turn to, the Yaqui, Mayo, Tarahumara and Tomochiteco Indians let their fury and frustration build; the corrupt government of Porfirio Díaz did not care if they lived or died. Teresa believed that the land belonged to the native Indians and should not be stolen. Telgen and Kamp stated that Teresa Urrea told the Indian villagers, “God intended for you to have the lands, or he would not have given them to you.”

In Latin Legacies by Vicki Ruiz and Virginia Sánchez Korrol, Marian Perales wrote that Porfirio Díaz claimed that his governmental policies were in the name of order and progress, never mind that they displaced indigenous peoples, pushed small farmers out of business, and created a disaffected, politically minded, middle class. Besides stripping these tribes of their land, Díaz sent many Indians throughout Mexico to work as slaves in mines and remote plantations and controlled national, state and local elections. Slowly the Indian villagers’ patience began to wane, and they became more and more motivated by Teresa’s words. Throughout her life, however, Teresa denied active participation in politics.

During the years Teresa spent in Cabora the number of people wanting to share an experience with her increased. Alex Nava stated in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion that “more and more Indian villagers would flock to Teresa’s home, hoping that she would bring God’s presence to the troubled and chaotic circumstances in their lives.”

In one of the best known rebellions attributed to Urrea, a group of armed Yaqui, Tomochiteco, Tarahumara and Mayo Indians defeated Díaz’s federales at the village of Tomochic, whose residents adored Urrea and had a handcarved icon of her in their church. The Indian villagers were able to hold the federales off for a few weeks before the soldiers burned the village to the ground. Scores of women and children were burned to death while hiding in the town’s church. After the battle of Tomochic, the Indian villagers started calling themselves “Teresitas,” and their battle cry became “Viva la Santa de Cabora!”

After another small revolt against the Mexican government, Díaz ordered Teresa and her family to be deported and had 500 of his soldiers enforce the exile. Once he realized she was the “Santa de Cabora,” Díaz called Teresa “the most dangerous girl in Mexico.” Teresa and the rest of the Urrea family were deported to Nogales, Ariz., in 1892. The family arrived by train only to find local journalists among her followers seeking a few words with “La Santa De Cabora.”

Fearing pressure from the Mexican government, the Urrea family moved to El Bosque, a small farming community outside of Nogales, and later to Solomonville, Ariz., in November 1895. By 1896, political trouble found Teresa Urrea. Solomonville briefly became the site of El Independiente, an anti- Díaz newspaper published by Lauro Aguirre and Flores Chapa, two Mexican liberals and associates of her father.

Moving their paper to El Paso, Aguirre and Chapa were arrested, charged with committing “subversive acts” including the intention to “engage in revolution” as Mario T. Garcia wrote in Desert Immigrants. They were tried in an El Paso court. W. H. Burges, wellknown El Paso lawyer, defended the men. The court didn’t find any real evidence of revolutionary activity. “I am publishing a paper against Mexico,” Aguirre told the court, “because I hope to remedy the evils by pointing out what they will lead to,” according to Garcia. The court found Aguirre and Chapa were just exercising their freedom of speech.

During the trial, attention began to focus on Teresa’s involvement in the alleged “conspiracy.” In Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History, Teresa P. Acosta and Ruthe Winegarten wrote that Teresa Urrea did in fact help the revolutionist Lauro Aguirre in the fight against Porfirio Díaz. Aguirre had often visited the Urrea ranch and had helped educate Teresita. Some historians believe that Aguirre used her to help support his own political activities.

Professor Elisabeth Guerrero said that Teresa became more politically active once in the United States, allowing her picture to be taken and sold to raise funds for the resistance movement and even signing an anti-Porfirian constitution written by Aguirre. Aguirre also published an editorial signed by Urrea titled “Mis ideas sobre las revoluciones” in El Independiente on Aug. 21, 1896. She maintained her innocence and insisted she never had anything to do with the rebellions.

Teresa Urrea buildingHowever, Dashu wrote that “Teresa went on with her political organizing of El Plan de Tomochic, which denounced the genocide of the Yaqui nation, urged restoration of the Liberal Constitution of 1857, and called for abolition of all laws or social practices that maintained ‘inequality based on gender, race, nationality, or class.’” Her support for such activities suggests Teresa was more than just a “folk saint” rendering aid to the poor.

Image caption: Teresa Urrea once lived in this building at 500 S. Oregon St. in El Paso. Today, the faithful burn candles at the base of a plaque placed on a wall by the El Paso County Historical Commission, which identifies her home and celebrates her life. (Photo courtesy of Armando Rosales Jr.)

 Once again, Teresa Urrea managed to stay clear of imprisonment by making the move to El Paso, Texas, in 1896. In Ringside Seat to a Revolution, Romo wrote, “When she … did arrive on June 13, 1896, about 3,000 pilgrims camped outside her home on the corner of Overland and Campbell Streets. They had traveled by foot, wagon and train from all over the U.S.-Mexican border.” In 1897, the Urreas moved to 500 S. Oregon St. in a building which now has a historical plaque describing her and the miraculous cures she effected. Many immigrants crossing into the United States made their home in Segundo Barrio and still do.

Teresa said that she treated up to 250 people a day in El Paso. The people who waited in lines to see Teresa included the prominent and wealthy, such as El Paso’s mayor Robert Campbell and Lauro Carrillo, the exgovernor of Chihuahua. Teresa Urrea never turned anyone away although she knew some people really didn’t have any faith in her healings and were just curious to see what all the commotion was.

Perales wrote that the El Paso press assisted Teresa by portraying her as an “apolitical spiritual healer,” allowing her to stay out of any political wrongdoing until an outbreak of border rebellions in August 1896. Frances Holden stated in an article for The Handbook of Texas Online that “on the morning of Aug. 12, 1896, at least seventy armed ‘Teresitas’ attacked the Mexican customhouse in Nogales.” Perales says that these socalled “Teresitas” were made up of Yaqui, Pima and Tomochi Indians, many of whom were laborers for the Southern Pacific Railroad. The assault on the Nogales customhouse was a protest movement against antiagrarian and anti-indigenous Mexican land policies. Similar attacks occurred at several border towns along the Texas border.

Once again, the rebels cried “Viva la Santa de Cabora!” associating Teresa Urrea with the rebellion. These confrontations gave Porfirio Díaz an insight to what the indigenous tribes thought of his “modernizing” and “urbanizing” plans for Mexico, according to Perales. Holden wrote that Díaz believed Teresa Urrea was directly involved and demanded her extradition back to Mexico, a demand the United States ignored. Dashu wrote that Teresa was said to exclaim, “My poor Indians! They are the bravest and most persecuted people on earth! They will fight for their rights until they win or are wiped out. God help them! There are few of them left.”

Perales said that both the American and Mexican press wrote that copies of Lauro Aguirre’s newspaper El Independiente as well as photos of Teresa Urrea were found on the Mexican rebels who attacked the customhouse in Nogales. Lauro Aguirre’s El Independiente took the liberty of personifying Teresa as a “visionary woman” encouraging an “apocalyptic revolution.” In 1896, a statement from Teresa Urrea was printed in the El Paso Herald. It read:

“The press generally in these days has occupied itself with my humble person in terms unfavorable in the highest degree, since in a fashion most unjust–the fashion in the republic of Mexico; they refer to me as participating in political matters; they connect me with the events which have happened in Nogales, Sonora in Coyame and Presidio del Norte, Chihuahua where people have risen in arms against the government of Sr. General Don Porfirio Díaz... I have noticed with much pain that the persons who have taken up arms in Mexican territory have invoked my name in aid of the schemes they are carrying through. But I repeat I am not one who authorizes or at the same time interferes with these proceedings. Decidedly I am a victim ... expatriated from my country since May 19, 1892.”

A Mexican official quoted by The New York Times said that Teresa was responsible for the death of more than 1,000 people during the uprisings by Northern tribes. Telgen and Kamp and other historians noted that after a short time of being a tenant in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio, Teresa suffered harassment and even death threats from the Catholic Church and both the United States and Mexican government, forcing her to leave El Paso in search of a safer environment. In 1897, Teresa Urrea’s father moved the family to Clifton, Ariz.

Clifton was far away from political activity that lingered in cities such as El Paso. Tomás Urrea started a dairy and firewood business and Teresa continued her healing practices.  On June 22, 1900, at the age of 27, she married Guadalupe Rodriguez against her father’s wishes. Her husband, a Yaqui Indian and copper mine worker, went “mad” on their honeymoon, shooting Teresa, and tried to take her back to Mexico. Although he did not injure Teresa seriously, he was sent to an insane asylum. After this disastrous marriage, a friend of the family convinced Teresa to leave Arizona for California in search of peace and quiet.

In California, Teresa joined up with a medical company based in New York that toured the United States on a “curing crusade.” Her only request was that the people she rendered aid to were not to be charged. The San Francisco Examiner claimed that she cured as many as 200 people a day. Teresa later found out the promoters were in fact profiting off her patients, so she hired a lawyer to end their contract. While in New York, Teresa competed in a beauty pageant and won. On tour in St. Louis, Teresa called her friend from Clifton, Juana Van Order, to send one of her sons to be her interpreter. Her friend sent her oldest boy, John Van Order, who was 19 years old.

Teresa and John lived as husband and wife back in California and had two daughters, Laura in 1902 and Magdalena in 1904. Meanwhile, Teresa’s father died on Sept. 22, 1902. Teresa, John and their oldest daughter Laura moved into “Sonoratown,” a small barrio in Los Angeles, Calif., many of whose residents were from Sonora, Mexico. There she supported Mexican laborers fighting for higher pay. Teresa moved back to Clifton, Ariz., with her family after their home in Los Angeles burned down. Urrea had turned into the “darling” of Clifton’s most respected and wealthiest Anglos, having cured many residents, and in particular, the son of a wealthy banker.

Upon returning to Clifton, the “Santa de Cabora’s” health began to deteriorate and on Jan. 11, 1906, Teresa Urrea died of tuberculosis at the young age of 33. Teresa left her two daughters in the hands of her comadre and long time friend, Mariana Avendano, and her husband Fortunato. Many of Teresa Urrea’s believers felt she had used up all the energy and power that was given to her by the Virgin Mary. They believed all the healings and stress built up throughout her life finally took its toll. Hundreds of people attended her funeral at Shannon Hill Catholic Cemetery, where she was buried next to her father.

Moving from one country to another, then state to state and city to city, Teresa Urrea left a permanent imprint in the minds and hearts of all the people she healed and supported. Urrea’s spiritual guidance is still called upon during the harshest and most desperate times. In El Paso’s Segundo Barrio, many people are praying and hoping Teresa Urrea’s spirit is with them. Parts of this historic community are in danger of being demolished to build a “downtown district” which could include one or more “big box” stores. The building Teresa lived in happens to be part of this section in the Segundo Barrio.

As she did in the past, Teresa Urrea continues to unite people of all races and classes. Many of Segundo’s residents have come together to form Colectivo Rezizte, a group protesting against the politicians and business owners involved with the plans to destroy their community. With the help of the Paso del Sur group and their faith in Santa Teresita, opponents of the use of eminent domain will continue to battle to preserve this part of El Paso’s history and more importantly, the homes and lives of many. Although more than 100 years have passed since “La Santa de Cabora” physically graced our world, it is clear that she will long be a source of guidance and motivation for the poor and unrepresented.

Tags: Biography

Segundo Barrio Sources

Women in El Paso Sources

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