For about the last eight months, it has struck me as odd that nearly everyone in Mexico who comes in contact with Clara feels the need to touch her gently on her head. Not being weirded out by legions of strangers touching my child, I just chalked it up to being a cute, touchy-feely custom of Mexican women who clearly love babies.
Then, while I was visiting NPH, one of the older kids asked me why Clara doesn't wear a red string on her wrist.
"Because I don't believe in the Evil Eye," I replied.
A-HA! That's it! All these strangers who have been touching Clara on her head have touching her to avoid giving her "mal de ojo" or the Evil Eye.
Ever since moving to Mexico, I've been fascinated with mal de ojo--what it is, the symptoms, and, most importantly, how to pass it on. Of course, I've been fascinated as a skeptic. Plenty of people really do believe in the Evil Eye.
Children who are infected by the Evil Eye are just mysterously ill. Now, being familiar with the causes of Mexican illnesses, this must be something to do with the child having flu-like symptoms, but as the child hadn't been out in the cold, the wind, or wet, this illness must have been caused by the Evil Eye . . . because germs clearly don't have anything to do with disease, right? *sigh*
Mario's niece was apparently infected with the Evil Eye when she was about 18 months old. Fortunately for me, I was visiting at the time (and I probably gave it to her). Mario's mother doesn't really believe in the Evil Eye, but Dulce's other grandmother does. So, Other Grandmother performed a cleansing ritual for Dulce. This involved bouncing the naked child in a blanket and then sticking some herbs behind her ears (rather Julius Cesear-like). Odd. But it must have worked, as Dulce recovered. Because, as Mario's mother warns me, despite the fact that she doesn't really believe in it, children have been known to die from the Evil Eye.
But Clara is going to take her chances. No red string bracelets for her. Fortunately, all the female population of Coahuila is willing to touch her after looking at her, which promptly lifts the curse.
Oh, I think of all those children I've flirted with while waiting in line at the grocery store. I hope they're OK. I didn't mean to give them the Evil Eye.
(OK, sometimes I did try.)