One: A Visit by Students and Dr. Bock
In March, I took a group of eight Pacific High School students to “my” part of Sinaloa. As in 1965, the students made up first aid kits, sorted and repackaged sample medicines, and collected clothing and school supplies before the trip. We assembled a mule train in Ajoya, and made the rounds of the villages as far as Jocuixtita and Verano. The villagers were delighted to sea the students welcomed them into their homes, took them swimming, crawdad fishing, hunting, working and taught the girls how to prepare Mexican food. The students, in addition to studying various aspects of the village life, helped in the care of patients and the dispensing of medicines. We handled an average of over 30 patients a day. While the majority were afflicted with run of the mill ailments – nutritional deficiencies, flu, conjunctivitis, dysentery, minor injuries, we also encountered a number of severe conditions such as little Pancho, who chopped through the bone of his big toe with an axe, and Juan José who died of tetanus after a long struggle.
The students had the privilege of observing many beauties of village life, and closeness between members of a family, the resilience and good nature of the people, their bond to the soil and seasons. They were also exposed, however, to a harsh example of the violence and brutality which is also a part of village existence. The day after we left Jocuixtita, we were called back to that village to make repairs on Teófilo Martínez, the ‘comisario’ of Jocuixtita, in whose home they had dined two days before. The morning of the day we returned, Teófilo had gone out of the village to get firewood, and had been attacked by José Nuñez and his one-eyed son, Paco, together with Paco’s two older sons. José Nuñez, the wealthiest man in Jocuixtita had been the comisario preceding Teófilo, but had been so unfair and corrupt that the people had petitioned to have him replaced by Teófilo. Although I had been told many unkind stories about José Nuñez, including how he had committed three brutal murders, I had hitherto witnessed only his good side. The students who had passed through Jocuixtita regarded him as a friend. For example, José had cleaned up his carbide miner’s lamp so that we could see to close the wound on the head of a girl who had been struck by a falling roof tile. He had also invited us to breakfast and had let us keep our animals in his corral. But friend or no, it was hard to forgive what he and his offspring had done to Teófilo. They had stabbed and gun whipped the little man repeatedly in the face and head. One slash had passed right through the bridge of his nose, from one side to the other; another had completely parted the lower portion of his nose and passed through into the upper portion of his mouth. We recoiled at the sight of him. Tinki Bock, who was with me at the time, kept exclaiming in dazed wonder, “How can one human being do that to another?” We spent three hours cleaning and sewing Teófilo’s face back together, then provided the family with medication and careful instructions, and continued on up to the arroyo to see a little boy we had treated for a severely infected dog-bite, three days before. Two days later, we passed again through Jocuixtita to see how Teófilo’s was doing, and did not see him again until eight days later, when his brother’s from Coyotitán carried him down from Jocuixtita to Ajoya, a distance about 25 miles. He was still weak, his eyes red from traumatic hemorrhaging, but the swelling had gone down and the wounds were healing nicely.
That night Teófilo disappeared from Ajoya, and it was not until several days later that we learned that the state police had arrested him and taken him to the jail in San Ignacio. It turned out that after so brutally beating Teófilo, José Nuñez had shot his own horse to incriminate Teófilo (the shot had been heard while Teófilo was being carried back to the village) and had then ridden to San Ignacio and placed charges against Teófilo, claiming that he had fired at José and struck his horse. The authorities did not trouble themselves to investigate the matter; they simply arrested the poor man on the richer man’s word. To get out of jail, Teófilo had to raise 2,400 pesos; 1,000 to the Presidente Municipal, 1,000 went to Nuñez as payment for the horse (an old horse, which at best was worth 400 pesos; I saw the old nag myself dead on the trail), and 400 pesos for the lawyers fees. Teófilo’s family managed to beg and borrow the money to get him out, but Teófilo, who was already in debt, remained a ruined man. His old house in Jocuixtita is on sale by his creditors, and he himself, still in fear of his life, with has fled to Sonora to live with relatives. As for José Nuñez, he though it wise to move with his family to the Arroyo Santiago, where he has bought the abandoned rancho of Chuy Alarcón, former leader of the Agridistas struggle for justice in Ajoya. On my last visit to the barrancas, José’s son, Paco came to me in Ajoya explaining that his father had developed a “strange sickness” – boils all over, and his whole body swollen. Paco asked me for medicines. I asked if José was still able to travel, and Paco said yes. I said that José would have to come in person for me to examine him if I were to provide medicines, and that I also wanted to talk with him about what happened to Teófilo. José Nuñez never came.
During his eight day visit, Dr. Bock examined over 260 patients and operated on fifty-five eyes.
In spite of what appeared at first to be insurmountable obstacles, the sojourn of Dr. Rudolph Bock, eye surgeon from Palo Alto was a big success. Dr. Bock’s daughter, Tinki, and I returned to México in mid-May, two weeks before Dr. Bock scheduled arrival, to make preparations. We made final arrangements with Dr. Feliz of the Centro de Salud in San Ignacio for Dr. Bock to use the facilities of the health care center, and for Dr. Feliz assured us that everything was in order. Then, with assistance of Marco Antonio, a Mexican student from the University of Culiacán who had learned of my project and volunteered his assistance, we traversed about 150 miles of mountain trails, traveling on mule back from village to village. We made appointments for more than 200 patients before returning to Ajoya. Then, two days before Dr. Bock was due to arrive, we received a message from Dr. Feliz informing us that to practice in México Dr, Bock would have to obtain complete authorization from the state authorities! I was distraught. The last time I had been to see the Director of Health and Welfare in Culiacán, it had taken me 2 ½ days just to get an interview with him – and then he had refused to authorize anything, saying that the red tape was prohibitive. Nevertheless, Tinki and I sat out in haste for Culiacán to beat our wings upon the bars. We went directly to the home of Guillermo Ruiz Gómez, the governor’s assistant who had offered me his assistance. Sr. Ruiz is surely a man with great influence, led up, and the royal carpet rolled out instead. Now, Dr. Bock’s visit was not only authorized, but applauded. Laudatory articles were published in various papers. The president of the Red Cross in Culiacán telegraphed to Dr. Bock his personal congratulations. Guillermo Ruiz Gómez visited San Ignacio, to pay his respects, and immediately following his visit even the local “Presidente Municipal” busied himself sending through personal messengers, letters of fatuous praise to both Dr. Bock and myself. (The same Presidente who tried to frame me with opium smuggling charges, a year ago.)