Reprinted from MultiCultural Review / 101 December1997
When I first participated in the screening of yo soy hechicero at the 1996 annual meeting of the American Folklore Society, I was astonished by the excitement and mixed reactions it provoked. Althougheveryone agreed that the video had been thoughtfully filmed and painstakingly edited, the lack of a narrator's explicit interpretative voice, translating the experiences, was unsettling.
Most admirably this video portrays seldom-seen transcendental practices such as animal sacrifice, sacred scarring, trance, and magical healing in their everyday context combined with ordinary life events, just as it really happens. Via close, slow shots, the film enables the viewer to get an in-depth sense of the participants' experiences, right in the midst of the most heightened emotions. No analysis or comments are needed. The only comments we do hear are thoseof the participants, family members, initiates, and helpers who tell their impressions of what they are doing in moving, informative, and sometimes funny ways.
With a touch of ingenuity, Stanford and Drufovka provide a candid, broad social context in which this Catholic-Yoruba healing-divination religion is practiced today. We hear Eduardo's mythological narratives of the orishas (deities), chants and proverbs in Yoruba, and how his urbanite godchildren respond in English, Spanish or "Spanglish" --reminding everyone of who and where they are. Another glance at context, this timereflecting some of the attacks on this religion, is presented through the opprobrious comments made by Eduardo's Pentecostal wife, which contrast with the nonchalant observations of their typical teenage daughter.
Always intertwining the extraordinary with theordinary, the sacred and the profane, yo soy hechicero escapes stereotyping. Alongside the sorcerer's own captivating personal charm and his healing powers to cure drug addicts, heal gunshotvictims, and save marriages, we see Eduardo, the sorcerer, and Miguel, his slave spirit, joking and fooling with the filmmakers and the rest of his initiates/clients.
The unexpected flight of a dove from the sacrificial pile, which accidentally turns off the lights in the shed breaks the order of ritual. I smiled. Is this the sign of the breaking of cultural barriers? The honesty and artistry of this videotape is surely to "bewitch" its potential audiences at many levels, enhancing theirunderstanding of the subject in itself and provoking a thoughtful discussion of their reactions.