Every Latino household has some folklore or superstitious belief that passes down and is integrated into the new generation. 

You’ve probably even heard of “mal de ojo,” or the evil eye. It refers to a belief that someone can have a stare so intense that it can cause spiritual damage. This can translate into unexplained sickness and a trail of misfortune. 

Loading the player...

I grew up listening to countless stories of people who would catch “el ojo” and become gravely ill. This would mainly happen to little children and babies because their spirit was still fragile. 

This is why Mexicans respect curanderas and their healing abilities so much. In some cases, if the child had a strong infliction of “mal de ojo” and the family didn’t go to a curandera fast enough, the child died. 

These stories would give me chills, but sometimes I thought they were just stories

An eerie detail is that someone could unintentionally give someone else “mal de ojo” just by lovingly looking at them. So my mother would caution us when we were around cute babies. She would tell us that we should pinch their cheeks or squeeze them lightly to prevent causing harm. 

This would explain why she was never shy to ask to hold another person’s baby. She would say a small prayer while holding them as well.

Another belief is that a curandera should clean someone with mal de ojo with an egg. This is known as “una limpia con huevo.” 

I’d see my mother perform this limpia constantly for my siblings and me if we had unexplained ailments. She would also do it for the neighbor’s kids and other young family members.

In many parts of Latin America, people believe the egg absorbs bad energy as it passes through the sufferer’s body. Afterward, the egg should be immediately discarded.

Most of the time, the limpia seemed to work. The person or child would stop showing symptoms of mal de ojo. If not, it may be necessary to do more cleaning and pray more intensely.

As I grew older, I continued to respect this belief, but then something happened

I wouldn’t doubt if someone had bad intentions. However, I wondered if an egg really could heal such a thing as the evil eye.

Still, when I had my daughters, if something ever seemed off, I’d call my mom immediately and ask her to come over and give them una limpia

It was not until recently, when one of my twin girls could not seem to get rid of a fever, that we visited a nearby curandera. 

My first course of action, of course, was to seek medical advice from my daughter’s primary care doctor, including several trips to the ER. 

None of the specialists we saw could give us answers. They would say the fever needed to run its course, and she would be fine in a few days. But this time, it seemed much more different than other times when my kids were sick.

After consulting with my mother, who had already done an egg cleanse on my daughter a few times, we located this curandera through a recommendation from my aunt.

This was not the curandera of my imagination

She was a friendly woman who invited us to her home immediately after hearing what was happening. I was skeptical, of course, but I couldn’t bear to see my daughter suffering in such a way. 

I imagined entering a home with dry herbs hanging from the ceiling, walls lined with shelves of tinctures and potions, and being greeted by an older woman with a witchy appearance. 

None of the above was true. 

The curandera looked like any neighbor; dozens of family photos filled her walls. No herbs or potions in sight. She brought us to a room with an altar and a huge portrait of the Virgen de Guadalupe above it. 

With my permission, she cleansed my daughter with an egg and cracked the egg into a glass of water. After inspecting the egg and turning the glass for a few seconds, she said my daughter had “el ojo.” Thankfully, it was not too strong, and she could heal her. She could see the details from reading the signs in the yolk.

I marveled at the calm, safe vibes we felt in the curandera’s room

Something was telling me to trust this woman. My mother said she felt the same as the curandera left to get the ingredients she needed for the cleansing ritual. It ended up being a concoction of herbs and a bit of alcohol she needed to massage all over my daughter as she prayed in a low voice. 

She massaged her tummy in particular because she said she also had “empacho,” which I knew was another form of ailment.

The cleansing needed to be done three days in a row. During that time, we noticed my daughter improved quickly and was behaving normally again. 

Despite my initial doubts, I was grateful to this curandera and her advice to keep negative spirits and energies away.

She said spirits are usually attracted to children and linger by them. This can cause them to get fussy or sick.

The curandera’s recommendations were not far from my mother’s daily practices

The curandera instructed us to keep lemons with garlic in a small cup of vinegar and place this in all corners of the house. She also recommended that I always put something bright red on my kids whenever we go out because the bright color can protect against the evil eye. 

My mother had always recommended this when my children were born, but I honestly didn’t believe in it.

Just before we left on the third day, the curandera asked if I’d also like her to give me a limpia. I agreed, and when she examined the yolk, she said she could see I didn’t sleep well and was under a lot of stress.

She also mentioned she could see a “susto” (trauma) from my childhood. All of these were true, and she recommended I undergo the cleansing ritual she had done for my daughter. 

Though I told her I would return in a few weeks, I haven’t gone yet. 

So much of what she revealed just from looking into an egg yolk was pretty shocking to me. It also made me realize I still have so much healing to do. 

After this experience, I am newly amazed by the customs in Latin American countries. Although mystical and eerie, they also bring a sense of comfort and hope.