Faithful Seek Miracles in "Light" Water
Edward Cody Washington Post Foreign Service
TLACOTE, MEXICO – By the thousands they waited, men, women and children, equipped with plastic jerrycans, patience and the tranquil faith in miracles that has adorned Mexican history since pre-Hispanic times.
Their line stretched alongside a dusty road for more than a quarter of a mile one day last week. On other days it strung out for more than a mile as hundreds of thousands of sick and lame line up for the “light water” in Jesus Chahin’s well – the miracle water that is said to cure everything from AIDS and cancer to obesity or high cholesterol count.
“For me, all of these things are God’s miracles,” said Maria Guadalupe Aguilar, a Dominican nun who drove 175 miles from Puebla along with a fellow nun and priest, the Rev. Juan Crespo, who has prostate cancer.
Chahin, a wealthy heir whose passion used to be golf, has been making the water available free to the public since May, when, he said, he accidentally discovered its healing properties by observing the swift recovery of a farm dog who has lapped some up.
The curative power requires “movements” of water from one metal tank to another, Chahin said in an interview. Despite references to religious faith by many in the long wait for his water, Chahin described the process as strictly scientific, but secret.
“This water weighs less than H20,” he said. “It is a mystery for science, why it weighs less,” he added, predicting that scientists will study its properties for “two or three billion years” before fully understanding them.
Word of the water has spread swiftly throughout Mexico and even into the United States. Sergio Velazquez, who runs a Spanish-language newspaper in Santa Ana, Calif., traveled here after a number of Santa Ana residents of Mexican origin returned from Tlacote claiming that they had been helped by the water. On his flight from Los Angeles, Velazquez said, he encountered nine persons on their way to get water from Tlacote.
As the news has spread by word of mouth and radio, Chahin’s hacienda in this little village 10 miles west of Queretaro has turned into an overcrowded place of pilgrimage rivaling the Vergin of Guadalupe’s basilica in Mexico City – even though Chahin makes no claim that his water enjoys divine power.
“The water is scientific,” declared Chahin, who described himself as a Roman Catholic, “but man is a creation of God.”
The Queretaro state health director, Rene Martinez Gutierrez, told local reporters that his tests show the water is normal for wells in this region, safe to drink and without particular characteristics. But since the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Chahin’s hacienda break no law, he said, state authorities have not intervened except to regulate traffic and sanitary conditions.
By August, people were showing up for the canful at a rate of more than 10,000 a day, according to conservative estimates. They have slept on the ground or in cars and vans, sometimes for two nights in a row, while they moved slowly toward the gate for a chance to fill their containers at faucets behind the hacienda walls.
Serapio Robles, a cowhand who lives near Zacatecas, 200 miles north of here, said he endured a two-day wait to get water for his 75-year-old father who lies near death from cancer. “He can’t come himself because he hurts too much,” Robles explained. “It’s too far along, and he can’t walk…We’ll see if God will grant him relief.”
To speed access, Chahin has set up a triage system, with personnel who say they are doctors assigning people with serious illnesses such as cancer to one line and those with less serious problems such as migraine headaches to another, longer line.
As the number of pilgrims grew, Chahin also reduced to 2 ½ gallons the amount automatically accorded. With special entreaties or powerful friends, however, some seriously ill people have been able to get 10 gallons.
“I hope this lasts, because with all these people it is becoming more and more difficult,” cautioned Maria Luisa Peres, 63, a restaurant owner from Mexico City who secured 10 gallons to help her sister, who has diabetes, high blood pressure and heart trouble.