Medicine Men

In Andrés Reséndez’s book A Land So Strange he follows the journey of Cabeza de Vaca, Dorantes, Castillo, and Estebancio. These four men were a part of a colonization group but through a series of unfortunate events they all died (except for these four) and ended up traveling from Florida to Mexico. They became slaves but eventually ended up becoming “medicine men.”

As medicine men they were treated very kindly and were greatly desired, but the medicine men became a part of a peculiar custom. When the medicine men traveled from village to village, “those who had accompanied the medicine men would pillage the new hosts, entering their huts and plundering whatever possessions or food they could carry back to their own encampment. In return, they left the medicine men,” (191). This left their new hosts with very little, because after this ritual took place, they then would offer the medicine everything they had as gifts. The medicine had their pick of food, clothing, and other items. The villages were fine with this ritual however, because they then would walk the medicine men to the next village and become the pillagers.

This act of taking the new village’s possessions but leaving the medicine men implies that the medicine men were almost seen as possessions themselves. It can be compared to giving someone a diamond but taking their food, pots, pans, and furniture because then, and only then, is it a fair trade. The medicine men were considered the best possession someone could have. Reséndez’s argument is that the medicine men were not considered men, but merely tools that could heal.

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