Doña Chon

By gregebersole

April 26, 2013

Category: Travel

1 Comment »

Ever since I read a story in the Cali newspaper, Q’hubo, I’ve wanted to get a photo of this woman somehow. She’s called Doña Chon. Her name is María Asunción Valencia Lleva. The article said she was 107 years old and is a curadora. She cures people and has cured hundreds and hundreds of people. My friend, Pichi, says she cured his son once. I asked Pichi if I could somehow get a photo of her. Weeks ago, he said he knew two guys who lived near her and would ask them. He said he can’t go into her neighborhood. It’s too dangerous. Finally, last Monday, a man agreed to meet me this Sunday afternoon and take me. That was the plan. Today, I was going to go to Siloé and walk around, looking for photos. I called Pichi first to see what time his soccer match was tomorrow. While we were on the phone, he asked what I was doing. I said I was going to come to Siloé and look for photos in the lower part. He said come up instead. We’re going to go to Doña’s home and you can get a photo. I could tell that he had been drinking. Today was his day off and this afternoon he was probably sitting at home with his bottle. So, I took a motoratón, or motorcycle taxi, up to his street. By now, I knew how to get there. I gave directions to the motorcyclist and we found it. I sat and visited with Pichi for awhile. Finally, he said we’re going. At first, he wanted to go on his cycle. I said no, we better walk. I didn’t want to risk an accident in his shape. Then, he asked if I could drive it. I said yes, but I didn’t want to risk anything happening to his cycle. I said let’s just walk. I think due to his condition he wasn’t as worried about going into the bad areas. We took off walking and he set a really fast pace. We wound around narrow streets and up and down steep sidewalks full of steps. All of a sudden he said to give him my camera. He stuck it down in his shorts in the rear. He said this is a dangerous area. There are a lot of enemies. We saw a few people every so often and he would greet them and we’d keep moving. At one point, there were about 3 or 4 guys sitting along the sidewalk. He stopped to say hello and say that we were going to the curadora’s home. Later, after we were a little ways away, he told me that they were killers- all of them. Eventually we got to her home. He knocked and called her name through the window. She eventually came to the window. She was a little afraid and didn’t know us. I don’t think she remembered Pichi at all. It was probably a long time ago that she cured his son. We talked her into a few photos. I like several of the ones I took. This one is probably the most dramatic. I wished I could have gone in her house to take a few. But, since she was alone and a little afraid, that wasn’t going to happen. I was really glad to have been able to get anything. Before we left, we asked her what her age was. She said 99. The newspaper was wrong. We then quickly left and wound are way around, heading back to Pichi’s neighborhood. Once in awhile, we’d stop to talk to someone and I took a couple of photos of some women we passed. A few people, when they found out where we’d walked, were surprised. They asked if we’d had any problems. They said it was too dangerous, and that they’d never have gone there. Pichi told me to never walk alone with anyone else, only him. He looks out for me and won’t let anything happen to me. He tells me I’m his friend and brother. All the guys hanging out on the streets that he knows, he stops to chat with a bit and always introduces me. I shake hands with everyone, telling them my name. Pichi says I’m getting pretty well known around. By now, I’ve seen enough, and heard enough people talking that I’m starting to believe that Siloé is truly dangerous. Things happen and you need to know the right people and stay in your areas. When we got back to his house, we talked a little and then I took a motorcycle back down. Before I left, Pichi touched his heart with his fist and said, “I love you.” It brought tears to my eyes. I feel really close to him by now. I’ve seen him at his very best and at his worst. I’ve eaten and slept in his home. We are very good friends. I will miss him and Siloé when I finish this photo project. He has been an incredible help to me. I would never have been able to get the photos that I have taken without his help.

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One Response to “Doña Chon”

  1. You’re a brave man Greg. I can’t wait to see the exhibition.

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