The ‘Folk Saint,’ El Compañero Niño Fidencio
It is a wonderful thing when the natural or supernatural world is suddenly graced by the arrival of a special personage or circumstance that betters existing conditions. It may be something serendipitous, such as a sudden welcome rain on parched and suffering arid lands or the welcome presence of a great healer of the people.
One such healer was on the scene about a 100 years ago. He is known as El Niño Fidencio, and his legacy continues throughout the discipline known as curanderismo.
El Niño Fidencio was a famous healer and curandero in Mexico. His birth name was Jose de Jesús Constantino Sintora.
Today he is revered by the Fidencista Christian Church. He was a devout Christian, and although the Catholic Church does not recognize his official status as a saint, he has a faithful following that extends through the northern part of Mexico and the southwestern United States. He is recognized as a “folk saint.”
He was born in 1898 and died in the small village of Espinazo in the Mexican province of Nuevo Leon in 1938. While in elementary school he met the priest Father Segura, and helped the priest with religious services.
During this time Fidencio learned to work with herbs and to cure people. At the age of 15, Fidencio attended school in Mina, Nuevo Leon, a town close to Espinazo. He came to be called “el niño,” or “child,” because he was smoothskinned and had a soft voice.
In 1921, Fidencio began to perform healings in Espinazo, and his fame spread far and wide. He gained the attention of the “high and the mighty” as well as the devoted as word of his healing abilities spread.
In 1928 the Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles visited Espinazo and attended a healing session with Niño Fidencio. Although the president’s affliction was not known generally among the public, it was later disclosed that he suffered from nodular leprosy. He was reportedly healed by El Niño Fidencio.
Multitudes of people suffering from a great range of illnesses came to El Niño Fidencio in tiny Espinazo for healing. Fidencio always claimed that he was only a simple and humble instrument of divine power in the healings, and it is reported that he never charged any payment for the cures that he accomplished.
During his life, a multitude of imitators and impostors appeared. The death of one of these imposters was mistaken for Fidencio’s own death. The falsified death was announced by the press, and his funeral prompted a massive outpouring of emotion.
His actual death came a year later. Now, some 80 years later, he is still famous in the town of Espinazo and plays a large part in the town’s economy by generating tourism and the sale of religious objects and services.
His followers continue his healing work. Many Fidencista healers claim that they are “cajitas,” or “little boxes,” that channel the healing powers of El Niño Fidencio. Some people are healed, and some are not, by those claiming to heal by the invoking of El Niño Fidencio. That is “an old story” when the genuine article is often imitated, but never duplicated.
El Niño Fidencio to this day is considered to be a “saint of the people,” who continues to be revered and recognized as such by everyone, including the Roman Catholic Church. Might he be ‘officially canonized’ by the Church someday?
Now, in this November and autumnal season of all saints and all souls and the dearly departed of honored memory, El Niño Fidencio the Healer and many other saints of our peoples come to mind, who are companions of the Blessing Way.
David A. Fernández de Taos