Belief in the evil eye or mal de ojo, is a culture bound syndrome in traditional Mexican and Central American culture. It holds that some people possess innate strength; an admiring look or a stare can weaken a person leading to bad luck, sickness and even death. Victims of mal del ojo -usually children, pregnant women, the sick and elderly people- are plagued by sudden physical manifestations like loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, crying spells or inability to sleep. It is strongly feared that when a powerful person, by character or means, stares at the weak individual, the eyes of the strong person drain the power and even the soul from the weak one regardless of intentions. The condition can also occur when an individual stares at something or someone with admiration. The person observed may become sick and the valued object, unless touched shortly after a person with evil eyes appreciated it, may become broken.
The traditional cure for mal de ojo in Mexico involves the practices of a curandera o curandero, a traditional folk healer. She or he may use a raw egg to treat the illness. by passing a raw egg over the inflicted victim the negative power is absorbed. Sometimes the egg is covered with a straw cross and the next morning is cracked to examine the forms of the egg, Other times the egg is cracked over a glass half full of water, then the curandera “reads” the egg yolk and the strings made by the egg whites to determine if the mal de ojo is gone.
In order to protect themselves and their loved ones from this ailment, people carry amulets. We can see pregnant women carrying a safe pin under their blouse to get protection for them and their unborn child, children with “ojos de venado” bracelets made with red threat, women and men with “estampitas” holy stamps, hanging from their necks or pinned inside the sombrero.
The mal de ojo is important in Mexican culture because it explains how disease is perceived in their culture, that people can becomes victims by the behavior of others.
Written by Adriana Netro