Ana Luz Solís
An unidentified cancer is killing members of the Tierra Blanca de Abajo community in San Miguel de Allende.
Over the last 10 years, the cases have been steadily increasing. Health authorities are currently monitoring three individuals suffering from the disease. Last year, it is believed that three others died from the same ailment.
According to members of the community, entire families have been wiped out, each relative dying in a similar way. It begins with incessant pain in the shoulder, and then it becomes difficult to breathe, and within about six months, the individual sheds weight as though “shriveling up” under the sun.
In most cases, the ailment attacks people between 21 and 40 years of age. Many of those affected had already left their families, while others were never even able to see the birth of their offspring, because they died just before their children were born.
Tierra Blanca is a remote community located in the distant outskirts of San Miguel’s urban center. To get there, one must take a cobblestone road that leads to a river, which in rainy season, cuts off the community entirely because a bridge has never been built.
This quiet village has at least five small churches. Just at the entrance of the town there are two: one which appears to be on the verge of collapse and the other is patched with dirt and rocks that the men of the village retrieve from the river.
Everyone knows about these cases and everyone knows that this rare disease is taking the lives of a host of their neighbors. They also know about those who have fled from the community to escape the plague. Many say that the infection is akin to “a curse” that follows you wherever you try to hide: be it in the center of San Miguel or all the way to the United States of America.
Exceedingly aware of the predicament, they have suspected for quite some time that the land on which they stand contains a nocuous substance. But their suspicions were confirmed when the community witnessed the arrival of UNAM researchers, who started testing the area, taking samples, interviewing local community members and examining those infected—dead and alive.
The report issued last month before the authorities of the municipal and state health ministries was clear: erionite is present in the village’s atmosphere, a substance that the World Health Organization classifies as a highly carcinogenic mineral.
The population of the village is close to 450, dispersed among thickets and nopal cacti atop a low ridge and alongside a flowing river.
Upon the discoveries made by these expert researchers, the recommendation was definitive: in order to save the population and to avoid the emergence of new cases, the villagers must vacate the land.
Subsequent to these instructions, villagers trudge along, but not without unrelenting fears that “the curse” will attack again, panic-stricken by the slightest shoulder ache and petrified to walk pass the coffin at a funeral mass in the main church of this quiet little village.