In a Village Far from Home: My Life Among the Cora Indians of the Sierra Madre

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University of Arizona Press, 2000 - Social Science - 206 pages

What do most career women do after a successful run on Madison Avenue? Catherine Finerty watched her friends settle into the country-club life. She opted instead for Mexico.

When the 60-year-old widow loaded up her car and headed south, what she found at the end of the road was far from what she expected. Finerty settled into a comfortable house just outside of Guadalajara and, although not a Catholic, she soon immersed herself in Franciscan volunteer work. It wasn't long before she found herself visiting small settlements hidden in the tropical mountains of western Mexico, and it was in Jesœs Mar’aŃso isolated that one could only get there by mule or small planeŃthat she found her new calling: the village nurse.

With its bugs and heat, no phones or running water, the tiny town was hardly a place to enjoy one's retirement years, but Finerty was quickly charmed by the community of Cora Indians and mestizos. Armed with modest supplies, a couple of textbooks, and common sense, she found herself delivering first aid, advising on public health, and administering injections. And in a place where people still believed in the power of shamans, providing health care sometimes required giving in to the magical belief that a hypodermic needle could cure anything.

Finerty's account of her eight years in Jesœs Mar’a is both a compelling story of nursing under adverse conditions and a loving portrait of a people and their ways. She shares the joys and sorrows of this isolated world: religious festivals and rites of passage; the tragedy of illness and death in a place where people still rely on one another as much as medicine; a flash flood that causes such havoc that even less-than-pious village men attend Mass daily. And she introduces a cast of characters not unlike those in a novel: Padre Domingo and his airborne medical practice; the local bishop, who frowns on Finerty's slacks; Chela, a mestiza from whom she rents her modest two-room house (complete with scorpions); and the young Cora Indian woman Chuy, from whom she gains insight into her new neighbors.

Blending memoir and travel writing, In a Village Far from Home takes readers deep into the Sierra Madre to reveal its true treasure: the soul of a people.

 

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Contents

What Is That Woman Doing Here?
1
Well and Truly Roped In
14
Learning Magic Takes a Little Time
24
A New Way to Lose Your Shirt
33
On the Brink of Disaster
41
In the Dark of Night
48
Mexico Upside Down
55
Its Easy to Get to Tepic
67
Whom Does Not the Scorpion Sting?
112
00 P M They Kill Him
120
Almost as Glorious as a Wedding
137
The Tale of the Noble Mule
149
The Hospital Harbors an Indian Village
157
Requiem for Piedad
169
Two Brides Both in White
178
And We Thought She Rode So Well
189

A Bride Wears Blue
79
Candles Light the First Posada
88
Its Safer on the Roof
94
When the River Rises
104
Blessed All the Way
198
Conclusion
204
Copyright

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About the author (2000)

Catherine Palmer Finerty was born and raised in southern California and spent her professional life in Manhattan working in advertising and magazine editing. After spending eight years in Jesœs Mar’a, she continued her medical work in a smaller, more isolated Huichol community. She now lives in Pomona, California.

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