Today people do not seem to be infected so much with those ugly warts. But today also people do not seem to have as many ways to get rid of them as we had twenty five years ago. A wart is a small hard lump on the skin, and twenty five years ago we hated to be near a person with warts. We thought it felt gross and looked weird. We thought it was contagious and could rub off on us. We had heard that if the wart bled, the blood that touched another person would cause him to catch the warts. I recall a little boy in school who had about 50 warts and not a boy or girl in school would be happy to sit beside him. We had to get a lashing from the teacher to finally reluctantly accept to sit near that boy or girl and when we did, it was with plenty of space between us. Oh yes, warts were dreadful and everyone hated them.
Did you know that there was a mother wart and as long as you did not kill that one, you could not get rid of the smaller ones? You could kill the little ones and those dreadful things would soon pop up again. “Chingados ashes”, one would say for they were called “ash” in Spanish. Then the attack would concentrate in killing the mother wart that was about a quarter inch in diameter. The mother wart look rough, had little pores and sometimes looked as if it could crawl all over your skin.
Now there were scientific and superstitious ways to kill the warts. One scientific way was to tie it flush to the skin with a horse’s hair. The hair actually cut through the wart until it fell off. The problem in San Pedro was that there were no horses, so that was not easy to obtain. What worked just as good was a young ladies hair, a long hair, but she had to be a “senorita” (virgin), so most young ladies were eager to volunteer a few strands of their long hair either to be generous or to boast that they were virgins.
Another scientific way was to apply the strong essence of vinegar, just a small drop, to the wart and that would slowly eat it away until it disappeared. This really burned and was painful, so most children were afraid of using it. It also left a scar, so most people did not want to use it if the wart was on the face or tender part of the body.
A third way to get rid of ashes, I mean warts, was to rub a piece of pork meat on all the warts and then bury the meat at the corner of the yard. It was believed that when the meat rotted, so would the wart rot and fall off. Another not so popular way but still used occasionally was the “dead man’s cure”. One had to wait until someone died in San Pedro, go to his home, rub your hands on the dead man’s hands and then rub on the warts. This had to be done nine times, and pretty soon the warts would begin to show signs of disintegration and would fall off. Exactly what effect the rubbing on the dead man had, I do not know, but many kids got rid of their warts like that, except that at times we had to wait for two or three years for a person to die in the village.
Another superstitious way was to place nine stones in a white handkerchief and you went to the street corner and cast away one stone over your shoulder without looking back. There you made a wish for the wart to fall off. You repeated this at nine corners, but remembering not to look back. You had to reach home without looking back and without being interrupted by anyone, so you really had to find the right time of the day or night to practise this one.
I have not been able to figure out why children back then had many more warts than children today. In fact, I do not even know what causes warts. It seemed hereditary and in some families, the children were practically infested with warts. So next time you have some warts and the doctor’s medication does not work, try the virgin’s hair, if you can find one, or try any of the above. You might get a pleasant surprise.