El Mal de Ojo

My fever raged. Every joint in my body ached. Chills racked my 13-year-old body. The family diagnosis: Mal de ojo.

I was sick as a dog, all because I had shown my aunt’s neighbor my latest dance moves and she had admired me … but not touched me.

My Tía Santos went into E.R. mode and dragged her neighbor Margaret back to the house. Margaret from Europe. Margaret from Germany. Margaret who gingerly touched my hot forehead as I lay on the bed in my aunt’s Brownsville home, performing the necessary cure for the evil eye.

Margaret from Germany took two giant, blonde, Teutonic strides across the alley and was home again, I am sure to ponder her role in this bizarre, tribal, Mexican magia. I recovered completely and lived to again perform the Funky Chicken, the Penguin, and the Shotgun.


The evil eye is no match for an egg, a glass of water, and a mother’s love.

El mal de ojo de vence con un huevo, un vaso de agua, y el amor maternal.

My scientific and precise description of evil eye is:

“Ay, somebody likes your eyes or what you are wearing or something like that pero if they don’t touch you to take away the electricidad from their ojos then entonces you get all sick y toda la cosa y híjole it’s worse for the children, n’ombre, forget it pero then there’s the egg…”

Yes, and then there is the egg.  The all-purpose huevo good for mal de ojo.

When I was a child, salvation came in the form of Mami looming over me with a huevo in one hand, stroking it all over my body. Then she broke the egg into a glass of water, and if it turned white then, “See, mira se coció. He did have mal de ojo.”

The next day, we expressed a newfound respect for the electricity in Margaret from Germany’s friendly, yet now somehow piercing, blue ojos.

If all else failed and you remained under the spell of the evil eye, there was one more recourse: your own mother grabbing you by the ears and licking your forehead three times in the form of the sign of the cross. It is not recommended that you try this tried-and-true, scientifically proven (under barrio laboratory conditions) procedure on a public conveyance such as a crowded, moving city bus or business class of an airline.

“Ay Dios mío, why don’t you enter the 21st century?” I scold myself.

“But in this 21st century,” I rebut, “there is deep-tissue massage tantric yo no sé qué Hawaiian lomi lomi zen yoga psychic regression hot stone massage foochicaca techniques charged to millions of gold credit cards around the world.”

So our Mamis, Tías, y Abuelitas used an egg like a race car, performing figure-eights, ovals, and hairpin turns all over our sick, shivering bodies. So we slept with a runny, half-cooked huevo swimming in a glass under our camas. So we shrank from the cold, clammy feel of our mothers doing a vaguely comforting yet disturbingly Oedipal tongue Macarena on our foreheads. We cured one another’s psychic ills with an egg, a glass of water, and loving, positive thoughts.

So go ahead, Margaret from Germany, watch me dance. I am going to break out my best movidas. I don’t fear mal de ojo because as my friend Sergio (half-jokingly) quips, “I have an emergency egg standing by.”

Sin más,



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