You know isht is real when folks start pulling some magic out of their hats:
In the dimly lighted back room of a modest house in this tourist city now largely devoid of tourists, Luis Tomás Marthen Torres, a warlock with 50 years of experience, closes his eyes and chants as he briskly rubs a stark white egg over the arms, chest and neck of a worried customer. The ritual is old and common here in Mexico’s dominant hub for masters of the occult — where wizardry is passed from generation to generation — but like so many things in Mexico, the requests for help have changed.
“People ask us for assistance because they’re scared of threats, of extortion. They’re full of negative energy,” says Mr. Marthen Torres. Visitors to this middle-class town of around 67,000 people, which attributes its mysticism to the region’s ancient Olmec roots, had for decades sought wizards to cast love spells and cure physical ailments. But in the midst of the violence that has beset the state of Veracruz, new and creative forms of witchery for protection against extortion and for help finding kidnapped kin have become the leading demands from clients, local practitioners say. Fear in Veracruz has intensified because the state is one of the newest battlefields for Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels.
Jorge Chabat, an expert on security and drug trafficking at CIDE, a Mexico City research institution, said a cartel known as the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel were squaring off in this coastal state, with the latter taking advantage of recent blows the federal government has dealt the former.
“Crime isn’t resolved with magic,” President Felipe Calderón said during a speech in 2009 (though he almost certainly meant it in a figurative, not literal, way).
Similarly, Ernesto Cordero, an aspiring candidate for the 2012 presidential election and a member of Mr. Calderón’s political party, recently pointed out that there were no magical remedies for “getting out of the problem we got ourselves in.” Catemaco’s wizards and sorceresses beg to differ.