In Venezuela, Doctors Are Out, and Witches Are In

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Why you should care

You never know when a spirit might be your last, and best, remaining bet.

El callejón de los brujos, or the Alley of the Sorcerers, is a street in Petare, the largest favela in Latin America. To some, it’s the most cherished secret, hidden between the mountains in Caracas, Venezuela.

In el callejón de los brujos, you can select from among six different spiritual centers, each with its own “resident spirits” to treat your health conditions. Most of the centers have been practicing alternative medicine for over 50 years, which has resulted in a wide and loyal fan base of patients who choose the centers every time Western medicine fails them or exceeds their budget.

One of the resident spirits is Hermano Guayanés, or Brother Guayanés. He has been working for more than 20 years offering spiritual treatments to his clients. The “bank” — or the physical body of the spirit — is Carlos Márquez, his alter ego, or what he calls his “soul mate.” Márquez has been the physical receiver of Hermano Guayanés since he was 13 years old.

Both Márquez and Hermano Guayanés are convinced that these spiritual treatments are a legitimate way of coping with the current breakdown of the health system in Venezuela. With increasing treatment costs, more than an 85 percent shortage of medication and 1,000-plus patients treated monthly in el callejón de los brujos, it’s a trend that doesn’t show any sign of slowing.

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