Björkquist Presents Urrea, Morenci Stories
BISBEE, AZ – Arizona Humanities Scholar and Chautauquan Elena Diaz Björkquist,
artist, teacher, historian, and author of Suffer Smoke, Water from the Moon,
and Albódiga Soup, will appear twice this month at the Copper Queen Library –
first on March 7 to present a "first-person living history” of spiritual healer,
political figure, and Sinaloa native Teresa Urrea (1873-1906), and again on
March 21 to lecture on "Growing up Chicana in Morenci, Arizona."
Her appearances support the library’s Centennial Celebration of its own history
and the history of Arizona, as well as Women’s History Month. Both presentations,
sponsored by the Arizona Humanities Council and the Friends of the Copper Queen
Library, will begin at 6:30 pm in the Library Meeting Room.
On March 7, Björkquist will interpret the astonishing life of curandera Teresa
Urrea, “La Santa de Cabora” – the illegitimate daughter of fourteen-year-old
Tehueco Indian Cayetana Chavez and her employer, wealthy landowner Tomás
Although illegitimate, Teresa was accepted into her father’s home and moved
with him to Cabora, Sonora when the family fled their lands to escape President
Porfirio Díaz. During her first few months at Cabora, Teresa lapsed into a
cataleptic state that lasted over three months. When she awoke, she reported
that the Virgin had visited her and told her she must use her special powers to
cure and comfort people.
In repeated trance-like meditations, Teresa summoned power to heal by laying
her hands on the sick and crippled. Word of her miraculous cures spread rapidly,
and thousands of pilgrims journeyed to Cabora.
She drew the masses not only because she healed but also because she gave the
poor Indians a message of justice. Several guerrilla armies claimed Urrea as a
living saint and used her as an inspiration for revolting against the government.
Although Teresa herself denied any role in inciting rebellion, President Díaz
ordered her into exile, and in 1892, the U.S. granted the Urreas asylum.
They settled briefly in Nogales, then moved to El Paso in 1896. Crowds followed
her in both places. Within a month in El Paso, three assassination attempts were
made on her life, so the family relocated to Clifton, Arizona to get away from the
volatile border area.
Following a short-lived marriage in 1900, she toured the United States and Europe
as a faith healer with a medical company for a few years, fnally returning to
Clifton in 1904, where she died in 1906.
After sharing Urrea’s exciting story on March 7, Björkquist will return on
March 21 to share her own story in "Growing up Chicana in Morenci, Arizona" –
a plática (informal talk) which will include experiences from her early years in
Using photographs of the town before its destruction in the late 1960s, along with
readings from Suffer Smoke and Water from the Moon and oral histories she
collected for an AHC project, Björkquist will portray scenes from her own life as
well as the lives of the girls and women of Morenci in their own voices.
An historically accurate picture of life for Mexican American women in a
segregated copper mining town from the 1920s to the late sixties, Björkquist will
pay tribute to four generations of Chicanas who, in spite of discrimination,
persevered and showed that “si se puede (it can be done).”
Both programs are free and open to the public. For further information, contact
the library at 432-4232.