In May of 1991 on a ranch outside the town of Tlacote in the Mexican state of Querétaro, a sick dog took a drink from a small puddle near a well. Ranch owner Jesús Chahín Limón did not expect the dog to live much longer, but within days of drinking the water the dog had as much vibrancy and energy as it had had in its youth. The rancher, not believing what he himself had witnessed decided to experiment with the well water. He had people with illnesses come to the ranch and drink the water and those people reported seemingly miraculous results. The word got out and within months there were lines to receive the water with people coming from all over the world looking for cures for everything from migraine headaches to diabetes, from high cholesterol to even cancer and AIDS. Señor Chahín had inherited the property from his parents and lived a comfortable life on the ranch. Because of this he felt no need to charge people for the water, although he did seek to limit the amount individuals could take away, more from time and traffic concerns than anything. With help from the town, Chahín developed systems to handle the thousands of people who would come to his property per day to seek out a miracle. A triage system developed, with those with serious conditions shuffled into a shorter and faster line. It was reported that money came from the national and state governments to pay for the huge steel water containers to house the well water after a local priest sent some of the Tlacote water to an army hospital and cured 600 people. As with many shrines in Mexico, small enterprises in the town popped up to serve the multitudes of people. Townsfolk sold food, plastic jugs, mementoes and so on. Porters earned the equivalent of a few cents for hauling water for people too infirmed to wait in line or too debilitated to carry the water back to their cars themselves. Chahín never made one centavo on this whole phenomenon.
While the well attracted many people who ascribed religious or spiritual properties to the water, and many members of the clergy – from nuns and priests and even a Catholic bishop – praised the water for its divine aspects, Chahín never claimed that there was anything supernatural behind the cures and relief supposedly attributed to what was coming out of the well on his property. He was quoted as saying in a Washington Post article from January, 1992: “The water weighs less than H2O. It is a mystery for science why it weighs less.” After testing it, local health officials declared the water safe to drink and stated that it conformed to health and safety standards comparable to well water throughout the state of Querétaro. They could find no other special properties to the water in spite of the rancher’s claims that it is somehow lighter than average. The Autonomous University of Querétaro performed a series of scientific tests on the water and also found nothing unusual about it; no strange chemical properties, nothing special at all. No amount of scientific tests would seem to stop the deluge of people from inundating the small town of Tlacote, however.
A UK nurse named Gill Fry employed by the organization Share International visited Tlacote in July of 1992 during the height of the water pilgrimages and kept a diary of her experiences. The September issue of the Share International Journal published Nurse Fry’s account. Here is what she had to report in her own words:
“As a professional nurse, I was fascinated by reports of Tlacote water having healed so many ailments, including diabetes, epilepsy, arthritis, cancer and even AIDS. Having worked with patients for 10 years who have suffered the pain and anguish of such diseases, the idea of finding a cure, or partial cure, was indescribably exciting.
It was thus that I set out, in July this year, on a quest to Mexico to collect the miracle water from Tlacote. From what I had read, I was expecting some hardship, at the very least to wait in line for three or four days and nights, in near tropical temperatures, and took with me a comprehensive survival kit (mosquito net, sunscreens, bedding, etc) and arrived prepared for any eventuality! I had also read that each person’s water ration was generally three litres, and brought along several plastic containers. In the event, my expectations could not have been more wrong. A wonderfully kind colleague of Benjamin Creme in Mexico City took charge of me, drove me to Tlacote and, speaking the local language (which I do not), overcame each barrier and problem. Every door seemed wide open. My three-day stint turned into a mere three-hour wait; my water ration increased from three to 38 litres; and more wonderful still, I witnessed the most extraordinary photograph possibly in existence, which confirmed everything I had believed in for the last six years.
Since May 1991 three million people have been to Tlacote, and at least six million people have drunk the water. The ranch owner, Mr. Chahín, keeps the registration files of every visitor, some of whom have travelled from as far as Europe and Russia. Many Mexican government officials, politicians, and artists have been seen waiting in the queue, which varies in size from 5,000 to 10,000 daily. The ranch is very clean and the buildings brightly painted. Huge, lush trees provide the crowd with welcome shade from the scorching sun. I had imagined a dry, desert scene with chaotic, endless lines of exhausted people, but found everything very well organized, with the queue moving quickly and efficiently. After registering, Mrs. Chahin, the rancher’s wife and resident doctor, checks each visitor’s medical certificate and decides on an appropriate quota and dosage, prescribing the water orally, or externally as eyedrops, or enemas or direct application to the skin for skin cancer, eczema, etc. It must be an exhausting job answering a deluge of questions from thousands of people everyday, yet she performs her task with endless patience and kindness, offering her advice freely. None of the ranch hands receives any money for this service, and they work from 9.30 to 15.30 hours every day. Mr. Chahin has never charged for the water, but considering the time and effort involved, to my mind a voluntary donation scheme could provide extra support and may sometime be introduced.
After the doctor’s consultation, one stands in line to receive the water. Huge stainless-steel tanks, which the government assisted in providing, pump the water to the plastic taps from the deep artesian well that, we are told, will never run dry. Having thought about this moment for months, I felt great elation as I watched my containers being filled. All my hopes were coming to pass and I had been given more water than I had ever dreamt possible. Thanking the ranch workers and tightening the lids further, I briefly pondered on the practicalities of carrying 38 litres of water, and the daunting thought of customs! (Curiously, in the event, nobody at customs asked a single question about the weight or contents of my overloaded bags, overflowing with miracle water.) Such worries were quickly dispelled as I was handed a cup of the water. It tasted wonderful, slightly sweet, pure and light. By the end of the day I had been given three cupfuls and some days later realized my mistake! I was to suffer a gastric upset for a week. The water is totally clean and pure, but very potent. The dosage needed is very small indeed. A couple of teaspoonfuls would have been plenty for me.
I was shown around Mr. Chahin’s office which had two long walls stacked with visitors files, and shelves covered with water-testing apparatus. Just as I was leaving, I was shown a framed photograph with the most extraordinary history and phenomenal implications. A man who had drunk the water, and had been healed, took numerous photographs of the ranch. On returning home, he had one frame left on his film. Anxious to finish and develop the film, he took a photograph of his new television set. The television was not on; the screen was blank. To his astonishment, after the film was developed, the last shot showed the television screen with a face upon it: the face of Christ with a crown of thorns on His head. I felt myself shiver as I looked at the powerful image. With limited time, I quickly took several photographs, hoping I could capture the rather faint impression, with the complications of bright sunlight and a reflecting glass covering. Fortunately, the photographs I took seem even stronger than the original, and the face is clearly visible.
Travelling home with my exciting news, dragging my bags full of water, I felt triply blessed – my wait in line had been so short; I had been given gallons of water; and I had witnessed the most tangible evidence of God’s presence.”
In the early 1990s rumors circulated that Magic Johnson’s HIV went undetectable after multiple visits to the Tlacote miracle well. While Jesús Chahín never met Magic Johnson personally, he did tell the Washington Post, “I did see a couple of tall black men one day.” He did admit to seeing other celebrities who came seeking cures from his miraculous well. Among them were Spanish-language singers José José, Juan Gabriel and Julio Iglesias. High-ranking members of President Salinas’ government also visited Tlacote seeking cures. Celebrities were often given special access and special privileges.
Perhaps a bit weary from the crowds, Chahín closed his ranch to the public for two weeks during Easter of 1993. After he reopened his ranch, Chahín saw a marked decrease in the crowds. Within a few years the people seeking a cure from the miraculous water dwindled to a small trickle.
In January 2015, Mexican newspaper El Universal went to Tlacote to see the current state of the town and to investigate what happened to Jesús Chahín and his special well. What they found was shocking. Chahín had passed away in 2004, ironically, from an aggressive form of cancer. His widow sold the property and the new owners, the Cosío family, had no plans to open up their property to the public ever again. The town of Tlacote, according to the newspaper, seemed like a ghost town, with many abandoned buildings and other dilapidated structures. After the boom ended in the mid-1990s, the town’s economy ruined, many people left Tlacote to find work in the capital city of Querétaro or in other larger Mexican cities. And irony of ironies, during the El Universal investigation into the town in early 2015 they found that Tlacote had been without municipal water service for several months, the main water sources having all been exhausted, with only a scant few, deeper, private wells giving water. The town that was once known internationally for its water was effectively all dried up.
And what of the magic and miracles supposedly experienced at this place in the early 1990s? Thousands of people claimed cures of terminal illnesses. Many more claimed that the water helped them with minor conditions even though there was no scientific basis for any of these claims. Do we have on our hands genuine examples of the true power of belief and the mind’s important role in the healing process or did those making the pilgrimage to Tlacote experience true miracles?
Cody, Edward. “Faithful Seek Miracles in Light Water.” In The Washington Post, 27 Jan 1992, p. A10.
Flores, Francisco. “El ‘milagro’ de Tlacote, la doble paradoja,” In El Universal, 12 Jan 2015. (in Spanish)
Fry, Gill. “Journey to Tlacote.” In Share International, Sep 1992.