Every year on the first Friday in March Catemaco Mexico hosts the Congreso Internacional de Brujos (The International Congress of Witches). Traditional healers, shamans, prophets fortune-tellers and every other possible type of magical practitioner from all over Mexico gather in the charming lakeside city for an all-night cleansing ceremony.
On the day of the cleansing the brujos’ powers are at their strongest. Visitors from all over the world pour into the city to hire their services. Throughout Catemaco signs point the way to the famous witches of the community. Candles, potions, charms and all sorts of magical supplies fill the shops.
As the colorful and entertaining mixture of magic, ancient indigenous beliefs and dance performances draws larger and larger crowds, charlatans increasingly have descended on the festival. In recent years, serious practitioners have clashed with some of the more flashy brujos who travel to the town to scoop up tourist dollars.
For 200 pesos or so visitors can cure what ails them, cast out a demon, ensure a lover’s faithfulness or curse an enemy. But buyer beware. Not everyone brujo can do what he claims. And often amulets are extra.