“This is the fiber that is bad,” Chomán tells María Ugalde while he rubs her left thigh like a breadmaker making dough. “We are going to treat it as much as you can tolerate. You tell me where,” he instructs the masseur.
We are in Puerto Jesus, Nicoya in a corridor with benches surrounding a blue massage bed where Maria is laying. She came from Sonzapote, Nandayure and 10 days ago had an accident while she was traveling on a motorcycle with her husband Alonso Jiménez.
With crutches on one side of his seat, Alonso observes with attention each movement that Chomán makes. His full name is Rigoberto Bolívar Siles – in the body of his wife. Maria arrived limping and could barely get up on the bed where she is now being attended to.
Short, with small but solid hands and arms, Chomán performs one of his famous deep massages in order to alleviate hits from falls or sprains.
The method is repeated for 15 minutes and Maria finally, less sore, gets off the bed and walks gradually around the house with an expression of surprise and relief.
The final recommendation Choman makes for is new satisfied client is to roast leaves in hot water and tie them with compression at night for three days.
There’s the Rub.
At age 61, Choman is one of the masseurs and healers that is most famous in the Nicoya Peninsula. If you ask any Nicoyan that has lived here for any number of years it’s almost certain that they will recommend the hands of this healer.
This is confirmed by three of his clients who came from Nandayure to be cured, and who recommend the famous massages of Chomán.
And one of the few that still maintains the tradition of healing with home remedies.
On weekends are when he has the most work. “I attend up to 10 people on a Sunday,” he says.
His popularity derives from his effectiveness in healing each patient. That’s what three clients confirm to me who are sitting in the hallway.
At the entrance to his house there are fishing nets, a boat motor, plastic buckets, buoys, and plumb lines and weights, thinks that, for now, are not in use because they are for the fishing season, a job that Bolivar did for more than 30 years and that, today, one of his sons does.
On a side of the hallway, Choman receives everyone who comes tense in the nape or with indigestion. He says that his hands have passed over horseback riders, athletes, business owners, children and women across the country.
In order to cure those with indigestion, this messeur rubs hands, forearm and legs. He uses mineral oils and when he finishes he recommends drinking magnesium milk or olive oil.
Fever, opaque vision, low pulse, vomiting and swollen stomachs are some of the main symptoms of those who come to ask for a massage.
The most difficult thing to hit is the dry snag,” the experienced masseur assures me. It’s when something isn’t digested properly and it accumulates in the intestines.
Despite his fame, Choman takes some precautions in his profession. For example, he doesn’t massage babies, pregnant women nor the stomachs of his patients in order to avoid complications in the organs. He also doesn’t attend people with broken bones or problems in the legs or meniscus.
The most difficult indigestion? He says that an important Nicoya business owner was sick for a month and he arrived home in order to see if he had indigestion.
“Just seeing her arrive, I realized that she was bad, she was pale and had a fever. She had bad indigestion,” Choman recalls, that on that occasion he spent more than 20 minutes curing her because it was “old indigestion.” In other words, several days old.
A home remedy that he recommends to those who have indigestion is boiling a branch of Hombre Grande plant, making an infusion and drinking it all at once.
From Alcohol To the Fibers
Choman’s life hasn’t been easy. He was born in Golfito in the southern zone of the country and for necessity he started to work long days in the field. At age 12 he was already working in the banana fields of Limon.
The scars of this work didn’t only stain his skin, but they also hit his reproductive system. In 2001 he went steril as a consequence of the use of agrochemicals known as nemagon, that companies on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica used until 1960.
But the illness that most hurt him was alcoholism. Some 23 years ago, when he moved from Limon to Puerto Jesus he remembers that he knelt down and prayed to God to get him out of the abyss of alcohol and allow him to help people.
That’s why I give massages and help people. God has given me this gift of curing and alleviating,” he says firmly with his eyes watering.
Ever since he arrived in Puerto Jesus he started to dedicate himself to fishing and messages, although he affirms that alleviating muscular pain isn’t a job but a calling that he learned from his grandpa, who also was a masseur and learned his method by watching and touching.
Choman is the nickname he was given by Heriberto Sibaja, owner of a seafood restaurant in Puerto Jesus, Nicoya. It’s a greeting that in Mekatelyu or creole tongue from Limon means “Hey man!”
That’s how he became known by this name that he himself wrote on a tire of a car that was half buried at the entrance to his house and that is already the most popular brand.
Choman charges ¢5,000 for each massage or taking out indigestion. He attends by appointment or at home. Today his wife and three kids live off social security payments that he was able to start receiving a few months ago because he was run over by a car.
That’s why today he has trouble walking, but at least he can walk. He said that he has cured himself with massages and he has a metallic implant in his right leg. When the inflammation is high, he turns to grass leaves, his prefered anti-inflammatory.