The Legend of the Damiana
Manuel Clemente Rojo Zavala, a Peruvian who for various reasons gained the political leadership of Baja California Sur in the nineteenth century. He had this to say in a remarkable series of writings on the Mexican Californias, in relation to Don Simon Avilez.
“The person with this name is a relic preserved from the time of the conquest. So much is said of his strength, courage and long life that it degenerates into the fantastic. Actually, there is no need to exaggerate in the least because Mr. Avilez is an extraordinary man who is truly admired by all who come to know him.
He currently (February 10, 1859) lives at his ranch El Refugio, six leagues south of the town of Todos Santos. According to his appearance, he seems to be 65 to 70 years of age, at best, but of course he is older because he has children from his first marriage who are over 20 years old and act older than he.
Mr. Avilez says he does not understand age, or dates, because he never learned to read or write. The only account of the time that matters are the days of the week, and that, just so he does not miss attending mass every Sunday.
Some people want to attribute his long life to the use of the damiana that he takes daily as tea in the morning, sweetened with brown sugar. Others assume that the damiana has aphrodisiac qualities because Don Simon has been widowed twice and is now married to a young woman and having children as if he were not old. He says that there is really no secret because, apart from his damiana tea, all his meals and customs are as common as everyone elses in the country.
That is why, for some years now, this plant has been in demand all over the republic and even abroad. Today, in fact, damiana is exported in huge quantities every year.
Be that as it may, the fact is that Don Simon Avilez has a one-year-old children. His last wife and all his children look very much alike in the face, their bodies and even their gait. Manuel Avilez attends school daily in Todos Santos. He is six years old and the spitting image of Don Simon Avilez.”
There is more news about Don Simon in the notes of Mr. Rojo, but those above are devoted exclusively to the exceptional virtues our damiana.
Adaptation of Moses Eligio Coronado Historical Notes of Manuel Clemente Rojo Baja California, La Paz, 1996, p. 49.