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Free from El Susto, Julieta overlooks Tavehua, smiling big and ready to start her new life. Photo by Eric Pearse Chávez

Free from El Susto, Julieta overlooks Tavehua, smiling big and ready to start her new life. Photo by Eric Pearse Chávez

:: Another story from the five-part series is about Julieta Mendez, also born in Los Angeles with family from Santa Maria Tuevha. A close friend of the co-producer's, her story held a personal significance for Diaz-Cortes.

Diaz-Cortes: "Julieta is actually a friend of mine. She helped me initially develop Sonic Trace, and was like a personal consultant on the project. Her family is from Oaxaca, and she was my neighbor when I lived in New York. She came to Oaxaca with me on the first trip, and basically was a cultural buffer for me. The surprising thing was that she ended up becoming the story.

"Julieta Mendez felt called back to Santa Maria Tavehua. She had just emerged from a difficult time in her life, and strongly felt that she needed a blessing from Tavehua to start her new life. Zapotecs believe in something called El Susto, or 'fright sickness.' The belief is that when you suffer a trauma, it stays in your blood, weighing you down and perpetuating bad thoughts and feelings. One must go through traditional rituals to cleanse your blood, and liberate your body of these negative memories. While in Tuevha, Julieta was cleansed by her family, returning home ready to begin a new life, free from the burden of her past."

You can hear more about Julieta’s journey here.