Teresa Urrea, healer and political figure was born in Sinaloa, Mexico in 1873. She was the illegitimate daughter of Tomás Urrea, a wealthy rancher and a fourteen-year-old Tehueco Indian in his employ. When she was sixteen, Don Tomás called Teresa to service in his home. In 1880, to escape political reprisal from dictator Porfirio Díaz, Urrea moved his family to Cabora, Sonora.
During her first few months at Cabora, Teresa lapsed into a cataleptic state that lasted over three months. When she awoke, she reported that the Virgin had visited her and told her she must use her special powers to cure and comfort people. In repeated trance-like meditations, Teresa summoned power to heal by laying her hands on the sick and crippled. Word of her miraculous cures spread rapidly and thousands of pilgrims journeyed to Cabora. She drew the masses not only because she healed but also because she gave the poor Indians a message of justice. It inspired them to rebel against the government.
In 1891, an armed rebel group of Yaqui, Tarahumara, and Mayo peasants holed up in the village of Tomochic after defeating a Porfirian armed force with the cry of “Viva la Santa de Cabora.” The federales burned the town to the ground. Women and children who took refuge in the church, were burned to death. Other revolutionaries took up the battle cry and some became known as Teresistas. Teresa, herself, denied any role in inciting rebellion.
In 1892 after another guerrilla army claimed her as their inspiration, Díaz ordered Teresa and her father to be deported. They lived in Nogales, Arizona, then moved to El Paso, Texas in August of 1896. Crowds followed her in both places. Within a month in El Paso, three assassination attempts were made on her life. Don Tomás took her to Clifton, Arizona to get away from the volatile border area.
Don Tomás established a dairy and firewood business in Clifton, but soon received more income from Teresa’s healings. Anglos discovered her and after a miraculous healing of the son of one of Clifton’s wealthy citizens, she became the darling of some of Clifton-Morenci’s most prominent Anglo women. She continued to heal many Mexicans as well.