Photo Credit:  Ricardo B. Brazziell, American-Statesman

 

Lee and Luisa Cantu pose at their store the Cantu's Hierberia and Mexican Imports, on south First Street.

It takes more than herbs to make a marriage

Published in the Austin American Statesman

 

By Helen Anders

 

Austinites who drop by Cantu's Mexican Imports on South First Street to pick up a religious candle, dried herbs or oils have probably met owners Lee — a curandero who practices spiritual healing and consultation — and his wife, Luisa.

 

What they don't know is that when the two first met in the 1970s, "I hated him," Luisa says, and then laughs. "He always had his car clean. He was always going to church. He was always well-dressed. He squeaked when he walked."

 

The two met when they were both teaching at Bee County College in Alice. He taught welding, math and business; she imparted office skills. Lee would always pass Luisa's class when he turned in paper work, and he definitely noticed her.

It takes more than herbs to make a marriage photo

Ricardo B. Brazziell, American-Statesman

Lee and Luisa Cantu pose at their store the Cantu's Hierberia and Mexican Imports, on south First Street.

 

"She had this green pair of pants that wouldn't quit," he says.

 

They talked, but they didn't really connect — until the day Luisa had the flu and Lee took her some vitamin C. The next day, she was fine. Soon after that, they audited a psychology class together and started passing notes like teenagers. They were hooked.

 

Over the months, as their relationship grew, Luisa says, "I tested him a lot. I wanted to be sure his powers were good and not evil." Lee calls spiritual healing a gift from God, passed down through generations. His mother was Aztec.

 

Luisa eventually decided all was well, and the two saw each other steadily. Finally, she says, "my mother proposed to him," telling the two they needed to tie the knot. In 1981, they did.

 

Once they were married, the dean of Bee County College said they couldn't both keep working there. So, Lee left for Austin and went into the import business. Luisa followed three months later. They've been working together ever since.

 

So, since they're in the healing business: What's the best medicine for marriage?

 

"Honey," Luisa says with a wink, and Lee elaborates.

 

"Get married for all the right reasons," he says. "Marriage is forever. To thine own self be true. Trust each other. Treat each other as girlfriend and boyfriend — sweethearts, not married people. If you do that, you try harder."