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Video produced by Felix Alvarez
It’s hard not to notice Romelio Reyes when you enter National Supermarket #2’s parking lot. Day in and day out, Reyes sits on a plastic chair in his signature black cowboy hat advertising his services.
“I cure after one single time: shingles, arthritis, foot calluses,” it reads.
Reyes is not a licensed doctor, but he’s not selling traditional medicine either. The 85-year-old street vendor is simply “El Tamalero de Hialeah” and his only medicine is curative Cuban tamales, which he’s been selling for 21 years.
Many street vendors use their healing talents to drive sales. As a young boy, Reyes said he had a religious experience while visiting the mountains of Matanzas in Cuba, and since then, he’s been able to heal with his own hands. He left Cuba in 1995 and was selling tamales in Hialeah three days later in the same place he sells them today. Reyes admits that he doesn’t make the tamales from scratch — he buys them frozen and then seasons them himself — but all he has to do to imbue them with his healing powers is touch them.
“I hurt my arm one day in Cuba and I [told] my wife, ‘I’m going to cure my arm,” says Reyes. “And she said, ‘You’re crazy,’ but I put my hand on my arm and I fixed it.”
Reyes sells about 30 tamales a day at one dollar. His ferocious chihuahua Ben barks at anyone who approaches. Behind him, his son chats with Reyes’ close friends. The parking lot spot is a home away from home for Reyes.
“Once people are cured, they don’t come back,” says Reyes. “But, that doesn’t matter. I forgive everyone.”