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Curanderismo

Curanderas (curanderos for males) are folk healers who draw upon specialized knowledge and remedies to heal physical and spiritual ailments.

Curanderas (curanderos for males) are folk healers who draw upon specialized knowledge and remedies to heal physical and spiritual ailments. Practitioners are part of a centuries-old Hispanic tradition that relies on holistic treatments involving native herbs, prayer, amulets, petitions, saints, or invocations of the supernatural.  The root word, curar, means “to heal” in Spanish.

Most practitioners become known for their abilities with particular needs: a partera is akin to a midwife, a sabadero acts as a massage therapist, and a yerbero is an expert on medicinal herbs. An apprenticeship is usually required to learn specific techniques as well as to develop el don, the God-given gift of healing.

At times, curanderismo conflicts with modern medicine. Due to the highly respected status of curanderos within their respective communities, this is rarely problematic. Outsiders, have been known, though, to claim the healer’s art is witchcraft. However, faith and Catholicism play an important role in the curandero’s work, and to believers, all healing occurs through God. Although certain rituals would seem to conjure the supernatural, practitioners believe they can only bring about God’s will.

[Text courtesy of Elisa Parhad, from New Mexico, A Guide for the Eyes; Eyemuse Books, Los Angeles, CA.]