Curanderismo

Curanderismo: Mexican American Folk Healing

Robert T. Trotter
Juan Antonio Chavira
with a foreword by Luís D. León
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: 2
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46ngpc
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  • Book Info
    Curanderismo
    Book Description:

    The practice of curanderismo, or Mexican American folk medicine, is part of a historically and culturally important health care system deeply rooted in native Mexican healing techniques. This is the first book to describe the practice from an insider's point of view, based on the authors' three-year apprenticeships with curanderos (healers). Robert T. Trotter and Juan Antonio Chavira present an intimate view of not only how curanderismo is practiced but also how it is learned and passed on as a healing tradition. By providing a better understanding of why curanderos continue to be in demand despite the lifesaving capabilities of modern medicine, this text will serve as an indispensable resource to health professionals who work within Mexican American communities, to students of transcultural medicine, and to urban ethnologists and medical anthropologists.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4071-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    Luís D. León

    The reissue of Robert Trotter and Juan Antonio Chavira’s Curanderismo: Mexican American Folk Healing represents a critical turning point in the study of Chicano culture, just as it did when it was first published.¹ Originally, Trotter and Chavira’s Curanderismo broke radically with the derogatory assumptions about Mexican American religious healing practices circulating mainly in medical anthropology literature. In its second printing, the text signifies a fresh academic momentum to understanding the complex religious traditions of Mexican Americans. Academic interest in Chicano religious healing practices in particular has waxed and waned since the late 1960s.

    The Immigration Act of 1965 was...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  5. One CURANDERISMO: PAST AND PRESENT VIEWPOINTS
    (pp. 1-24)

    Curanderismo, the Mexican American folk-healing system, is an important source of health resources for Mexican Americans living in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and other places. The term curanderismo and the term curandero come from the Spanish verb curar, which means “to heal.” Loosely, the word curandero could be applied to anyone who claims to have some skill in the healing arts, from a brain surgeon to a grandmother giving medicinal teas. However, for Mexican Americans the title curandero represents a healer who is part of a historically and culturally important system of health care. Therefore, in this...

  6. Two THE HISTORY OF CURANDERISMO
    (pp. 25-40)

    At least six major historical influences have shaped the beliefs and practices of curanderismo by Mexican Americans in the Lower Rio Grande Valley: Judeo-Christian religious beliefs, symbols, and rituals; early Arabic medicine and health practices (combined with Greek humoral medicine, revived during the Spanish Renaissance); medieval and later European witchcraft; Native American herbal lore and health practices; modern beliefs about spiritualism and psychic phenomena; and scientific medicine. None of these influences dominates curanderismo, but each has had some impact on its historical development.

    Judeo-Christian beliefs and practices provide the basic framework for curanderismo, just as for most Western cultural systems....

  7. Three THE CULTURAL CONTEXT OF ILLNESS
    (pp. 41-60)

    A man in south texas and a man in Saudi Arabia will both have the same general biological needs when they contract tuberculosis. But their physical needs must be met in ways that take into account the existing differences in their social systems (differences in customs, beliefs, family structure, religion, and economic class) and their expectations of health care and health personnel. The best way practitioners can successfully treat the whole person is to understand the social framework that surrounds his biological illness.

    Differences in the social framework of illness come about through the ways different cultural groups are taught...

  8. Four CURANDEROS’ THEORIES OF HEALING
    (pp. 61-72)

    Curanderos in south texas explain their abilities to heal and describe their healing techniques by referring to three levels of treatment. The levels are the material (nivel material), the spiritual (nivel espiritual) and the mental (nivel mental). They are not mutually exclusive, in that a curandero can have the gift (don) for working on one, two, or all three levels. The levels are also similar in treating problems of a physical nature and of social and psychological disorders. However, each level necessitates a different gift (don), the training techniques are somewhat different, and each level is thought to tap a...

  9. Five THE MATERIAL LEVEL
    (pp. 73-101)

    Curanderismo’s three levels of treatment, the material, the spiritual, and the mental, are not mutually exclusive in the treatment of illness or other problems, and most curanderos employ combinations which they believe necessary to benefit their patients. The material level is the easiest of the three to describe; it is the most extensively practiced and the most widely reported. At this level, the curandero manipulates physical objects and performs rituals which create an atmosphere conducive to treatment. Ritual behavior alters the client’s awareness of his or her problems, and the treatment procedure relieves pain, anxiety, depression, insecurity, or whatever ails...

  10. Six THE SPIRITUAL LEVEL
    (pp. 102-148)

    Curanderos who have the gift (el don) for working on the spiritual level (nivel espiritual) of curanderismo are less numerous than those who work on the material level. The gift is somewhat less common in the population, and the practitioner must go through a developmental period (desarrollo) that can be traumatic, or at least unsettling. Nevertheless, there is a growing movement of spiritualism in south Texas. This movement, and the practice of the curandero on this level, revolve around a belief in spirit beings who inhabit another plane of existence, but who are interested in making periodic contacts with the...

  11. Seven THE MENTAL LEVEL
    (pp. 149-161)

    The mental level (nivel mental] was the least commonly encountered of the three levels. The relative scarcity of this don, combined with the necessity for undergoing extensive training and rigorous discipline in order to practice on the mental level, greatly limits the number of healers who use those healing techniques.

    The best way of detailing the activities of a curandero working on the mental level is to describe an encounter as a patient might see it and then provide the curandero’s perspective of the energies and processes they use. For the most part, the patient who is going to the...

  12. Eight THE FUTURE OF CURANDERISMO
    (pp. 162-176)

    Most of this book has dealt with the current status of the Mexican American folk-healing system in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. We have deliberately avoided bringing interpretive models other than the curanderos’ own to bear on this ethnographic data. To have done so would have been to step outside the emic perspective of the healers, although such an approach is important for a social-science understanding of curanderismo. It is quite clear from our evidence that some inaccurate notions have been perpetuated in the scholarly literature. The biggest of these myths, for south Texas, is that curanderismo is...

  13. APPENDIX
    (pp. 177-178)
  14. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 179-184)
  15. REFERENCES
    (pp. 185-200)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 201-204)