What are curanderos in Hispanic cultures?

saludifyBy Hope Gillette, Saludify

Despite the push to visit Western doctors, receive preventative care and become knowledgeable about common ailments in the community, many Hispanics living in the United States still prefer the advice and remedies obtained from curanderos, traditional folk healers carrying on generations of ancient healing practices.

But just what are curanderos, and how are they serving the Hispanic community by treating folk and other illnesses?

Curanderismo

Curanderos practice what is called curanderismo, or a holistic form of healing, which combines prayer, herbal remedies, rituals, psychic healing, spiritualism, and massage.

According to the American Cancer Society, curanderismo is said to be the result of the Spanish colonization, when different Catholic rituals were combined with native folk medicine. In the United States, curanderismo is most commonly found in the Southwestern region.

The word ‘curanderismo’ comes from the Spanish word curar, which means to heal, and this form of medicine is popular in different Hispanic cultures because it deals with issues Western medicine does not acknowledge, such as a link between illness and evil spirits.

This mystical aspect of curanderismo keeps it prevalent among Hispanics; however, some individuals visit curanderos because they simply do not trust Western doctors or prefer not to take prescription medicines.

What does a curandero do?

Curanderos, or practitioners of curanderismo, believe good health is maintained by a delicate balance of hot and cold within the body. Because of this belief, much emphasis is placed on what a person eats, what their physical activities are, and what medications they are taking.

Depending on whether or not an illness is ‘hot’ or ‘cold,” a curandero will make adjustments to daily habits to help re-establish that temperature balance within the body.

“A curandero (or curandera for a female) is a traditional folk healer or shaman in Hispanic America, who is dedicated to curing physical or spiritual illnesses, explained Elena Avila, MSN, RN, Curandera.

“The role of a curandero or curandera can also incorporate the roles of psychiatrist along with that  of doctor and healer. Many curanderos use Catholic elements, such as holy water and saint pictures. The use of Catholic prayers and other borrowings and lendings are often found alongside native religious elements.”

Curanderos are sought after for everything from physical and psychological issues to marital discord treatment, as many Hispanics believe these issues are a result of a ‘loss of spirit,’ bad luck, or curse.

Sometimes a curandero is asked to help ward off the effects of a brujo, which the Texas State Historical Association indicates is a witch (male or female) who uses supernatural powers for evil, often selling services to those who wish to inflict pain and suffering on others.

Depending on the ailment, aid from a specialized curandero may be sought, and these individuals are referred to as:

Yerberos: Individuals who specialize in the use of medicinal plants and herbs; considered the equivalent of a pharmacist in Western medicine.

Parteras: Midwives who are the primary source of guidance for pregnant women and who oversee births.

Sobadores: Individuals trained to promote healing through massage techniques. Sobadores are also known to use bone manipulation much in the way a Western chiropractor would.

Why do curanderos remain so popular?

Curanderos will likely always have a place in Hispanic culture.

For many people the power of belief can make a difference in treatment outcomes, and curanderos have the ability to not only reach Hispanics on a spiritual level, but to not be hindered by language or payment barriers.

Many curanderos will not require payment though they do accept donations. Most importantly, they know how to communicate with their clients – which is beyond language but also involves common beliefs, background and traditions.

This article was first published in Saludify.

Hope Gillette is an award winning author and novelist. She has been active in the veterinary industry for over 10 years, and her experience extends from exotic animal care to equine sports massage.

[Photo by Thomas Hawk]

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

The worst Latino racial slur is still a mystery for some

Victor Landa February 13, 2019

Many people of Mexican descent can vividly describe the moment they heard the Latino racial slur “beaner.” As a child or a young adult, it stung. To them, it said: […]

Denver Public Schools threatened to report striking teachers to immigration

Victor Landa January 25, 2019

DENVER — Denver Public Schools apologized Thursday for telling teachers working on immigration visas that they would be reported to immigration officials if they went on strike. The letter to […]

Sandra Cisneros to receive PEN/Nabokov Award for international literature

Victor Landa February 5, 2019

Sandra Cisneros, the Mexican American novelist whose books “The House on Mango Street” and “Woman Hollering Creek” are widely considered contemporary classics of American literature, has won the PEN/Nabokov Award for […]

Latino voting bloc could be the second most important in 2020

Victor Landa

The Hispanic population’s exponential growth in the U.S. that has long been expected, is now fully upon the country. Totaling an approximate 58 million people, the Latino community has become one of the […]

In Julián Castro’s presidential bid, Latinos see one of their own, defying stereotypes

Victor Landa January 28, 2019

SAN ANTONIO — Musician Juan Tejeda sees something very familiar in Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro. “He is very indigenous and Chicano,” said Tejeda, a conjuntoaccordionist who has roots in the […]

Latino voters will make up largest minority group by 2020 election, study says

Victor Landa February 4, 2019

By the 2020 presidential election Latino voters will make up the largest share of non-white eligible voters, according to a Pew Research Center study published Wednesday (Jan. 30). The study takes an […]

Recipe: Poblano Potatoes, Papas con Rajas

Victor Landa January 30, 2019

Papas Con Rajas, Poblano Potatoes, are creamy because of the waxy potatoes and lush because, well, roasted chiles Poblanos are always lush.  This recipe, brings together the traditions of Peru […]

Kushner floats deal of permanent protections for 1.8 million dreamers, LULAC chief says

Victor Landa January 25, 2019

WASHINGTON – Top White House adviser Jared Kushner told members of Latino advocacy organizations on Thursday that President Donald Trump was willing to give 1.8 million Dreamers permanent protections from deportation […]