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Day of Action Alter

Curanderismo is a philosophy of holistic healing. There are several aspects of Curanderismo

physical, spiritual and mental.  They are not separate but in concert with each other they are whole they are all part of a human being.

Learning and/or experiencing Curanderismo

The most exciting thing about studying culture, tradition, language, history and the tradition of curanderismo are the multiple points of view from where they can be examined. Fifty people can read the same book, article, or listen to an oral presentation and come away with fifty different points of view.   Because everyone has a different lens, they have developed over the years. I would venture to say a multiple perspective yields multiple realities. This is what I have observed for many years as I age and develop into my identity.


Many historians utilize two words when explaining or defining perspective.

“Etic” is defined using an outsider’s categorization. An etic perspective is a culture as seen by those who come from outside of the culture. For example it is when an ethnologist (one who studies ethnic groups), they study the traditions and customs and then write a learned analysis. That analysis can be labeled an objective perspective.


An “emic” perspective is when a culture is seen by some who participate in it. An emic perspective does not analyze the culture, but lives it. When learning a subject, topic or an issue what you retain, value, the amount and quality of what you have learned stems from where your perspective is coming from. It is like when you make tortillas. The etic follows directions to the teaspoon by using the ingredients listed, having the grid in the perfect temperature, and utilizing a tortilla maker. Thus, they come out perfectly round. They come up with tortillas the way they are suppose to look. The emic on the other hand takes a handful of this and a pinch of that. They follow, practice and model how their grandmothers taught them with years of experience and repetition. They come up with tortillas. They might not be perfectly round tortillas but they are all tortillas. This approach is deeply felt. This is subjective. They are more involved with the tortillas taste and the effort they put into it.


Neither approach is better than the other. They are just different. In teaching the class and over the years of being involved with other curanderas and curanderos from an emic perspective I have been able to experience students and participants in both worlds. So at times I feel like I can sit on the fence and watch and participate in both perspectives.  I feel learning is being open minded to seeing, listening, feeling, touching, and tasting the experience of learning something new or old.

Teaching this cultural art has given me many experiences to add to the toolbox of education odyssey. Which brings me to this cuento.

In living with my Grandma Rosalie I saw and felt her practice of taking care of someone, when they were sick. It never started when they were sick, but when she began to plant her garden or take her walks at different times day or night and bring back plants with their roots. She tied them up and dried them. She would save them for the winter. Later she would go to her garden and bring in smelly plants with long stems and cook them.   Other times she would bring in the flowers of some of them and put them in a jar and they smelled sweet or felt calming on a sunburn or tasted bitter without honey when my stomach hurt from eating too much candy or cake dough.

Remembering the smell of her was always comforting when you had this hot feeling, a fever and your nose was running and your chest was tied. She would put you in a tub of warm water and dry you off. She would take your red handkerchief and filled it with raw sliced potatoes from her garden and wrap it on around your head.   Then she put potatoes in your socks and put them on your feet. She put this smelly ointment she made in her kitchen on your chest. She placed you in her made shift tent made of white sheets. She lite a candle next to your bed and she hummed a singsong as she sat by your side. You slept until the next morning. You felt better and you were not hot anymore, but you were very hungry and Grandma Rosalie made you this blue pudding, you ate the pudding and drank the warm tea that was green. Yet, quietly you remember in the middle of the night, you thought you saw her shadow waving a branch from a tree over your white tent and hearing praying and the candle light flickering, but you just weren’t sure. But you were healed. You were healed.

So as my class continues to grow and students take this class I continue to say to myself, “So, how do you teach that story and how can you gain a scientific foundation or point of view.  And from what perceptive will a student learn about the people that practice curanderismo?” I continue to challenge myself and do the next right thing in front of me. I teach it with good intentions and add what my students taught me along the way.