GRISELDA (GRACE) ALVAREZ SESMA
About Your Cultural Practitioner
Grace is Mexican/Yaqui, with ancestral Indigenous roots in Sonora and Baja California. Like many families in Mexico, her mother and tias (aunties) used cultural remedies to help keep their families healthy. She grew up experiencing the curing of empacho through the abdominal sobadas that her mother gave her, and watching her auntie cure neighborhood children of mal de ojo and caida de mollera. As a child she was particularly influenced by watching and listening to another tia, a curandera, share stories about helping neighbors and friends with various spiritual illnesses as well as to her uncle who was a well-known sobador and huesero, bonesetter. Being raised within cultural ways, she understood from an early age how demanding the path of Curanderismo can be and that one must be truly called to these healing ways by Spirit. Although the ancestors visited her in dreams during childhood, it wasn't until the mid-1990s after experiencing very clear warning dreams that failure to return to the traditional medicine ways of her family/ancestors would bring severe consequences (a story that she shares during some of her pláticas), that she formally undertook the study of Curanderismo and other healing traditions by undergoing rigorous training with healers in Baja California and the United States.
Married at 16 and divorced at 19, a single parent with two daughters, Grace left high school in order to support her family and later received her GED. She worked hard, often holding two jobs which eventually lead to her becoming the administrator of a psychiatric partial hospitalization program for several years. In 1991, she started a consultancy practice specializing in public relations and cultural competency. In acknowledgement of her commitment to serving her community, in 1993 she became one of 26 women nationwide to be selected Fellow of the National Hispana Leadership Institute, a collaborative project with the Center for Creative Leadership and Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government. One of the requirements of accepting the NHLI fellowship was the promise to return to one's community and launch a local program. Grace's leadership project was to return to Imperial Valley and establish a local chapter of the national organization, MANA. In October 1993, after months of intense outreach and organizing, she founded MANA of Imperial Valley, which promotes advocacy and leadership of Hispanics, Latinas, and Chicanas. In acknowledgement of her work, she has been the recipient of many community and leadership awards, including three commendations from the California State Senate. Now in her mid-sixties, Grace, in October 2019 was presented with MANA of Imperial Valley's Legacy Award. Most recently, she was the recipient of the Stone of Hope Award by the Imperial Valley Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee, for "making a difference in our communities and upholding the principles of Dr. King".
Answering the Call of the Grandmothers
Grace was called to the medicine ways in dreams from early childhood; and, beginning in her late teens through her 30s, was visited in the dreamtime by a group of Indigenous Grandmothers dressed in the traditional clothing of various Native nations (tribes). They gave her teachings and urged her to return to the ways of the Ancestors, of the Medicine, in preparation for the days to come when she, and other women, would help usher in and support the return of the energy of the Grandmothers; the spiritual power that would be helping restore balance between the feminine and the masculine in the world as well as bring forth the call from Mother Earth for a return to respecting land, water, and holy places. Congruent with these personal visions, Grace, in May 2006, attended the gathering of the 13 International Indigenous Grandmothers Council in Huautla de Jimenez in Oaxaca, Mexico.
During the early 2000s, one of her elders began to strongly encourage her to start sharing with her community what the Grandmothers in Spirit, and he, had taught her. In July 2006, she was invited by Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona to teach a course on the Native healing ways of the United States and Mexico. Following traditional protocols, Grace approached local Kwatsan elders for their permission to bring her medicine to their traditional territory. After receiving their blessings, she accepted AWC's invitation to become adjunct professor and began teaching the course, "Exploring Native American Medicine Ways: Learning from, and honoring, Indigenous Healing Traditions."
As part of her community responsibilities, she has been asked to participate in baby blessing ceremonies, offer opening prayers for gatherings and social justice actions; to provide spiritual assistance to persons during end of life transitions, perform house purification rituals, and to facilitate family and community conflict resolution circles.
In addition to her Curanderismo practice, Grace continues to have diverse roles in community building and social justice coalitions, helping organize grassroots advocacy groups. In 2013 Grace lead a successful social media protest to stop the Disney Corporation from trademarking the Mexican holy days known as Dia de Muertos. She presented on Trauma From a Practitioner's Perspective and lead the Cultural & Holistic Practitioners Team during the 2019 San Diego State University Native Truth and Healing California Genocide Conference.
She is a member of the Kumeyaay Original Peoples Alliance, Kanap Kuahan (Tell the Truth) Coalition, MANA de Imperial Valley, Women's March of San Diego, and advisor to the House of the Moon (Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women/Relatives). Grace also serves on the Consciousness & Healing Initiative's Healing Practitioners Council and is a member of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine.
Philosophy of Care
Grace believes in and encourages a thoughtful blending of traditional Indigenous healing and complementary holistic practices with a doctor's conventional medical treatments, as may be appropriate. Rather than an either/or approach, she seeks to educate health care providers about appropriate inclusion of Curanderismo cultural healing interventions with Western conventional medicine in order to address the whole person: body, emotions, mind, relationships, and spirit. Clients who are referred to Grace by their physician receive support that can promote their responding more satisfactorily to conventional healthcare treatment. Sessions become a part of the client's overall individual treatment plan, with Grace providing feedback to physicians as part of a multidisciplinary treatment team model.
An engaging speaker, Grace has lectured on Curanderismo at the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energy & Energy Medicine Conference, Children’s Hospital-Denver, CSU San Marcos, SDSU School of Social Work, the 2013 Great River Symposium on Mesoamerican acupuncture and Curanderismo, University of Tampa, Iskotew Lodge and Kumik Lodge Elders-in-Residence Program (First Nations, Canada), and other institutions. Recently, she gave the keynote presentation, "Respecting Indigenous Healing Traditions: from Colonizer to Ally," at the 2022 Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology Annual Conference.
Grace contributed to the books, "Meditations for InterSpiritual Practice: Practices and Readings Drawn from the World's Spiritual Traditions," which was published in 2012. Most recently she contributed to the new book, Voice of the Ancestors: Xicanx and Latinx Spiritual Expressions and Healing Practices (Offerings, essays, poems, and prayers for everyday life), edited by Lara Medina and Martha R. Gonzales. She's also been interviewed by media and quoted in abstracts and dissertations.
Grace considers this path to be one of life-long learning, and is committed to continuing to deepen her understanding of health and healing as well as doing her own inner work in order to be of service to the best of her ability, to her community and to the areas where she is invited to share her medicine. She continues her work with emphasis in respectfully reclaiming traditional culture and healing practices.
She offers individual healing consultations and spiritual counseling for individuals, couples, and families using a cross-cultural approach. Persons from all walks of life, sexual identification, ethnicity, and spiritual / religious paths are welcome.
Grace travels extensively and offers workshops and presentations on Mexico's healing traditions throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. She lives part of the year on the sacred lands of the Arapaho Nation in Nederland, Colorado and the unceded land of the Kumeyaay Nation known today as San Diego, California, where the People live, love, work, and pray since time immemorial in spite of genocide and theft of lands. She actively participates in amplifying the voice of Yaqui (Yoeme) and Kumeyaay People and supporting social justice actions and cultural exchanges.
Grace is available for consultations, workshops, and lectures.