OVERVIEW OF TRADITIONAL MEXICAN HEALING AS PRACTICED BY CURANDERA GRACE ALVAREZ SESMA
Curanderismo, the Healing Art of Mexico
While Curanderismo is practiced throughout Mexico, Central and South America, Grace’s healing practice is rooted in her cultural Yaqui/Mestizo upbringing as well as the influence of Mexika and Zapotec healing lineages of Mexico, therefore her practice is named Curanderismo, the Healing Art of Mexico.
A curandera with decades of experience, Grace believes in and encourages a thoughtful inclusion of traditional Indigenous healing practices alongside a doctor's conventional medical treatments, as may be appropriate. Rather than an either/or approach, she seeks to educate health care providers about Mexican Indigenous healing ways so that practitioners of Western conventional (allopathic) medicine may become attuned to the cultural needs of their Mexican and Indigenous patients, as well as the inclusion of cultural practitioners (curanderas/os and Native traditional healers) as part of a multidisciplinary treatment team approach in order to address the whole person: body, emotions, mind, relationships, and spirit. To this end, she will refer clients to physicians and other health care providers when necessary.
What is Curanderismo?
Curanderismo is a holistic approach to wellness that has been used in the Americas for hundreds of years. In Mexico, it is also known as Mexican Traditional Healing, "medicina del campo," and traditional folk medicine. As a result of colonization, Curanderismo today is usually a synthesis of Mexican indigenous culture and beliefs, and depending on the curandera’s religious, cultural, and/or tribal background (if any), it may or may not, also have Catholic, Sephardic, and African influences. This is why some consider it a blending of traditions, rather than solely Native medicine or European medicine.
What is the meaning of the word, Curandera?
The word "curandera" (Spanish: female healer) incorporates the qualities and attributes of the spiritual counseling aspect of the practice, as having the confidentiality one expects of a “cura,” a priest or minister, as well as including its other definition, which is that of healer/curer. The word "cura" which means to cure, is also often used colloquially during conversations in response to a pun or witticism: “Que cura!” Curanderas often use healthy and appropriate humor during sessions along with prayer, spiritual cleansings, and healing ceremonies to restore balance and harmony to the body, mind, emotions, and spirit of their client. In some instances, curanderas may be referred to as "mujer de conocimiento" (woman of knowledge). In others, if she is Indigenous and trained in Native ways and serving her traditional community, she may be called a "mujer de medicina" (medicine woman). The same applies to male practitioners (curanderos). Each curandera has a distinctive practice that is most often learned within the context of her family, community, or tribal nation. Curanderas are often found in Mexican-American neighborhoods of the United States — usually an older woman who has knowledge of herbs and cultural remedies, and who may also have other gifts and abilities such as clairvoyance which form part of their practice. Often they are long-time residents of their neighborhood and are known by word of mouth for their particular healing specialty.
In Curanderismo, it is believed that disease is caused by social, emotional, physical, environmental, and spiritual factors. Today it continues to be used by people from all walks of life: from health care professionals, physicians, psychologists, teachers, students, activists, to homemakers, either alone or as an adjunct to your doctor's conventional medical interventions.
Curanderismo can address a wide array of situations, including:
Treating persons suffering from cancer by helping to decrease the debilitating side-effects of chemotherapy.
Addressing the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of facing potentially life-threatening illness (by patient/client and family members).
Chronic long-term stress of anxiety and depression.
Providing emotional and spiritual support for women who have experienced a miscarriage or termination of a pregnancy
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder such as that experienced by returning veterans, activists, victims of sexual trafficking, and law enforcement officers.
In addition to limpias espirituales and healing ceremonies, Grace may be guided to prepare special amulets with prayer and herbs. Clients then wear the amulet as either a medicine bag or as consecrated jewelry.
The focus of Grace's curanderismo practice has steadily increased in the area of treating Susto / Espanto, more commonly known as (and similar to) PTSD or Soul Wound in the United States, and involves addressing the effects of traumatic events such as sexual, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse, rape, death of loved ones, sexual trafficking, military service, divorce, or accidents. She adheres to strict confidentiality as part of offering healing and spiritual ceremonies.
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