August 17, 2011

During colonial Spain, curanderos emerged as spiritual and physical healers. The word curandero comes from the Spanish word “curar,” which means to heal. Curanderismo, healing by curanderos, is a combination of Greek medicine, Judeo-Christianity, European witchcraft, ancient Arabic medicine, and Indian herbal medicine. With roots throughout Latin America, curanderos have significantly shaped the role of medicine in countries with large Hispanic populations.

Relying on spiritual and herbal remedies, curanderas (male) and curanderos (female) heal individuals in three realms: physical, spiritual, and emotional. Curanderos can specialize in different types of healing: (a) yerberas, are herbalists; (b) sobadoras, are folk chiropractors; and (c) parteras, are midwifes. Yet, curanderos are most notable for “limpiadas,” which are cleansings for an individual’s spirit. Curanderos profess that most sickness is the result of unclean spirits. Through prayers and rituals, a curandero deciphers the cause of an individual’s unclean spirit. Usually, curanderos discover that the patient’s illness was triggered by a spell. After the limpiada, the evil spirits leave and the individual is healed.

Curanderos continue to practice healing in Mexico, South America, and the southwestern United States. Despite their popularity, curanderos maintain low profiles and restrain from publicizing their services. Consequently, curandero services are often spread by word of mouth, which often attracts patients from other regions.

Generally, curanderos may be preferred over medical doctors for two major reasons. First, a curandero charges a substantially lower fee than a medical doctor. Further, in rural areas, many patients do not have health insurance so that cost-conscious patients are more likely to visit curanderos. Second, curanderos can be more accessible than medical doctors because curanderos are more prevalent in suburbs and rural communities.

Curanderos have been healing people from sickness and evil spirits for centuries; thus, the level of confidence Hispanics have in curanderos has not wavered. Although not all Hispanics believe in curanderismo, a large majority of the Hispanic community considers curanderos as their only source of healing from sickness and evil spirits. As a result, curanderismo continues to be passed down from generation to generation, influencing healing and medicine.

SEE ALSO: Latina

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Category: C