ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Laughter can combat trauma. Spiritual cleansings could be used to fight an opioid addiction. Cactus extract may battle diabetes and obesity.
These insights are from curanderismo — traditional indigenous healing from the American Southwest and Latin America.
University of New Mexico professor Eliseo “Cheo” Torres’ has included these thoughts in a new, unique textbook connected to his internationally-known annual course on curanderismo.
“Curanderismo: The Art of Traditional Medicine Without Borders,” released last week, coincides with Torres’ annual gathering of curandero students and healers around the world at the University of New Mexico. For nearly 20 years, healers and their students have come to Albuquerque to meet and exchange ideas on traditional healing that for many years were often ignored and ridiculed.
Torres, who is also the university’s vice president for student affairs, said the popularity of the annual course and a similar online class he teaches convinced him that there needed to be a textbook on curanderismo.
“This textbook came out of the experience of this class and the ideas that have been shared through the years,” Torres said during a special morning ceremony with Aztec dancers on campus. “From healers in Mexico to those in Africa, many have long traditions of healing that are being rediscovered by a new generation.”
Curanderismo is the art of using traditional healing methods like herbs and plants to treat various ailments. Long practiced in Native American villages of Mexico and other parts of Latin America, curanderos also are found in New Mexico, south Texas, Arizona and California.
Anthropologists believe curanderismo remained popular among poor Latinos because they didn’t have access to health care. But they say the field is gaining traction among those who seek to use alternative medicine.
“I believe people are disenchanted with our health system,” Torres said. “Some people can’t afford it now, and they are looking for other ways to empower themselves to heal.”