How Prevalent is the Curandero in the Latino Culture?
I would venture it’s safe to say that most Latinos have grown up knowing a curandero, or at the very least having heard stories of people going to or having been cured by one of these healers. Within the culture, these healers are thought to have supernatural powers. A common belief is that many illnesses are caused by malevolent spirits, others come from a curse, or in some situations it is because God wants to teach a lesson.
So what exactly is a Curandero? It is a person who is known as a healer and is very prevalent in the Amerindian populations and ingrained in most Latino cultures. These people are categorized as healers, sometimes known as shamans, who devote their life to assisting people with spiritual and physical ailments.
The Curandero’s role is to provide physical or mental healing through various methods by using herbs, others use tobacco or peyote, some specialize as bone and muscle therapists massaging with special ointments, etc. A Curandero may specialize in a certain area of healing; however, this by no way limits their ‘powers.’ For example, a person who deals mainly with the healing of bones, may also have clientele asking for special guidance on how to best deal with curses, evil spirits that may be lingering, or even to gain back a lost love. The list is endless as to what these Curanderos can do with their special brews and powers.
For example, growing up most Latinos have heard of ‘el mal ojo’ (the evil eye). This usually occurs when a person sees a beautiful child and doesn’t touch him or her. The child then becomes ill because it is thought that the envy and jealousy has passed on to the girl or boy by the silent observer. The Curandero will then roll an egg across the infected child to gather all the bad and evil into the yolk. There are many variations on how and what causes ‘el mal ojo’ or what occurs during the Curandero’s ceremony to rid the child of this illness, but nevertheless a Curandero will likely be able to heal in this situation.
Some Curanderos are known as Oracionistas and work through the power of their prayers. This is mainly where you get the yerberos (herbalists), the ayahuasqueros (caapi vine brewers), the tabaqueros (persons who work with tobacco healing), or the peyoteros (people who work with peyote).
Because of the magical aura that these healers possess, many writers have written about these Curanderos in their stories. A few books that address the Curandero culture are Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea, and Forests of the Heart by Charles de Lint.
Any comments regarding the Curandero culture? Would like to hear your point of view and stories.