The Curandero: A look into folkloric healing in Mexico
Traditional medicine has existed for hundreds of years before modern medicine emerged. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the importance of traditional, alternative, and herbal medicines.
Unfortunately, traditional medicine is commonly undermined by the conventional medical community.
However, unique medical needs are bringing these practices to the forefront again. Many global citizens lack access to conventional medicine, but traditional medicine can play a crucial preventative and accessible role for these communities.
Every country has different indigenous groups with different traditional medical practices. In Mexico, they have the curandero. So, what do we know about this type of folkloric healing?
How They Emerged
Curanderos existed in Mexico long before the Spanish arrived. It is a truly indigenous practice. In fact, the Spanish often tried to eliminate curanderos, fearing that their work was sacrilegious.
Of course, the Spanish did not succeed in stamping out the practice. Instead, many curanderos became practicing Catholics. There is an undeniable spiritual element to curanderismo, and many Mexicans believe their healing powers were granted by a deity.
How They Work
Curanderos have their own creed to heal ailments with natural resources. This may involve prayer, herbs, eggs, essential oils, or incense. Often, these ailments are emotional or spiritual. Serious medical conditions should not be treated by curandero.
Curandero can even help with psychiatric conditions. They have a comprehensive, firsthand understanding of the needs in their Mexican communities that white-collar, licensed psychiatrists often lack.
There are different types of curanderos, sort of like specialists.
Curanderos are still sought after today. Usually, lower classes seek treatment from them because they have no access to modern medicine. There may be no modern facilities or resources available in rural areas.
Alternatively, some impoverished Mexicans may have no money to access modern medical care.
Some members of the medical community suggest that modern medicine has more to learn from curanderos than they think. This is especially true concerning the role of communication between curanderos and their patients, something that modern doctors should take note of.
Of course, indigenous herbs are important to note as well.
More Indigenous Medicine Around the World
A curandero is not the only type of healer in the Americas.
There are countless indigenous groups throughout the region that all serve the same purpose — healing their communities. It’s well known that pharmaceutical companies have found very profitable formulas from the herbs used by these groups.