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Mexican American Folk Healing

Robert T. Trotter II and Juan Antonio Chavira With a foreword by Luis D. Leon

Publication Year: 1997

The practice of curanderismo, or Mexican American folk medicine, is part of a historically and culturally important health care system deeply rooted in native Mexican healing techniques. This is the first book to describe the practice from an insider's point of view, based on the authors' three-year apprenticeships with curanderos (healers).

Robert T. Trotter and Juan Antonio Chavira present an intimate view of not only how curanderismo is practiced but also how it is learned and passed on as a healing tradition. By providing a better understanding of why curanderos continue to be in demand despite the lifesaving capabilities of modern medicine, this text will serve as an indispensable resource to health professionals who work within Mexican American communities, to students of transcultural medicine, and to urban ethnologists and medical anthropologists.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. ix-xvii

The reissue of Robert Trotter and Juan Antonio Chavira's Curanderismo: Mexican American Folk Healing represents a critical turning point in the study of Chicano culture, just as it did when it was first published.1 Originally, Trotter and Chavira's Curanderismo broke radically with the derogatory...

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pp. xix-xxi

The data that support the information contained in this book, along with an associated film (Los Que Curan) and slide series (Curanderismo: An Optional Health Care System), were initially collected as a part of Proyecto Comprender (Regional Medical Program of Texas Grant 75-108G)....

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1. Curanderismo: Past and Present Viewpoints

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pp. 1-24

Curanderismo, the Mexican American folk-healing system, is an important source of health resources for Mexican Americans living in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and other places. The term curanderismo and the term curandero come from the Spanish verb curar, which means...

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2. The History of Curanderismo

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pp. 25-40

At least six major historical influences have shaped the beliefs and practices of curanderismo by Mexican Americans in the Lower Rio Grande Valley: Judeo-Christian religious beliefs, symbols, and rituals; early Arabic medicine and health practices (combined with Greek humoral...

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3. The Cultural Context of Illness

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pp. 41-60

A man in south Texas and a man in Saudi Arabia will both have the same general biological needs when they contract tuberculosis. But their physical needs must be met in ways that take into account the existing differences in their social systems (differences in customs, beliefs, family structure...

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4. Curanderos' Theories of Healing

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pp. 61-72

Curanderos in south Texas explain their abilities to heal and describe their healing techniques by referring to three levels of treatment. The levels are the material (nivel material), the spiritual (nivel espiritual) and the mental (nivel mental). They are not mutually exclusive, in that a...

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5. The Material Level

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pp. 73-101

Curanderismo's three levels of treatment, the material, the spiritual, and the mental, are not mutually exclusive in the treatment of illness or other problems, and most curanderos employ combinations which they believe necessary to benefit their patients. The material level is the easiest of the...

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6. The Spiritual Level

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pp. 102-148

Curanderos who have the gift (el don) for working on the spiritual level (nivel espiritual) of curanderismo are less numerous than those who work on the material level. The gift is somewhat less common in the population, and the practitioner must go through a developmental period...

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7. The Mental Level

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pp. 149-161

The mental level (nivel mental) was the least commonly encountered of the three levels. The relative scarcity of this don, combined with the necessity for undergoing extensive training and rigorous discipline in order to practice on the mental level, greatly limits the number of healers who use...

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8. The Future of Curanderismo

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pp. 162-175

Most of this book has dealt with the current status of the Mexican American folk-healing system in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. We have deliberately avoided bringing interpretive models other than the curanderos' own to bear on this ethnographic data. To have done so would have...


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pp. 177-178


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pp. 179-184


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pp. 185-199


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pp. 201-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780820340715
E-ISBN-10: 0820340715
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820319629
Print-ISBN-10: 0820319627

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 1997

Edition: Second Edition