quote by M. Gandhi
Hope, Loss

Can We Move Towards Hope and Peace with a Hug?

quote by M. Gandhi

Like many others, I’m trying to understand what’s going on in our nation.

As a person who has been on both sides of the thin blue line (stopped over 50 times in my youth and a 30-year career in  criminal justice) it’s not difficult to understand how wounds fester and people get frustrated and beyond.

But to sniper kill police officers during a peaceful demonstration can never be the answer to an already wounded community and nation.  

To empathize with police officers and other law enforcement doesn’t mean we don’t empathize with peaceful Black Lives Matter protests.

To take a stand for one doesn’t mean you can’t take a stand for the other. One can be “pro cop” and “pro black lives matter.” It doesn’t have to be “either/or.”

One part of me understands the frustrations, the other part is sickened; the whole of me feels that the fear and worry will separate us more, but it is at this precise moment that we have to create hope.

I want to share this video which shone a light on an otherwise sorrowful week. This occurred after an interfaith prayer service in Dallas on July 8th. This YouTube video is from the Free Hugs Project.

 

 

We have to address systemic racism.

We have to find a way to work towards community and peace.

I don’t have the answer on “How” to do this but I know it can be done and it starts with individuals.

It won’t be easy but it will be worth stepping towards hope.

 

Healing, Latino culture, Loss, Mexican traditions, Writing

Do You Know How to Use a Curandera?

Mexican Seri Woman Crossing the Desert
Mexican Seri Woman Crossing the Desert photo by Gabriela Iturbides

Do you know how to naturally heal fright or trauma? No? More about susto later.

During the last two years, I’ve worked on a story about an ambitious twenty-one-year-old with a ten-year plan to become a State Senator who drops out of college because of a broken engagement. She meets a grandmother and granddaughter who are curanderas. Although she doesn’t believe in this Mexican tradition of healers she takes matters into her own hands and makes a love potion. When the wrong people, her mother, ex-fiancé and others, drink the potion and fall in love she has to discover an antidote. Her search takes her to Oaxaca, Mexico to meet a curandera who may be able to help her heal her susto and give her the correct potion to make things right.

city of Puebla, Mexico
Puebla, Oaxaca, Mexico photo by Russ Bowling, unsplash.com

When I was a kid, every mother knew of a local curandera. Using their services was normal. For centuries, the Mexican culture has had curanderasSome cultures may call these people shamans, or medicine men or women. Some people call them, incorrectly, witches. 

Curanderismo is a healing art and a curandera/o is a healer who uses herbs, ointments, massage, and cleansings to cure an illness and do spiritual and psychic healings. They and the community believe the curandera has a spiritual calling to heal. They are often descendants of other curanderas.

mayan, healer, maya
Margarita, Mayan Healer

The photo above shows a Mayan healer in Mexico. In the U.S, and my experience, the curanderas were usually grandmothers wearing aprons or elderly men in work clothes who conducted their ritual healings in their home or garage. Now they are more likely to work in a botanica which sells candles, oils, herbs, and other items such as amulets.

Using the services of a healer involved a small fee or a barter. This is probably why most Mexicans and Mexican Americans used a curandera. Either a doctor visit was too expensive, wasn’t available, or the doctor dismissed an ailment. Here’s a link to a doctor who discusses traditional remedies.  

But back to healing fright or susto. It seems there are degrees of susto. A person can be suffering a shock, an emotional trauma, or be in such a state of anxiety that they can’t function; which is the case with my main character in my novel in progress. When this happens, they are said to be suffering from susto.

A spiritual cleansing, limpia,  is often used by taking a bunch of selected herbs made into a small hand broom which is whacked across the entire body. This removes negative energy. After this, an egg is held above the head, moved around the body, and cracked open into a container which the curandera inspects. Why an egg? It is believed that an egg has the natural ability to absorb engergies around it. Finally, water is spit on the person. I know, sounds strange but this is what happens.

Curanderismo is not only a Mexican tradition but one that is found in most of Latin America and the Carribean. The subject is one that has fascinated me so much I had to write a novel (work-in-progress) featuring curanderas. Take a look at my storyboard for this novel. You may come across some interesting information.

Disclaimer: This post is not suggesting you use a curandera in lieu of a medical practitioner; that is your own decision.

 

 

 

Loss, Love, Mexican traditions, poetry

My Native One/Mi Indigena – Poem

by Daniel Esparza-lowriderarte.com

As evening falls I close my eyes in slumber

Allowing myself to swim this ocean of memories

Chapters of love etched deep upon my being

All bitter sweet or sweet gone bitter

Fleeting passion, friendship adorned in tedium

Tepid nights of sighs quelling loneliness

Reticent reminiscences, specters in empty rooms

A requiem of illusive love defying end

The haunting image of my nameless muse

Spirit veneration of my palindrome poems

A song of truer times breaks the melancholy

Honeyed voice lifts the weight of silence

Solitude blessed by a sweet familiar whisper

    “Cradle your head on the heart of hope;

     sleep and dream my loving touch;

     embrace the promise we exist to keep;

     one day soon we will be forever…”

Poem by Frank de Jesus Acosta*

This poem makes me think of a loss and a future hope.

I imagine a 1940’s sultry blues melody accompanying these lyrics. Which makes the woman appropriate to the poem.

Poetry can metamorphize memories, “All bitter sweet or sweet gone bitter,” into a perspective where we pay homage to the feelings. Somewhat like the Alfred Lord Tennyson phrase:

“Tis better to have loved and lost. Than never to have loved at all.”

For me, the pairing of this art piece and poem illustrates the Mexican concept of death.

In Aztec culture, they believed life on earth to be something of an illusion – death was a positive step forward into a higher level of conscience. Skulls were a positive symbol, not only of death but also of rebirth.

Skulls were a positive symbol, not only of death but also of rebirth.

And it is in the rebirth, that one has hope.

*reprinted with permission by Frank Acosta.

 

 

Authors, Books, Chingona, Death, Ester Hernandez, Grief, Have You Seen Marie?, Loss, Sandra Cisneros

Have You Seen Marie?

sandracisneros.com

“For those without a mother, without a father, without even a dog to make a bother.”

This quote is on the dedication page of Sandra Cisneros new book, HAVE YOU SEEN MARIE? 

The crux of the story is about a woman’s search for a cat who goes missing in the aftermath of her mother’s death. 

There is so much to love about this book before one even begins reading. From the first page of illustrations, by Ester Hernandez, artista extraordinaire, I was captured by their serenity and vibrancy. (She is in the photo, on the left of my favorite chingona, Sandra Cisneros). 

Some of the images in the book reminded me of Japanese woodcuts. Others, vivacious colored pencil drawings. The illustrations perfectly accompany the melodic text and characterize the many  people and moods found in the novel. 

An overriding sense of grief and loss weave throughout the story. There are touches of humor, but overall the sadness is palpable. I sighed in some sections, teared up in others.The author calls her book a 

                 “fable for grownups,” and for “orphans in midlife.”  

But I can see parents reading this to children, older kids reading to younger, and all of them enthralled and touched by the story. 


Ms. Cisneros uses imagery, simile and metaphor better than most. Her words put a smile on my face when I read “…his truck backfiring like the Fourth of July, like always.” “…a squirrel flicked her tail like a housewife shaking a dirty dust rag.” “…silver women in their silver years laughed like bells.”

This is a book I will keep for years and no doubt re-read several times. It is worth buying the hardcover book for the beautiful illustrations. Also, do not skip the afterword and acknowledgements. There is a lovely story there too. 


I will buy another book and give it to my mother, who lost both of her parents before she was twelve years of age. She continues to feel the loss. I don’t know if it will help her or not, but I do know it will affect her in ways that are different from those who have not gone through this type of grief.  I hope that this quote will be true for her:


“There is no getting over death, only learning how to travel alongside it.” Sandra Cisneros 

 To hear from the author about why she wrote the book, click on this short interview:

You can find HAVE YOU SEEN MARIE? at amazon.com, B & N, or your favorite bookstore. Just so readers know: I have not been given a book in exchange for a review. I just love to post information whenever I read a really good book.