Healing, Latino culture, Mexican traditions, Writing

Heartbreak, Love Potions and Curanderas

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it-Toni Morrison

Writing, especially novels is a long hard road. Sometimes people ask, “Are you finished yet?” “What’s happening with that story you told me about?”

Oh, that story. Well, three years later I’m finished with the Young Adult manuscript and I believe I’m ready for the next step: finding a literary agent or publisher to bring the novel to fruition.

The book is about an eighteen-year-old young woman named Maya who suffers from a heartbreak that is so bad that she, an honors student, ditches school and finds a job selling herbs and potions in a botanica (Botánica Sirena) opened by two curanderas.

Maya’s newfound knowledge of curanderismo (the art of healing) intrigues her but proves disastrous when her novice love potion backfires leaving her ex-boyfriend in love with her mother and her nana’s 75-year-old boyfriend in love with her. 

Her divorced parents are furious with Maya’s behavior as it disrupts the plan they had for her life: valedictorian, university, and a career in politics.

So Maya needs to make things right again but her novice potion is not something the local curanderas can help her with so off to Oaxaca she goes to meet with the Gran Curandera who might be able to help her with an antidote. The trip leads Maya to a journey of self-discovery.

But what is a curandera?

Curanderismo is a healing art and curanderas/os are healers in the Latin American world. For centuries, the Mexican culture has had curanderasSome cultures call these people shamans, or medicine men or women. Some people call them, incorrectly, witches.

Curandera practicing her healing

 

A curandera/o uses herbs, ointments, and cleansings to cure illness. They also conduct spiritual healings. Sage, sweetgrass, and copal are used to cleanse a house, a room, or a person of evil spirits and negative energy. 

A spiritual cleansing, limpia, and is often used by bunching together selected herbs into a small hand broom. This is whacked across the entire body and 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 energies around it. Finally, water is spit on the person. I know, sounds strange but this is what happens and there are some variances to the ritual dependent on what the client needs.

The Latin American community believes the curandera has a spiritual calling to heal and 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 involves 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. 

When I was a kid, most mothers knew of a local curandera. When a mother thought her baby was ill a visit to the curandera would be in order; the likely culprit was mal ojo (the evil eye).

In some countries like El Salvador the infant would be given a red bracelet to ward off mal ojo; in Mexico, the curandera passes an egg over the baby’s head and body.

Herbal remedies from curanderas were brought to the U.S (many were in the Southwest before it was part of the US) and these cures were passed on for generations.

When we were kids my mother didn’t take us to a curandera but she used Vicks Vaporub for fevers and colds. If we vomited or had a stomach ache we drank 7-Up or any other lemon-lime soda. There was a special tea for stomachaches and periods, a rice water mixture for diarrhea, and a few dozen more for colds, coughs, and other illnesses.

The use of candles and ointments are also part of curanderismo. In our house, there was always some candle burning for some ailment, loss, or protection.

The subject of curanderismo is one that has fascinated me so much I had to write a novel featuring curanderas. The story also has alibrejes (spirit animals) and other magic realism elements. Take a look at my storyboard for this novel.

The blue Jaguar is a spirit animal in the novel

And curanderas are just the tip of the iceberg of Mexican healers. There are also specialists for massage and herbs. But that is for another post.

There are websites such as Erika Buenaflor who can give you more information on curanderismo as well as other healing practices. She is a modern day curandera. I wish I had known about her site three years ago when I started my writing project but better late than never.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Latino culture

A to Z Challenge: R is for Rana and a Rhyme

Little tail of the frog. Photo by Jared Evans for unsplash.com

R is for Rana, a frog.

Anytime a kid in the neighborhood (under age 5) fell or got a cut his/her mother would rub or tap the area and sing this:

Spanish:
“Sana, sana, colita de rana,
y si no se cura ahorita, se cura mañana.”

In English, it’s confusing and doesn’t make sense.

“Healthy, healthy, little tail of a frog,
and if not cured now, cured tomorrow.”

 

As a kid, I wondered why the little tail of a frog was involved in a healing rhyme.

The frog tail portion may allude to folklore or tales of healing, involving a curandera’s (healer) use of “tail of frog,” or “eye of newt.”

The rhyme is not to be confused with this frog:

Not this frog. Photo by Jonathan Youssef for unsplash.com

 

I never thought to ask why my mom or aunts sang this song. I went with it and kept the song going with my own kids, puzzling another generation.

This rhyme is only for little kids. Once you hit five, if you fell, cut, or otherwise injured yourself you were expected to get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

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.

 

 

 

Healing, Latino culture, NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo Comics, Writing

Who Really Uses NaNoWriMo?

 

NaNoToon
NaNoToon

Who writes 50,000 words in 30 days during November?

Crazy writers. Passionate writers. Driven writers.

Writers who have trouble keeping their butt in the chair and hands on the keys use NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as a last ditch effort to focus.

Completion rather than perfection is the goal.

We wait, crunked up on leftover trick or treat candy, swigging an energy drink, ready for the clock to strike midnight.

Who are these crazy people pushing their pens, tapping their computer keys at 12 a.m on Halloween night?

We are the Nano’s, peculiar writer beings who believe we can write 50,000 words in 30 days, November 1st to November 30th.

Really, we do believe.

This year I’m actually adding to last year’s draft. The working title for this New Adult novel is La Curandera*. Here’s my logline and a description:

Three generations of women, three broken hearts, one love potion.

Violet Romero is just as ambitious as her father, the city mayor. She has a five and ten-year plan to become the young politician who will change the world. That’s the strategy until her fiancé dumps her for her best friend and she spirals into depression, dropping out of her master’s program. Now she’s on the verge of losing her summer internship at the state capitol.

When she finds a job at a shop that specializes in cures, spells, and potions, run by two curanderas, she decides to take matters into her own hands and concoct her own remedy. But when Violet’s love potion causes her ex-fiancé to fall in love with her mother, and her grandmother’s 70-year-old love interest falls for Violet instead, she has to make things right again. She must travel to Mexico to seek a 100-year-old curandera who possibly has the cure if Violet can accomplish a vision quest.

I’m using this photo as inspiration to write:

The Healing Arts of Mexico by German Rubio
The Healing Arts of Mexico by German Rubio

I have my storyboard up on Pinterest for more inspiration.

So this writer will use the next 30 days to complete the story because I am driven, passionate and crazy about writing.

This means much less time on social media and no blogging for 30 days (unless there is a blogging emergency).

See you next month. Happy November!

*Curandera: Traditional healer who uses centuries-old herbal remedies for a variety of ailments. A spiritual element is also part of the healing. Usually, the healers are generational and native people of Mexico, Central, and South America.