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.

 

 

 

Latina, Latino culture, Mexican traditions, NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo Music, Strong Women, Writing

Butt in Chair, Hands on Keys for 30 Days of #NaNoWriMo

I Wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days and lived.
I Wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days and lived.

 

Like thousands of other writers across the globe, I did a BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keys) for 30 days.

Instead of being a complete pantser (writing by the seat of my pantalones), as I have in the past, I did a half and half of pantser and plotter. Like having one leg into my jeans.

The plotter part consisted of character exploration by journaling, creation of a Pinterest storyboard, and created a logline and premise for the story.

After 30 days, I have a story in a first draft mess which finishes around the 3/4 point. Which means I’ll need 15,000-20,000 more words to complete this New Adult story. 

What helped me to write faster was what I learned in a free online workshop from the University of Iowa’s How Writer’s Write Fiction Course. This is a combination of video, reading, and quizzes, which you can take for credit or no credit.

If you take the course for credit there are writing assignments and peer reviews. A certificate of completion is available for $50 if you meet all the requirements. The course is well worth your time.

An exercise I found helpful to start my NaNo writing was to ask my characters questions and write the answers out in longhand in my journal:

1-Who am I?

2- Who do I love? Who or what do I hate?

3-What do I want the most?

4-Who or what do I fear?

My story has three generations of Mexican American women so I needed to explore all of them through these questions.

There are hundreds of character sketch templates available, but I found that these questions opened my mind up to think about emotional issues, not just physical characteristics.

I used most of the answers in the character exploration to type onto my first pages. (Yes, I counted the words for NaNo). This was helpful so I could re-read what I wrote and stay in character.

The other motivator I used, for the first time, was music. Since the main character has just gone through a broken engagement at 22 years old (many moons past for me) I listened to music from Lana Del Rey and Adele.

One of the locations in the novel is Oaxaca, Mexico where the main character visits a curandera (traditional Mexican healer). I selected some indigenous music to help me when I wrote scenes about walking the pyramids of Monte Albán and listened to music by Lila Downs for cafe scenes.

Singer/Musician/Songwriter Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico
Singer/Musician/Songwriter Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico

I wish I had printed out my Pinterest storyboard since I found myself going back to the photos every time I sat down to write (distracting and time-consuming). The colors, people, foods, and objects helped to center me as I wrote.

For NaNoWriMo 2015, as for any of my next novels, preparation is the key: premise, concept, logline for the story. Explore the characters through journaling. Listen to music for help to create the setting. Create a storyboard of interesting colorful photos to stimulate the eye. And find a consistent time to BICHOK.

Share your writing tips. So how did you NaNo this year?

 

 

#WeNeedDIverseBooks, Writing

NaNoWriMo Madness or The Only Way to Write A First Draft

Yes, I’m slogging through the madness of NaNoWriMo.

The video above is a good indication of how we NaNo-ites or NaNo-etta’s feel about now.

I could only take three minutes of the video. She’s a good singer–sorta.

I’ve been typing words upon words,

compiling hundreds, then thousands.

Fifty thousand words is the goal; 1,667 words per day.

And I have a head cold. Been in my house for the past three days.

My oldest son feeds me cough drops, meds, and ginger ale.

I’m forcing myself to write. It allows me to not think about the 21 people I’ll have to prepare Thanksgiving for in a couple of weeks.

I’m writing a novel with multi-cultural characters, three generations of women and men, the Mexican culture of curanderismo (that means healers), and a love potion that goes awry.

By this time, I should be at the second plot twist, according to Storyfix. (give or take five pages).

I double checked my pages and yes, I’m close to that point.

Here’s a screen shot of my NaNo page—I don’t know about that novel cover increasing my odds, but could be, it is part of visualization— And, lest I forget, I do have some empty badge area sections:

Writing partner and halo. If anyone wants to be a writing partner, hit me up. I really don’t know how to do this step but I’ll figure it out.

Mona AlvaradoFrazier-New Adult Novel NaNoWriMo 2014
Mona AlvaradoFrazier-New Adult Novel NaNoWriMo 2014

Participating in NaNoWriMo is a great way to a first draft. Far from perfect yes, but useful.

And don’t refer to it as a “shitty first draft,” because it’s not. It’s raw, you put in some effort, yeah, it’s imperfect, just like your first time at bat, or your golf swing, or the first time you made a casserole.

Remind yourself that you started with a goal. You accomplished it. You now have something to build on.

You have words, lots of them, to play with after the first draft is completed.

Well, you probably won’t play with them, you’ll do the edit, delete dance. Then you’ll pull your hair out a few times, and laugh your head off while doing said hair pulling, because you’ll remember—‘member this now—it’s your first draft.

It’s okay.

It will take time and hard work to shape it up, revise, plug plot holes, revise, and love it into being better.

Remember, first drafts can be powerful. Remind yourself that you carved out time for your writing, you set your creativity loose and you were courageous until the finish line (whatever that is to you: 50K or 25K words).

Only 24,610 more words to go.

Write On!

(Please excuses any left out comma’s or other grammatical errors. I’m partially delirious now). Thank you.