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Curanderismo Summary

The following is a summary of Curanderismo. The description can be vague and short but it offers good info.  This was created by Fabian Valladolid in fulfillment of requirements for the course CSS 335: Latino Health Issues taught by Dr. Szkupinski Quiroga at Arizona State University, Spring 2005.

Cuarnderismo is said to have been derived from six older practices of medicine (Trotter & Chavira, 1981)

1. Judeo-Christian religious beliefs, symbols and rituals

2.Arabic medicine (Combined with Greek Humoral medicine)

3.Medieval and European witchcraft

4.Native American herbal practices

5. Modern beliefs about spiritualism

6. Scientific medicine

Judeo-Christian Beliefs

"The basic structure of the medicinal practices used in curanderismo are rooted in the teachings of the bible. They have been combined with folk wisdom that produce the beliefs of illness and healing." (Trotter & Chavira 1981, 25).

The Bible has created the basic guideline of the healing power of the supernatural and remedies provided by the Earth's offerings, God's healing powers and plants for medicinal use.

Arabic and Greek Influence

The Arabic and Greek influence was derived during the age of the Spanish conquests. 

From the Greek traditions, Curanderismo adapted the Hippocratic doctrine of the four "humors"

1. Blood


3.Black bile

4.Yellow bile

Each humor had an association with temperature and humidity

1.hot and wet

2.cold and wet

3.cold and dry

4. hot and dry


The belief in supernatural and or magical forces is reinforced through this premise. During the age of witchcraft and sorcery curanderismo adapted the notions of a dual philosophy in magical and religious

1. Spirituality

2.Supernatural Ability

Native American influence

The Native American influence to curanderismo is in its index of herbal remedies. Curanderismo has used many of the herbal treatments experimented and used by Native American medicine.

Modern Spiritual beliefs The ever-changing context of spirituality combined with folk healing has shaped the frontiers of curanderismo. Spiritual beliefs that are more modern have helped immerse curanderismo into a more cultural and indigenous root based populace.

Scientific knowledge

Due to the scientific discoveries of the 20th and 21st centuries, curanderismo has been exposed to a world in which more than one analysis of an illness exists and more than one possible treatment can be used. The duality of science of curandero beliefs have been intertwined and also coincide and are used as references to one another by many curandera/os.

A curandero is a person who practices the use of curanderismo. He/she is usually a spiritual guide/leader within a community. This person is usually the person sought when someone is sick or experiencing unusual circumstances

There are several similar roles in different Latina/o communities, the most common and widespread are:

1. Shaman:





6. Pharmacist:


Common in Peruvian "curanderismo" ( known as ayahuasca) methods a shaman is similar to a curandero in which they play a role as healer and spiritual leader in their community.


A cura is most typically found in Mexican American and or Mexican folk healing. They are the spiritual and healing leaders in their respective communities.


A yerbero is person who is a specialist in herbs and plants. This person is highly knowledgeable of the uses and remedies that different herbs and plants can offer to patients in need of treatment. They are commonly associated with pharmacist in the western tradition.


A partera is a midwife. She deals with pregnant women and is their primary source of guidance, caretaking, advice, and eventual delivery of the child.


A sobador can be thought of as a sort of massage therapist. These people are trained in healing methods that use rub and massage techniques.


Believe it or not, your local pharmacist plays a very similar role like a yerbero, only they deal with more Western based medication/treatment methods. They are also knowledgeable of alternative medicines, not as extensive as a yerbero.

Many historical beliefs exist and each community may have varied practices, but in general these next beliefs seem to be prevalent in most curanderismo practices.

1.Mal de ojo: "an evil eye", commonly said to be caused by casting negative energy on someone

2.Susto: an altering fright that has caused health implications

3.Empacho: stomach complications

4.Caida de mollera: soft spot on newborn's head caves in

In curanderismo practices, the healers have three states of common beliefs

1. Material level: practice while awake and use tools to heal

2.Spiritual level: practice while a metaphysical state or trance

3. Mental level : practice used channeling energy

The quote below is taken from an article online provided by the Handbook of Texas Online written by Joe S. Graham. It seems to hit what Curanderismo is composed of right on the nose. Very good description.

In general, Curanderismo is a common tradition of healing and analyzing illness in Mexican American and many Latina/o cultures. It is a culturally rich system of illness and healing. Many influences have shaped the system itself and have composed what it is today. Much of the system lies in spirituality and the use of herbal and plant remedies.

"Curanderismo: is the art of folk healing by a curandero , the healer par excellence in the folk medicine qv practiced by Texas Hispanics. Healers can be either male or female and may even specialize in their practice. The three most common types of curanderos are the yerbero (herbalist), the partera (midwife), and the sobador (masseur). Though the curandero has the skill to treat a wide variety of illnesses, he is the only healer in the culture who can treat mal puesto , illnesses caused by witchcraft. He is thought to have been given a don de Dios (a gift from God) to heal the sick, and he learns his healing art through apprenticeship under another curandero or a spiritual manifestation. His chief adversary in the struggle between good and evil is Satan and those who have made secret pacts with him—the brujos or brujas (witches). Along with the treatment of mal puesto, curanderos also treat mal de ojo (the evil eye) and susto (loss of spirit). Typically, the curandero works on three levels, the material, the spiritual, and the mental. He may prescribe a herbal remedy or conduct a religious ritual. Quite often, a practitioner is called upon to treat the physical symptoms that patients believe come from supernatural causes." (Graham 1)

1. Carrasco, Sara M. Campos. “ Mexican-American Folk Medicine: A Descriptive Study of Different Curanderismo Techniques Practiced by Curanderos or Curanderas and Used by Patients in the Laredo, Texas area.” Ph.D dissertation, Texas Womans University, 1984.

2. Flores, Gema U. And Sandoval, Mauricio G. Chamanismo, curanderismo, brujeria en Mexico/compilacion. Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Mexico, 2000. Toluca, Estado de Mexico. Edition 1.

3 Gallardo, Ernesto. “ Curanderas, A Story of Mexican Folklore.” El Chicano.

4. Handbook of Texas Online , s.v. "CURANDERISMO,"http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/CC/sdc1.html (accessed March 22, 2005).

5. Harris, Martin L. “Curanderismo and the DSM-IV: Diagnostic and Treatment Implications for the Mexican American Client”. Julian Somora Research Institute. September 1998.http://www.jsri.msu.edu/RandS/research/ops/oc45abs.html

6. Kiev, Ari. Curanderismo: Mexican American Folk Psychiatry. New York: Free Press, 1972.

7. Torres, Eliseo. The Folk Healer: The Mexican American Tradition of Curanderismo. Kingsville, Texas Nieves Press. 1983.

8. Trotter, Robert T. Curanderismo, Mexican American Folk Healing. Athens, University of Georgia Press. 1981

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