Teaching Traditional Curanderismo Medicine Through a Free Online Course: UNM Newsroom

Even though my mother was not a curandera – or a traditional healer – she should have been. Growing up on a rural farm far from populated areas made health care harder to come by. “Don’t you dare get sick,” she told me and my siblings. “And if you do, I’ll be your doctor.”

There was a lot of truth in those words – she kept her family healthy through the use of herbal medicines and rituals she learned from my grandmother, and the knowledge passed down from generation to generation by mouth by ear from mother to daughter.

“I learned healing rituals from your ancestors and they work,” she said, referring to healings for evil of ojo (evil eye), susto (fright), caida ofmolera (fallen fontanel) and crystal clear (spiritual purifications). She gave me a similar answer regarding the use of herbal remedies for healing such as romero (Rosemary), rough (rue), albahaca (basil), Sabila (aloe vera) and yerbabuena (mint).

Due to my mother’s knowledge and use of traditional medicine on us as children, I decided this would be something I would like to learn more about, so in college I traveled with my mentor and college professor, Dr. Stanley Bittinger, to the dusty town of Espinazo, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, and met a curandero, Cresencio Alvarado, known as Chenchito, and I started as an apprentice healer.

Chenchito, learned from his mother who was an apprentice of Mexico’s famous healer, Niño Fidencio, nicknamed “the curandero of curanderos“in the early 1900s – he died in 1938. Chenchito taught me the many rituals and herbal medicines used by my mother, and I learned from him continuously for over 30 years until his death in 2018. He encouraged me to write about Curanderismothe art of traditional Mexican medicine and to teach it at the university level.

Currently, I teach two online courses at the University of New Mexico. Curanderismo: Traditional Medicine of Mexico and the Southwest is taught in the fall, and the spring semester focuses on Curanderismo: world perspectives of traditional medicine. Every July, I offer a two-week face-to-face course on Curanderismo: traditional medicine without borders. This year, I’m offering four free online short courses, five weeks each, via coursera.org:

  1. Curanderismo: Traditional Medicine using Plants with modules for preparing vegetable tinctures, microdosing, juicing, vegetable oils, etc.
  2. Curanderismo: Traditional Body Healing with demonstrations ofempacho (intestinal blockage), coated (alignments of shawls), suction cups (firewall) and sobadas (traditional massage).
  3. Curanderismo: traditional healing of mind, energy and spirit which shows how to do crystal clear (spiritual/energetic body cleansing), temazcals (Mexican sweat lodges), Dia de losDeaths (healing grief through the Day of the Dead), and sonido and music therapy (healing with sound and music).
  4. Curanderismo: Global and Cultural Influences of Tradition healing from Uganda and Gabonese Africa, Afro-Latino rituals from Cuba and Puerto Rico, healing with sacred tobacco from Peru, and acupuncture and abdominal massage from the Mayan culture.

A number of professors have expressed interest in adding these free courses on coursera.org to their curriculum. Some have expressed interest in receiving partial scholarships to attend the July 8-19 two-week face-to-face course at the University of New Mexico campus to learn from a number of curanderos/ aces from Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and Ecuador. .

For more information, contact Cheo Torres by email cheo@unm.edu or 505-277-0952.