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Curanderos and Shamans in the Southwest

by Eliseo “Cheo” Torres

Who is a curandero?
Before discussing Cabeza de Vaca’s role as a Hispanic curandero, it should first be understood who is a curandero. He or she is a folk healer who heals in the material level with herbs, amulets and/or in the spiritual level using religion, God, saints, prayers and petitions to heal a patient. The word curandero comes from the word ‘curar,’ which means to heal. Curanderos practice the art of folk healing using religion and the supernatural. The belief that all healing comes from God makes it religious as does the concept that a curandero can only bring God’s will. The belief that certain rituals and practices can affect a certain outcome makes it supernatural. A person can receive a God-given gift or don to become a curandero or the gift can be accomplished through an apprenticeship. Curanderos were considered folk saints recognized by the common people but not accepted nor canonized by the Catholic Church. Cabeza de Vaca was considered a folk saint by the Indians since they considered him and his companions truly children of the sun, a belief that none could die while we remained among them.

Read the original article at: UNM Today

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