Although my mother wasn’t a curandera — or traditional healer — she should have been one. Growing up on a rural farm away from populated areas made healthcare harder to come by. “Don’t you dare get sick,” she would say to me and my siblings. “And if you do, I will be your doctor.”  

There was a lot of truth in these words—she kept her family healthy through the usage of medicinal plants and rituals that she had learned from my grandmother, and the knowledge passed down for generations by word of mouth from mother to daughter.  

“I learned the healing rituals from your ancestors and they work,” she said referring to healings for mal de ojo (evil eye), susto (fright), caida demollera (fallen fontanelle) and limpias (spiritual cleansings). She gave me a similar response with regard to using medicinal plant for healing such as romero (rosemary), ruda (rue), albahaca (basil), sabila (aloe vera), and yerbabuena (mint).

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

Chenchito, learned from his mother who was an apprentice of the famous healer of Mexico, Niño Fidencio, referred to as “the curandero of curanderos” in the early 1900s—he died in 1938. Chenchito taught me about the many rituals and medicinal plants used by my mother, and I learned from him continually for more than 30 years until his death in 2018.  He encouraged me to write about Curanderismo, the art of Mexican traditional medicine and to teach it at the university level.  

Currently I teach two University of New Mexico online classes. Curanderismo: Traditional Medicine of Mexico and the Southwest is taught in the fall, and the spring semester concentrates on Curanderismo: Global Perspectives of Traditional Medicine. Each July I offer a two-week face-to-face class on Curanderismo: Traditional Medicine without Borders. This year I am offering four free online short courses, five weeks each, through

  1. Curanderismo: Traditional Healing using Plants with modules on how to prepare plant tinctures, microdosages, juice therapy, herbal oils, etc.
  2. Curanderismo: Traditional Healing of the Body with demonstrations ofempacho (intestinal blockage), manteadas (shawl alignments), ventosas (fire cupping) and sobadas (traditional massages).
  3. Curanderismo: Tradtional Healing of the Mind, Energy, and Spirit that shows how to perform limpias (spiritual/energetic body cleansings), temazcals (Mexican sweatlodges), Dia de losMuertos (healting grief through Day of the Dead), and sonido y musica terapia (healing with sound and music).
  4. Curanderismo: Global and Cultural Influences of Traditional healing from Uganda and Gabon 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 faculty have been interested in supplementing these free courses into their curriculum. Some expressed an interest in receiving partial student scholarships to attend the two-week face-to-face class on July 8-19 on The University of New Mexico campus to learn from a number of curanderos/as from Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and Ecuador.  

For information, contact Cheo Torres via email or 505-277-0952.