I grew up in a multigenerational home being primarily raised by my abuelos and mama. Looking back now I see that the times that I felt most alive had to do with nature and the supernatural- being in the garden with my abuelos, admiring my abuelas altar, filled with Virgin Mary statues of all forms and sizes, and listening to my mother share stories related to mysticism and metaphysical concepts through her tarot cards.
Many years would pass before I began to remember and acknowledge the richness of ancestral medicine that I grew up immersed in. This was mainly because these folk medicine practices were sprinkled within the mundane of everyday life. We did not label them as Curanderismo or anything out of the ordinary, it was just what the abuelitas did to heal and protect us and I happened to have the high honor of experiencing the gift of this generational medicine.
Interestingly, it was not until after I initiated my training in western herbalism that the depth of these ancestral medicine practices really began to flower in my psyche in a way that inspired me to revisit my lived experience and learn more.
Reminiscing on and retracing my upbringing there’s so much I had forgotten. However, the more I practice Curanderismo as an earth based healing practitioner in my own right, the more
I re-member the pieces of myself that were lost in my attempt to assimilate as an immigrant child and navigate my ethnic identity as a white-presenting Latina and the complexities and nuances that entailed.
Sana, sana, colita de rana; si no sana hoy, sanaras mañana
One of my earliest memories is of being a toddler and my abuela at my bedside, I must have been sick, and her singing- “sana sana colita de rana,” (translation: heal, heal, little frog's tail) as she made the sign of the cross on my forehead- a song spell that magically took the pain away. As it turns out, this common Spanish household children’s song had its roots in Villaviciosa, Asturias. Here’s a super cute spoof about Sana Sana Colita de Rana by TheCrazyGorilla that sheds some light on how deep-rooted this song, and its healing powers, are in Hispanic culture. 😁
I remember my great-grandmother, my abuela Tota, in Uruguay, treating us for empacho (indigestion) by “tirar el cuerito”, a special massage that involves stretching the skin on ones back to relieve indigestion. My grandmother would treat a stye with a warm golden ring. Itchy, swollen eyes were treated with slightly cooled black tea bags. Ventosas (cupping) was used for muscle pain. A red string on the forehead to relieve hiccups.
Medicinal plants were used for everything, from restlessness to protection. A little cinnamon in my shoe or garlic in my purse for protection, tilo (Tilia platyphyllos) for sleeplessness, boldo (Peumus boldus) to support digestion.
As a young woman I suffered from chronic cystitis and my tia prepared a corn silk infusion for pain. As a love struck young woman facing uncertainty and anxiety, I was taken to the community curandero for divination and ritual preparations. As a young mother myself, with an asthmatic child, the only sustainable relief we were able to find was through a medicine man in Montevideo that not only prescribed plant infusions and root decoctions to treat her inflamed lungs but also "saw" the root cause of her ailment so that we could address it.
These are some examples of traditional medicine carried forward by my ancestors.
Looking back, it’s clear to see that plant and Spirit allies have been present, supporting and guiding me, all along. I feel honored and blessed to be able to share this earth based ancestral medicine with those seeking wellness through Nature.
I believe that the ancient ways are the way of the future. They were attempted to be erased by modernity and coloniality but they can be called back and centered by reclaiming your sovereignty, by decolonizing wellness and self-care. Using traditional ancestral medicine to heal yourself, your family, and your community is empowering and a human right for all.
In my next blog post I will discuss different branched of Curanderismo and the one I identify with the most.