Border Medicine

A Transcultural History of Mexican American Curanderismo

Brett Hendrickson

NYU Press (publisher)

Mexican
American folk and religious healing, often referred to as curanderismo, has been a vital part of life in the Mexico-U.S.
border region for centuries. A hybrid tradition made up primarily of indigenous
and Iberian Catholic pharmacopeias, rituals, and notions of the self, curanderismo treats the sick person with
a variety of healing modalities including herbal remedies, intercessory prayer,
body massage, and energy manipulation. Curanderos,
“healers,” embrace a holistic understanding of the patient, including body,
soul, and community.

 
Border Medicine examines the ongoing
evolution of Mexican American religious healing from the end of the nineteenth
century to the present. Illuminating the ways in which curanderismo has had an impact not only on the health and culture
of the borderlands but also far beyond, the book tracks its expansion from Mexican
American communities to Anglo and multiethnic contexts. While many healers treat Mexican and Mexican
American clientele, a significant number of curanderos
have worked with patients from other ethnic groups as well, especially those
involved in North American metaphysical religions like spiritualism, mesmerism,
New Thought, New Age, and energy-based alternative medicines. Hendrickson
explores this point of contact as an experience of transcultural exchange.

 
Drawing
on historical archives, colonial-era medical texts and accounts, early
ethnographies of the region, newspaper articles, memoirs, and contemporary
healing guidebooks as well as interviews with contemporary healers, Border Medicine demonstrates the notable
and ongoing influence of Mexican Americans on cultural and religious practices
in the United States, especially in the American West.

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