Becoming a Curandero Individuals

Become curanderos through apprenticeships, typically with family members. Successful curanderos find that their prac- tices evolve gradually from part-time work, paid primarily in goods and services, to more or less full-time cash businesses.

The story of Gregorita Rodriguez, a curandera (female curandero) living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who specializes in massage treatments, illustrates this process:

Gregorita traces her own career as a curandera back to her grandmother, Juliana Montoya, who taught Gregorita’s aunt, Valentina Romero, the art of curanderismo. When any of Gregorita’s seventeen children became ill, she took them to her Aunt Valentina for treatment. La curandera taught Gregorita, encouraging her by asking, “Why don’t you learn? Look, touch here.” Using her children’s bellies as a classroom, Gregorita felt the different abdominal disorders and learned how to manipulate the intestines to relieve the ailments.

Another of her patients during this learning period was her husband. Responding to his complaints, Gregorita said, “Maybe I can do something for you.” Mr. Rodriguez replied, “No, no, no! You are not going to boss me!” So, off he went to see Aunt Valentina, who was elsewhere delivering a baby. Finally, Gregorita got her chance. Her husband was desperate and allowed her to learn, all the time howling about how much she was hurting him. “Cranky,” she described him, “especially when I felt a big ball in his stomach and had to work very hard. Slow, slow, I fixed him and he got better. When he went to my aunt, she said he was okay now. After that I treated my husband and one of my sisters and then her family. That’s the way it started”. After this incident, others began coming to Gregorita for treatment, and she soon found herself accepted as a curandero.

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