Curanderos and Curanderas Healers of Mexico
By Karen McConnaughey
I went to a curandera…she doesn’t call herself a curandera; others call her that. What she says is she has a God-given talent to heal people. After my experience, I have to agree with her! After returning to Lake Chapala, I looked up information on the Internet about this ancient healing art and ran across a wonderful article in “Wisdom Keepers’ Stories,” which narrated “conversations with curanderos and curanderas or traditional healers from Mexico." I found them fascinating and have interspersed some of their comments here. They will appear in italics.
Curenderos are very religious and very spiritual and believe you have to have God in your heart to be a true healer. I was very moved by the conversations in these stories…I felt it was an eye-opening experience. In fact, I have to say the whole experience of being with someone who feels the power of God in their hands as they do their manipulations and massages was another life-altering moment in Mexico. I hope you enjoy reading about this as much as I enjoyed writing and experiencing it!
My mother and grandmother and great grandmother were all traditional healers. They knew how to work with plants and make special prayers for those who came for help. I learned these things from them. I also learned how to heal people with my hands, using them to massage in a special way.
We arrived right on the dot for our 4:00 appointments, which was amazing when you realize it was rush hour in Guadalajara, it took us a while to find the place and then stumble upon a parking place. Ana hurried us along the broken pavement…she didn’t want us to be even a minute late. Apparently that’s a big no-no with a curandera. It was a non-descript neighborhood in Guadalajara. I don’t know if there’s a word for it in Mexico, but it looked like a lot of row houses connected to one another, run down and dilapidated!
I looked for a sign indicating where we were going; after all, we were here to see a health practitioner, weren’t we? As I was spending my time looking around as well as watching for cracks in the pavement, Ana stopped suddenly, and I ran right into her! She said excitedly, ‘here it is!” We turned left into a small, cluttered courtyard that had certainly seen better days. It couldn’t have been more than eight-ten feet across and was partly being used for laundry with a line of clean, small, white towels hanging from it. The courtyard led into a very dark living room, where a young man checked our names off a list. Since it was bordered by houses on either side, it had no windows, but further back into the house, I saw natural light and later found that it was coming from a skylight in the laundry area. The young man beckoned to us and started walking. We followed him, passing an older man who greeted us with smiles and nods. Passing the laundry room, we ended up at the back of the house in a small bedroom, filled with furniture including a small bed pushed up against the wall. Everything was worn, but clean looking. All three of us, Ana, Ray and I, crowded into the room, and I realized whatever was going to happen, we were all in it together.
We were introduced to the lady in the room. She had a beautiful smile and lovely eyes. I guess I had expected somebody older, and more wizened to be doing this age-old treatment.
You can tell when someone has entered the spiritual heavens and when someone is just full of himself. The spiritual person will be generous and never stingy. Spiritual people smile and laugh all of the time. If a person is somber and shows a face with little emotion, there is no spirit living in their body.
Ana, of course, had to be there because the curandera didn’t speak a word of English. Ray graciously allowed me to go first. Since neither of us knew what to expect, I think he wanted to look over the situation first. Senora directed me to a wooden chair off-center in the room.
Almost all spiritual healers [use] wooden chairs and remove their watches and any [metal] jewelry. It is important to not be near any metal when the spirits take over. You should especially not sit in a metal chair. The spiritual current could shock you.
I sat down and she immediately started working on my scalp, pressing her fingers up, around and down. I started laughing as my shampooed, curled and hair-sprayed hair went in several different directions at the same time. As I laughed, I looked at Ray and said, “Okay, Ray, what goes on in this house, STAYS in this house.”
As the curandera worked on my scalp, she talked to Ana, who relayed the questions to me. “You don’t sleep well, do you?” “No, I haven’t slept well for years.” She pressed her fingers down muscles in my skull that led to my ears. “She’s hard of hearing, and her right ear is worse, isn’t it?” Since Ana knew this to be true, she confirmed it and told me of the conversation. I really was amazed, because we hadn’t told her anything at that point. She then pressed her freshly oiled fingers down my cheeks. At that moment, I wished someone had told me not to bother fixing my hair or putting on make-up…but, live and learn. I couldn’t help laughing all the way through my ‘treatment’ and finally said to Ana, ‘will you please let her know I’m not laughing at her; I am just so overcome and kind of delighted with this entire experience that I can’t help but giggle!” Ana said, ‘she knows,’ but told her all the same, and, thank you very much, called her a ‘witch,’ and laughed. “Hey! Don’t say things like that while she’s working on me!” Both she and Senora laughed.
Anyway…back to my cheeks that she was now pressing on very hard. The right one hurt like heck, and she said the muscles were very tight there. She worked on them to loosen them. I wasn’t laughing at this moment! However, later on, when we were driving home, I did an exercise that I had been given with regard to the jaw bones and muscles inside my mouth in order to loosen them up. The first time I had done the exercise, it was obvious the right one was tighter and when I wedged my thumb into the space, it was smaller than the space on my left side. This time, I put both thumbs in my mouth to press against these spaces and found they were the exact same size now! That amazed me and could only have come about from what the curandera had been doing while she massaged and loosened up those muscles. Even now as I write this, the spaces are still the same size and softness.
After she had worked on my upper body, she had me get up, she removed the chair and got out a very well-worn black and red flannel blanket, which she carefully laid on the floor. I look very confused, so Ana said, ‘she wants you to lie face down on the blanket.’ Okey-dokey…I’m just going with the flow right now. Once I commit to something, I commit to it whole-heartedly and enthusiastically. I do try to make everything I do a positive learning experience and had decided this was going to be no different. There are things in this world that I have no experience with and who knows what works and what doesn’t. If the power of belief was going to heal me, I was going to BELIEVE!
People think twice before they come to me. They really have to want to get better if they submit themselves to what I might tell them to do.
I am happy that I can help other people. It is a good thing that God lets these strange ideas get into my head. It helps the people.
I got down on the floor, lying facedown as she continued to massage my bones. In fact, if you want to compare this experience with something you’re familiar with, it’s what I might consider an old-fashioned chiropractor that performs various manipulations down your spine while massaging. When she was working on my knees, Ana told me she said, ‘Her right knee is scary!” It’s true…I had been diagnosed in my 20s with chondromalacia patella (disintegration of the cartilage beneath my kneecap), and at 63, it’s probably quite bad since I haven’t done the prescribed exercises in a long, long time!
I learned these things from my Grandfather. He was a wood carver and he never did anything unless he felt the hand of God on his hands. He used to say that he put his hands inside God’s hands as if he were putting on a glove. Those hands could make beautiful things and they could heal the people if he touched them. He taught me to do the same thing. Every time I carve or make a prayer or help someone who is sick, I close my eyes and ask God to make my hands worthy and ready. I then feel my hands slipping into his gloves. I know from the bottom of my heart that these are the same gloves that my grandfather wore. No one else can see them, but I know when they are on me. They make my fingertips feel tingly like little thorns are sticking into me. Sometimes it feels like electricity is shooting out of my fingertips. It’s hard to explain how amazing those gloves make me feel.
At one time, her son came in…by the way, I am just assuming the young man was her son and the older man, her husband…and while she pressed on my thigh (with her foot as I saw later when she worked on Ray), her son manipulated my knee in a gentle circle. It was much the way my Osteopathic father did it when he was working on a blockage in my lower legs that was causing me a lot of pain when I was much younger.
When I turned on my right side, for the first time, I noticed a small, brown, short-haired dog lying under the edge of the bed with his back toward me. He hadn’t moved the whole time we were there, and, so, I was startled to see him. Ana asked about the dog, and Senora said, “He stays there all day during all of my appointments and doesn’t move. He is soaking up all the negative energy from all the people who come to see me every day. After my last appointment, he leaves the house and goes out and throws up!”
Omigosh…I really felt amazement at this statement, and it was interesting to me that what I saw when I arrived…a small, dingy house…had become a healing place during the time I was there. It was a complete and total transformation in my mind!
The rarest healers are spiritualist healers who…sometimes create prayer chains, praying and working with other healers who use the same spirit guide. Some of these healers become weakened by their long and concentrated efforts of healing and praying. At times, the healing of a patient leaves them with the physical symptoms of the illness cured. They are very sensitive and vulnerable healers.
When she finished with my hips and legs, she then mentioned that my bladder had slipped and she was going to ‘put it back in place.’ Okay… Hmmmmm…that should be interesting with Ray in the room. But what the heck???? She did it; I went through it with little embarrassment, but, obviously, there would be no way for me to know whether my bladder is back in place or not…however, I have to say I haven’t noticed anything different since my visit with regard to that function!
Her husband and son came over and helped me to my feet and sat me in the chair again, because “I might be light-headed.” She was right; I was glad to have the help. She worked on my neck and scalp a little bit more, and then pronounced I was through. As I was sitting in the chair a second time, I had noticed her husband seemed to be preparing a poultice of some kind. The liquid was the color of honey and was just as thick. I found out later that that was exactly what it was.
While the curandera worked on Ray, her son applied the poultice to my “scary” right knee and carefully wrapped a flexible bandage around it to hold it in place. Another was prepared and placed in a plastic bag for me to take home. She demonstrated how it was to be placed around my neck. I will admit that I haven’t followed this routine very well… the honey was sticky, and she wanted me to put the ‘knee’ poultice on my back for a couple of hours every night. The dogs were really loving me a lot during this time!
As we paid our fee of $250 pesos each, I felt so good that I thought it would have been cheap at twice the cost.
I really did feel different and better. I’m not sure Ray did. Upon leaving the house, we saw several people lined up waiting for their time with the curandera as her son checked off names. It was a very interesting experience, and I’m sure I will go back. I liked some of the things she did very much, even though there were a few that were painful. I felt more in tune with my own body, and what was hurting and why.
I really felt I had been through a beautiful experience and I loved what Anna Maria says below “Sickness makes us stop and provides a time to change our course of action. Sickness may also be a teaching, showing us the suffering of others and helping us become more compassionate.”
I am blind, but my faith sees everything. I know why you are here and that you were coming. These things were shown to me. The answer to your question is yes. Yes, all things bathed in the light of the Blessed Mother bring music to your soul. That is the secret to healing. I know you dreamed of the Blessed Mother of Guadalupe. She is very much alive throughout the world, but especially here. Listen to what she asks you to do. Find what she says is out there to be found. She is a spirit, a place, a power, a blessing, a love, and a channel to God. All of these things I say are true. And they are more than true. They are words that carry a light that can be seen if your ears give way to your heart. Listen with your heart.
My work is to heal the sick. I do so by telling them the truth as it is revealed to me. Sickness is brought about for different reasons. Sometimes we neglect what is important and we must be reminded to stop and reassess our lives. Sickness makes us stop and provides a time to change our course of action. Sickness may also be a teaching, showing us the suffering of others and helping us become more compassionate. Sickness has many faces, many lessons, and provides readily available wisdom for those who open themselves to its sacred place in our lives.
I am very pleased that I allowed myself be very open to this experience. I read recently that being open “involves active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity.” I had always thought of myself as more conventional and traditional in my outlook and behavior. I think I have always felt comfortable with familiar routines. All I can say about this now is that ever since I said, ‘yes’ about coming to Mexico, my old habits and thoughts seem to have melted away. I have become a new person, who can’t wait to try out new experiences.
I love the fact that I trust my instincts more and I’m keeping an open mind which can be essential for assimilating into a new culture. It’s an exciting journey for me, and one that I want to continue for a long time.
If you’re open to new experiences and seeing new cultures, please join us for a Focus on Mexico 8-Day Educational tour . You really will learn enough to make the decision, “Is Mexico right for me?” It may be the best thing you ever do for yourself!
Karen McConnaughey: Operations Manager for FocusOnMexico .
Focus On Mexico offers 8-Day Educational Programs to Ajijic and Lake Chapala, Mexico (2nd Best Climate in the World). Join us on a Focus program and learn why thousands of Americans and Canadians chose to retire in Lake Chapala.
Our programs offer the perfect balance; a wonderful vacation and an insightful, educational experience. Our expert speakers cover all topics: Health Care, Real Estate, Legal System, Immigration, Bringing Pets, Cost of Living, US Taxes for Americans, Non-Residency for Canadians, Living on the Lakeside, Investing in Mexico, Mexican Economy and much more...
You’ll get everything you need to help you decide if Lake Chapala, Mexico is the place for you, plus have a lot of fun doing it. Retiring in Mexico couldn't be better.