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Native Healers, Curanderas, and Shamans

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  • Maria Benina Salas (1880 - 1968)
    Nina Salas was a well loved grandmother. She was warm and friendly. When Gene was a boy she use to send him to the corner store to buy her tobacco. He also use to help her pick the herbs from her garde...

A curandero (Spanish: [ku%C9%BEan%CB%88de%C9%BEo], healer; f. curandera) or curandeiro (Portuguese: [ku%C9%BE%C9%90%CC%83%CB%88dej%C9%BEu], f. curandeira) is a traditional native healer, shaman or witch doctor found in Latin America, the United States and Southern Europe. The curandero's life is dedicate to the administration of remedies for mental, emotional, physical and spiritual illnesses. The role of a curandero can also incorporate the roles of psychiatrist along with that of doctor and healer. Some curanderos, such as Don Pedrito, the Healer of Los Olmos, make use of simple herbs, waters, and even mud to effect their cures. Others add Catholic elements, such as holy water and pictures of saints. The use of Roman Catholic prayers and other borrowings and lendings are often found alongside native religious elements. Many curanderos emphasize their native spirituality in healing while being practicing Roman Catholics.

Curanderos are often respected members of the community. Believers consider their powers to be supernatural and think that that many illnesses are caused by lost malevolent spirits, a lesson from God, or a curse.