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.
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.
A powerful and beautifully written ethno-historical study of curanderismo in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Brett Hendrickson deftly refuses to romanticize curanderos, their healing practices, or the men and women who go to them for help and guidance. He situates the complex religious and cultural realities of the historic and contemporary American Southwest, and shows how Mexican American lived borderlands religion fits within American religious history. Hendricksons portrayal of the rich and complex hybrid practice of Mexican American religious healing sets the new standard for how we will view healing, religious exchange, and hybridization among the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and beyond.
Kristy Nabhan-Warren,author of The Virgin of El Barrio: Marian Apparitions, Catholic Evangelizing, and Mexican America
Overall, Hendrickson offers a good general introduction geared to readers completely unfamiliar with this topic.
Oral History Review
The bookpresents substantial historiographical analysis and epistemic reasoning on Mexican American curanderismo (traditional healing) and is particularly attractive for readers since the key arguments draw heavily from the authors first-hand knowledge.
Provides an important approach to the study of religions and healing, offering a history of Mexican American healing in conversation with some Anglo `new age religious healing. Difficult, yes, but splendidly handled by this author. Hendrickson advances discussions of religions, medicines, and healing, looking at these topics with new eyes; the book itself a conversation starter that I highly recommend.
Stephanie Mitchem,University of South Carolina