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Folk-healing exhibit opens

A woman dressed in white, wearing a crimson sash and headband, waved a goblet of billowing incense around a participant. The woman chanted in Spanish and waved the perfumed smoke around the man — spiritually cleansing his constitution of any negative energies — before trumpeting into a conch shell to conclude the blessing ceremony.

Dozens of people lined up Saturday afternoon outside the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology to experience such rituals, which are all examples of curanderismo. A type of holistic folk healing, curanderismo is the subject of a newly curated exhibition in Maxwell Museum. The exhibit officially opened its doors last weekend.

The exhibit, which is the first of its kind in the United States, was proposed in part by Eliseo Torres, UNM’s associate vice president for Student Affairs. Torres teaches an annual class on the topic of curanderismo, titled “Traditional Medicine without Borders: Curanderismo in the Southwest and Mexico,” which is being offered for the thirteenth year at UNM this summer semester.

Torres said the course has, over the years, grown from 30 students to more than 200.

“I don’t know how people find out about it, but the word spreads,” Torres said.

The class, which runs from July 15 to 26, brings in guest healers from the United States, Mexico, and Uganda. The curriculum covers the history of curanderismo, the contemporary uses of homeopathy, and includes hands-on elements where students practice remedial methodology.

“There’s also readings and papers,” Torres said with a laugh. “So it is a class; they are getting credit, so they do have to work for it.”

The opening of the curanderismo exhibit was also marked with several guest presentations focused on herbal remedies and natural foods. One presenter, Sophia Rose, discussed the uses of several weeds, such as dandelions and purslane, in both kitchen recipes and in natural remedies. Another speaker, Tomas Enos, talked about the positive properties of natural additives in skin-care products.

Mary Beth Hermans, the Maxwell Museum’s program manager, said people who are looking for alternatives to traditional Western medicine would find much to engage with at the exhibit.

“One of the projects we’re doing is asking the people who are here to share the remedies that they know, that they grew up with,” Hermans said. “So we’re working on an educational project to gather more information about traditional healing.”

Curanderismo: Healing and Ritual
Runs until September 28
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.,
Tuesday through Saturday
Maxwell Museum of Anthropology

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