CURANDERISMO & THE MAGIC OF HEALING

Los Angeles is a diverse city, everyone knows. It’s also a very big city. Almost so big, discovering it seems like an endless journey.

In Central Los Angeles, near Echo Park and Silver Lake, the streets are lined and stacked with all sorts of shops. Some sell clothes, some sell toys, others sell insurance or provide legal services. In between these shops, adorned with paintings of spirits and gods, are botanicas. In fact, botanicas exist in most Mexican-American communities in the US. In botanicas one will find amulets, talismans, religious candles, jewelry, incense and many other magical products for sale. Within these shops, one may also find a curandero (male) or curandera (female).

In simple terms, curanderos are traditional healers who provide cures for both mental and physical ailments. The art of healing performed by a curandero is called curanderismo. The curandero works on three levels, the material, the spiritual, and the mental. The curanderismo traditional healing system includes various techniques such as prayer, manipulation of body parts, herbal medicine, rituals, spiritualism, massage, and psychic healing (“Curanderismo”, 2008). It is believed that the curandero receives the ability to heal as a divine gift from God. All curanderos work through this divine energy.

“Healers may differ in technique but the basic foundation of curanderismo – a holistic approach to the world and the body, and its purpose – to reconstruct the individual as a whole being and reintegrate them into their community, remains constant” (Portilla, n.d.).

In the Mexican world- view, the body, the mind, and the spirit are connected and the belief is that there must be a balance within the body to have good health. The aim is not simply to heal physically, but also spiritually. Various remedies, either spiritual or as an herbal supplement, may be offered as treatments.

The practice is widely noted to combine aspects of both indigenous Mexican and Spanish healing practices. “The healing rituals of the curanderos illustrate close linkages between the knowledge of herbs and the Catholic belief system” (Hurlong, 2000).  Curanderismo developed from native healers choosing certain elements from Spanish medicine to combine with elements of indigenous healing.

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CURANDERISMO & THE MAGIC OF HEALING

WHY IS IT OKAY FOR COLIN KAEPERNICK TO KNEEL DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM?

colin-kaepernick-time-coverWeeks ago, Colin Kaepernick was seen sitting down as the US National Anthem played at a preseason NFL football game. Seconds later, Twitter went into a frenzy. A debate revolving around topics of race and patriotism took over virtually all forms of mass media. Some people came out in support and solidarity and others went as far as to burn their Kaepernick jerseys. Everyone had an opinion. But, what was Kaepernick’s?

Kaepernick stated that he simply does not want to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and other people of color. This makes complete and total sense. After all, the third stanza of the Star Spangled Banner does, in fact, glorify the killing of slaves.

“No refuge could save—the hireling & slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free & the home of the brave.”

From this viewpoint, it would be absurd if Colin Kaepernick didn’t kneel during the national anthem. After all, he is an African American and we all already know what that means in the historical context of the United States.

In the weeks since, Kaepernick’s protest has been adapted and adopted by numerous athletes, both professional and not. The protests have spread beyond the NFL to the WNBA and even to high schools and colleges all across the US. Kaepernick taking a stand comes on the heels of racial tension in the United States as well as the Black Lives Matter movement. However, this post will be discussing neither.

Instead, let’s talk about the act of protest.

The reasons for Kaepernick’s protest are being hotly debated in almost all spheres of mass media. Whether or not one agrees with Kaepernick’s cause, one must acknowledge that he has every right to stand up, or in this case kneel, for what he bel5cc47069a569bc93f100727c654c064eieves in.

The U.S. Constitution, in its very first amendment, grants Americans the right to peacefully protest and petition the government. Colin Kaepernick is an American. Colin Kaepernick has decided to exercise this right. He has received violent opposition for doing so. He has become an enemy to many Americans. But, is protesting governments not the ultimate American thing to do? Is being at the forefront of social change and improvements not an American thing to do? Furthermore, isn’t telling people to shut-up, sit down, and submit to the state the ultimate anti-American, anti-democracy, anti-justice, anti-equality thing to do?

What is the real issue behind the backlash Kaepernick received?

Is it because we have glorified and romanticized the American flag and national anthem to the point of it becoming almost a religious symbol? Or, is it the way Kaepernick has protested? That can hardly be the case, since his protest has been a peaceful one. Is it because he’s a black man? When Donald Trump says America is losing or that America is not great anymore, he becomes the Republican nominee for President of the United States. Why the double-standard? Are only white, rich, male Americans “American-enough” to express any distaste with our country?

These are all, merely rhetorical questions, of course.

But, as far as the question of WHY Colin Kaepernick is justified in his protest, it’s simple, because, it is his national anthem, his flag, and his country, too.

WHY IS IT OKAY FOR COLIN KAEPERNICK TO KNEEL DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM?

Tribal Peoples, Globalization, and the Right to Life

The Yanomami, also referred to as the Yanomamo or Yanomam, are a

group of indigenous people living in the rainforests and mountains of Northern

Brazil and Southern Venezuela. They are the largest relatively isolated tribe in

existence today, with a population of about 32,000. They occupy the largest

forested territory in the world out of all indigenous groups. The Yanomami are an

interesting group with a rich culture. Unfortunately, the forces of globalization

threaten their existence and their way of life.

The Yanomami live in “Shobonas” or communal houses described as

being large and circular (Chagnon, 2012). The central area is used for activities

such as rituals, feasts, and games. Among the Yanomami, tasks are dived

between the sexes. The men hunt (using curare to poison their weapons) and the

women tend gardens (Chagnon, 2012). Meat only makes about 10% of the

Yanomami diet, while crops grown in the gardens make up about 80%. Both men

and women fish. The most prized food for the Yanomami is wild honey. The

Yanomami also have huge botanical knowledge and immerse heavily in

shamanism. They believe in equality among people and have no official “chiefs.”

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The Yanomami first came into sustained contact with outsiders in the

1940s (“The Yanomami” 2015). At that time, the Brazilian government had sent

teams to delimit the frontier with Venezuela. However, soon after that, the

government’s Indian Protection Service and religious missionary groups

established themselves there, in Yanomami territory. This influx of foreigners,

unsurprisingly, led to outbreaks of measles and the flu. Having never had contact

with these diseases, the Yanomami immune system had not built up protection.

Sadly, many Yanomami died.

In the 1970s, the military government of Brazil decided to build a road

through the Amazon. Out of nowhere, with no warning, bulldozers drove through

the Yanomami community of Opiktheri (“The Yanomami” 2015). The road

brought a number of problems to the Yanomami, including but not limited to:

diseases, deforestation, and alcohol. In fact, two villages were entirely wiped out

from diseases brought over through this road (“Gold Rush” 2013). Today, the

road is still causing harm to the Yanomami. Cattle ranchers and colonists use it

as an access point to invade and deforest the Yanomami territories.

The 1980s brought with them a new set of terror for the Yanomami.

40,000 Brazilian gold-miners invaded their land (“Gold Rush” 2013) in an event

that has been described as genocide. The miners shot the Yanomami, destroyed

many villages, and exposed them to all kinds of diseases. As mentioned before,

the Yanomami had no immunity to foreign diseases. Due to all these factors,

about 20% of Yanomamo died in just 7 years (“The Yanomami” 2015). Following

these events, in 1992 Yanomami land was finally demarcated and miners were

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expelled. However, the days of murder and invasion were not over. In 1993, a

group of miners entered the village of Haximu and murdered 16 Yanomami,

including a baby (“Gold Rush” 2013). Even though, the five miners were found

guilty of genocide by the Brazilian court, only two are serving sentences.

Furthermore, the gold mining invasion continues. The situation is dire as the

Yanomami have had their lives and culture be attacked for many years.

Authorities have done little to help.

Over 1,000 gold miners are working on Yanomami land, all the while

transmitting deadly diseases like malaria and polluting the rivers and forests with

mercury (“The Yanomami” 2015). Similar to other indigenous populations, the

Yanomami are also facing a threat from cattle ranchers who are invading and

deforesting their lands. Currently, Yanomami health is in bad shape – they are

suffering. Critical care is not reaching them, especially in Venezuela (“The

Yanomami” 2015). The Brazilian government has taken over health care but

medicine and equipment doesn’t make it to the communities, leaving indigenous

people, including the Yanomami, dying.

The biggest problem of all is that Indians in Brazil still do not have proper

ownership over their lands. The government has failed in recognizing tribal land

ownership (despite having signed the International Law ILO Convention 169)

guaranteeing it (“The Yanomami” 2015). Many people within the Brazilian

establishment would like to use the Yanomami land for their own selfish gains –

such as mining, ranching, and colonization. In fact, the Brazilian government has

built barracks in the Yanomami lands (“The Yanomami” 2015). Obviously, this

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has increased tensions and brought in a new set of issues for the Yanomami.

There are reports of soldiers prostituting Yanomami women, some of whom

having been infected with sexually transmitted diseases (“The Yanomami” 2015).

The Yanomami are currently facing many issues, all of which are

byproducts of globalization. Miners, cattle ranchers, and even the government,

are invading Yanomami lands, killing them off, and using the tribal territories for

their own selfish reasons. The Yanomami have not even properly been consulted

about their views on mining. Davi Kopenawa, a Yanomami shaman, believes

mining will destroy their nature (which is sadly, very true). “It will kill us.” he says

(“Davi” 2009). The Yanomami, much like other indigenous peoples, have a

strong tie to their lands. “Our land has to be respected. Our land is our heritage,

a heritage which protects us” (“Davi” 2009). Sadly, that protection is very much

needed as the very existence of the Yanomami people is under attack.

Even while facing all these of nightmares, the Yanomami have not given

up. In both Brazil and Venezuela they have established organizations, “Hutukara”

and “Horonami,” respectively. The purpose of these organizations is to increase

awareness among the Yanomami to their rights. Many members of the tribe

aren’t even aware that they have rights. The organizations aim to teach them

their rights with hopes of salvaging their future.

Reading and writing about yet another group of people who are exposed

to all kinds of human rights violations is simply, heartbreaking. These are people

who have for centuries created and established societies and rich cultures. Their

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way of life and their very existences are under attack – for what? The answer is:

for profit. The sad reality of our world is that gaining wealth is often put before

human rights. The Yanomami and thousands of other indigenous groups are

treated incredibly unfairly. We all have a duty to call on the Brazilian or

Venezuelan government to create laws and policies that will keep the Yanomami

from being exploited or pushed off their lands. As human beings we have a duty

to be compassionate towards each other. We have a duty to speak out against

any and all human rights violations. It is easier now than ever before and if

enough of us get on board, we may be able to make a real change in the lives of

the Yanomami and other indigenous populations.

 


Chagnon, N. (2013). Yanomamo (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage

Learning.

Davi Kopenawa – Yanomami. (2009, April 1). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

Gold Rush:The Yanomami Massacre. (2013, January 4). Retrieved December 1,

2015, from https://dogmaandgeopolitics.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/gold-
rushthe-yanomami-massacre/

The Yanomami. (2015). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

http://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/yanomami

Tribal Peoples, Globalization, and the Right to Life

Jane Goodall – The Ultimate Public Intellectual

Anthropologist, ethologist, primatologist, UN Messenger of Peace, Jane Goodall seems to embody the very epitome of a “public intellectual.”

jane_goodall_2015According to Stephen Mack, from his blog “The Decline of Public Intellectuals?” public intellectuals are a “special class of academics and philosophically oriented writers who go outside their own disciplines to comment on social and political issues” (Mack 2007).

An author, an activist, the world’s leading expert on chimpanzees, Jane Goodall fits right into this category. Through her work, she has taught the word about what it means to be a primate and what it means to be human. Her work on chimpanzees has blurred the lines between academia and the public. Her books, My Life with the Chimpanzees, In the Shadow of Man, and Through a Window make her work in the wild with primates accessible to the average person. Rooted in fieldwork and anthropological methods, her books, nevertheless, read like novels. Through a Window challenges and questions all previously held beliefs about our closest biological “cousins”, the chimpanzees.

This is what makes Jane Goodall the ideal public intellectual. She is a renowned scholar who also reaches the general public. She was a pioneer in her field. She took “participant-observation” to a whole new level and connected with her chimpanzee subjects in a way no one else had done before her. She spent thirty years in Gombe National Park in Tanzania, where she observed and studied the daily lives of chimpanzees. However, she did it in her own way. She gave the chimpanzees names, a technique still widely criticized today. Goodall described the interactions between the chimps, their emotions, and even their personalities. She discovered that chimpanzees also build and use tools, in their own way. She observed violence, loss, depression, rivalry, revenge, etc. in chimpanzee society. Her work raises the question of what really is “human” or “human-ness.”

As a thinker, Goodall is very much emotionally invested in her work. When studying chimpanzees, she connected with them on a level that was real. For this, she was criticized heavily by her peers. However, it is this same passion and emotional commitment that has propelled Goodall into the sphere of being not only one of the best known primatologists of all time, but also a well-respected member of our world community. People listen to her. She is successful at engaging all members of society.

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It is also this same passion and emotional investment that makes Goodall the successful activist that she is. She has brought attention to animal rights and environmental rights through the work she has conducted in the field.

She has taken her scholarly work and applied it to real-world problems, such as deforestation and poaching, as a passionate activist. Through the Jane Goodall Institute, she has worked to protect chimpanzees and their natural habitats. She has devoted her life to fighting for animal rights and environmental rights. Her books are not only entertaining reads but also educate the reader about primates, their environments, and their rights. Goodall’s work has even transcended into children’s books.

Going beyond primatology and anthropology, Goodall also engages in matters of public interest. Recently, Goodall commented on presidential candidate on Donald Trump. “In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals,” Goodall told The Atlantic. She then went on to explain that chimpanzees also put on spectacular, vigorous displays in order to assert their dominance and to rise in hierarchy. Regardless of content, Goodall’s comments on Trump are pertinent. Numerous decades later, Jane Goodall is still relevant. She is newsworthy. She is established, respected, and revered within the academic community and by the general public. What more could you ask for from a public intellectual?

 


References

http://www.stephenmack.com/blog/archives/2007/08/public_intellec.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-chimpanzee-behavior_us_57ddb84fe4b04a1497b4e512

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/10/who-will-win/497561/

Jane Goodall – The Ultimate Public Intellectual