I am first generation Mexican-American. My father came to California at about 9 years old, one of the youngest of a large family of migrant workers. He and his 7 siblings worked in the orchards and fields alongside their parents to support the family, in addition to attending public schools in new towns each season and learning English. I can’t say that I know what that experience is like. When my father or my aunts and uncles speak of this time, it is clear that they still feel the loss of the communal warmth and slower pace of the life they left behind, the shyness of being outsiders, and the stresses the family faced. Each of them found a place in this country, citizenship, job, family, though they had to take the opportunities that came to them and never had the needed support to design an education and career path based on their dreams and ideals. Instead, they worked hard to develop some security, and to place a little more ease and freedom to choose in the hands of their children. Like many of my generation, I have been gifted more opportunity than my parents were because they did the hard work of assimilation. I have had the luxury of education and hold two Master's degrees in the arts, and am now working on my PHD in Psychology. However, like many in my generation who inherited an emphasis on Americanized identity, I was left with a longing to understand my roots, and the fragments of more indigenous ways of understanding that I felt intuitively, but had not been taught. When I was little, I loved to spend time with my paternal grandmother, who was also my godmother. She spoke no English, and I was the only child in the family who was of mixed ethnicity and wasn’t able to speak much Spanish, as it wasn’t encouraged in my household. So, instead of words, she communicated with me by showing how to do things with love and silence. We cooked together, making everything by hand, while the modern appliances sat on the counters, polished and unused. I watched her interact lovingly with the birds that lived in her house, one of them a wild sparrow, all of them able to fly in and out of their cages at will. She would give me special objects, or holy water, laugh with me, place her hand on my heart. She had a magic for me. I learned from watching her, and I longed for something that I couldn’t name. I found out later that she had prophetic dreams as well, that in fact many of the people in my family do, but the influence of Catholicism made it into something we don’t much talk about. I learned that she was a teacher and poet in Mexico, before coming here. And I learned that she always had a magical relationship with birds. Even a wild crow befriended her in Mexico and would watch over her babies if she stepped away, cawing and threatening anyone who approached. I would love to have talked to her more about these things later in life, to understand her beliefs, practices, and even who her mother was, but she died of breast cancer when I was 11 years old. Still, I have always felt her presence in my life. As a young adult I sought out indigenous wisdom and practices. I learned about dreaming and healing. I became a theatre artist, a writer, an arts teacher for emotionally disturbed youth, and for adults looking for self exploration and healing through original performance development. I cultivated relationship with the animal and plant worlds. I found my way back to the traditions of my lineage by putting the pieces together from instinct and seeking teachers wherever I could find them, in order to understand my own feelings and gifts. This is something that my child won’t have to do, should he have the same internal calling. And in this quest for myself, in my attempt to understand who I am, to be a better artist and teacher, a good mother, a more fulfilled person and a healer to those who would ask for that, by relearning these practices, I learned that in this country of people who mostly left behind their cultures of origin to become part of a fast paced, demanding, and secular whirlwind of individualism, the elements that make up indigenous based healing and ritual are like water for our souls.
I know who I am now. I am directly in the lineage of the Mestizas, the children who were born to be neither part of the indigenous culture that makes up half of their psyche, nor part of the European lineage that blended with our ancestors due to colonization and gave us our exotic appearance, so easily passing for a variety of cultural identities. Here we are Mexican Americans, or just Americans, something that perhaps adds to the cultural confusion, but just like the first of our kind, we carry the medicine of both parts of our heritage, and the ability to make a bridge to the older forms of healing that still serve to address the fears, sorrows, and lostness of people in a rapidly changing world. It was the Mestizas who developed the art of Curanderismo, and learning this gave a lot of clarity to my life and my impulses. Returning to Mexico to study with elders in the tradition and to visit the sacred sites, I was not treated as an outsider by the land or the people, but rather like a lost child of the lineage who had found her way home. This filled me with more healing than I can accurately describe, and with a sense of responsibility towards my lineage. All of my goals as a healer, as a therapist, as an academic stem from my desire to understand the potent gifts of my heritage and its particular blend of working with the unconscious, the deep imagination, the body in relationship with the soul, and the powerful and deeply nurturing elements of nature in the process of healing trauma and cultivating joy, connection, freedom and depth in our modern lives.
I have been fortunate, because in finding my lineage within Curanderismo and traveling to Mexico I not only came to understand myself a lot better, as well as the principals of healing, but was also led towards the opportunity to learn the more ancient and potent spiritual teachings of the Mexica (Aztec) and Toltec cultures, just as they were first being taught by the elders who have preserved them through an oral tradition existing only within family lines. Because of Mexica prophecy, the teachings and practices for healing and spiritual development relating to intentionally working with the unconscious are now beginning to be taught openly, though few people know of them. My purpose is to honor the ancestors who preserved this tradition with the foresight that people like me, living in this era, would be adrift in a time of confusion and displacement, disconnected from the wisdom of the more hidden layers of the world and of our own internal landscapes, essentially dreaming our lives by accident instead of intention and artfulness. I grew up with a quiet feeling of fear of my intuition and dreams, and the sense of not fitting in with the world around me. I now see this as a form of generational trauma, coming from the displacement of immigration, the tension of racism, and even the earlier wounds of colonization and the following centuries when it was dangerous to acknowledge gifts and interests related to magic or healing in Mexican culture. In my community of Curanderas, and in my work with disenfranchised and traumatized youth at Egewood Center for Children and Families, I have seen firsthand how real that sense of disconnection, disempowerment and longing is. In addition to my traditional healing practice, it is my intention to focus on generational trauma in my future clinical work, as well as my culture’s traditional practices for healing unconscious and ancestral patterns, and addressing trauma in a soul centered, sensory oriented and nurturing manner, as is the emphasis of Curanderismo. All of this is in service to the Ancestors, with eternal gratitude for their resilience, and in gratitude for the teachers who helped me to know myself and shared with me the tools I now use to support others. Ometeotl.