ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A dying tradition in New Mexico was very much alive Tuesday on the University of New Mexico campus.
The work of curanderos, traditional healers who use what are now very untraditional methods, once led to accusations of practitioners being witches.
"A lot of people think it's witchcraft," UNM professor Dr. Eliseo Torres says. "It's really not. It could be, but we don't talk about anything negative."
These types of treatments are harder to find these days. In the U.S., the work of curanderos is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
The ritualistic healers, who use herbs, prayers and chants to heal and cleanse, came to UNM to share their work.
They were made famous in the book "Bless Me, Ultima" by New Mexico author Rudolfo Anaya and the movie that came out last year. In the coming-of-age story, a boy learns from his grandmother, who is a curandera.
Claudia Avila told KRQE News 13 one of the healers at the UNM conference identified a potential problem with her stomach.
"When people say it's scary or something, I think it's because of the unknown," she said.
She's part of a two-week class on traditional healing methods led by Torres with healers from Mexico and Africa and from across the state.
"We usually don't have a lot of people who are nonbelievers," curandera Laura Alonzo said. "A lot of people that come to us have had prior experience receiving healing work."
Even though the traditions are falling off in New Mexico, they are very healthy in other parts of the world.
Torres said it's important to expose people here to a part of New Mexico's past and to remind people it's still here.
"They remember their grandma talking about this," he said. "And now they can see what it's like."
A second curanderismo health fair will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 Fourth St. SW.
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