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UNM hosts traditional healers at health fair

Paranormal investigator William Roybal, left, is treated by Armando, a traditional curandero, in hopes of reducing negativity. Roybal was one of several hundred people at a traditional health fair at UNM on Wednesday. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

Roberta Trujillo, a curandera, blows a conch shell as she finishes a sobadas at a traditional health fair on UNM’s campus on Wednesday afternoon. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Waiting in line to see a traditional healer, with the nearby sound of drums and the smell of burning sage, Natalie Chacón was reminded of her childhood.

Chacón said that while growing up in a Mexican American family, she experienced various rituals at the hands of a curandero, or a traditional Native healer. On the University of New Mexico’s campus Wednesday, a traditional health fair offering acupuncture, limpias, reiki and sobadas – all traditional healing methods – was held in conjunction with a curanderismo summer class.

“It’s been years since I experienced (traditional healing) myself,” she said. “I’ve been seeking more of a personal recollection of those fixtures of my childhood … and reconnecting with my upbringing.”

The fair was held outside near the Duck Pond. Several hundred people lined up to receive different types of traditional healing. Some received sobadas, a type of massage from Central and South America; one healer put her patients in a circle and, one by one, performed acupuncture on their ears; Chacón and her husband, Aaron Rodriguez, were waiting for a spiritual cleansing called a limpia.

“Rejuvenated. I feel open and blessed,” Stephanie Moreno, a student in the curanderismo class, said after receiving a ventosa treatment, in which hot cups are placed on the body. “It’s a spiritual practice, as well as a physical one.”

Cheo Torres, vice president of student affairs at UNM, is the host of the Curanderismo class, which has been offered at UNM for 19 years. Traditional healers, and health practitioners from Mexico and the Albuquerque community serve as instructors for the course.

Torres said that this year’s class drew more than 200 students from 15 states. The students include those interested in ethnic studies, physicians and other health care providers who want to incorporate traditional medicine into their modern medical practices.

“Modern medicine now is beginning to look at us and see how they can incorporate (traditional medicine). It’s very cost effective. You don’t need insurance,” Torres said. “They take the best … and try to incorporate it, as long as they do no harm. If it doesn’t hurt, it could help.”

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