The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996 Page: 295
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"Mother Lane" and the "New Mooners"
Oral history interviews with Antero and Ramon Garcia, whose mother
was Mercedes's cousin, reveal that after Mercedes Pefia Lane began her
career as a curandera she was seldom left alone because she could quickly
slip into a trance. Mrs. Garcia frequently accompanied Mother Lane
during her healing sessions. The Garcia family were major supporters of
Mother Lane and important sources of information about her healing
Some of the literature about curanderismo is sentimental, romantic,
and uncritical. The stereotypical curandera is traditional, static, outside
chronology and changing developments. This literature describes the
healers as mostly family members and neighbors and dwells upon their
knowledge of herbal lore and abilities to cure "folk diseases" unique to
the Mexican American community. Curanderismo is idiosyncratic, eclec-
tic, pragmatic, and syncretic; it evolves through time and differs by loca-
The folk etiology of illness helps explain the role of the curandera.
One scholar of folk medicine in the Rio Grande Valley defines six major
historical influences shaping the healing practices: '"Judeo-Christian reli-
gious beliefs, symbols, and rituals; early Arabic medicine and health
practices (combined with Greek humoral medicine, revived during the
Spanish Renaissance); medieval and later European witchcraft; Native
American herbal lore and health practices; modern beliefs about spiritu-
alism and psychic phenomena; and scientific medicine."9
Folk beliefs about disease are inseparably related to beliefs about mag-
ic and religion. Health is thought of as a gift from God and as a harmo-
nious balance between the individual's physical, psychological, and
spiritual life. Some illnesses are thought to result from natural causes
and others from supernatural causes. Scientific doctors can treat com-
mon natural illnesses, but do not even recognize some "folk diseases."
Curanderas treat illnesses resulting from supernatural causes. Some dis-
eases which appear to be natural diseases but do not respond to treat-
ment by scientific physicians are actually supernatural versions of those
diseases and treatable only by a curandera.0
8 Antero G. Garcia interview, July 25, 1973, STOHC; Ramon Garcia interview, Aug. 9, 1973;
Antero and Ramon Garcia interview, July 1, 1993.
9 Robert T. Trotter II and Juan Antonio Chavira, Curandernsmo, Mexican American Folk Healing
(Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1981), 25-39.
10 Robert T. Trotter II and Juan Antonio Chavira, The Gift ofHealing (Edinburg: Pan American
University, 1975), 67-79; William Madsen, Society and Health in the Lower Rio Grande Valley: Based
upon the Findings of the Hidalgo Project on Differential Culture Change and Mental Health (Austin:
Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, University of Texas, 1961), 20-29. See also Margarita
Artschwager Kay, "Health and Illness in a Mexican American Barrio," in Edward H. Spicer (ed.),
Ethnic Medicine in the Southwest (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1977), 120-152; Arthur J.
Rubel, "The Epidemiology of a Folk Illness," in Ricardo Arguijo Martinez (ed.), Hispanzc Culture
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996, periodical, 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/m1/357/: accessed March 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.