Thursday, March 25, 2021

Jennifer Koshatka Seman's "Borderlands Curanderos"

Jennifer Koshatka Seman is a lecturer in history at Metropolitan State University in Denver. Her work has appeared in Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses and the Journal of the West.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Borderlands Curanderos: The Worlds of Santa Teresa Urrea and Don Pedrito Jaramillo, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Borderlands Curanderos: The Worlds of Santa Teresa Urrea and Don Pedrito Jaramillo falls under the subheading “The Journey is Part of the Cure.” In part, it tells the story of Priscilliano Martínez, a Tejano laborer who came to the curandero, Don Pedrito Jaramillo in the late 19th century for a cure for a wound to his head. On his way to Don Pedrito’s rancho in Los Olmos (in the South Texas Rio Grande Valley), Martínez claimed that he began to feel better. This was a common description by those who were healed by Don Pedrito: the afflicted began to feel better on the journey to the cure.

If a reader opened to page 99 of Borderlands Curanderos they would get a sense of this book – of the stories it tells and the arguments it makes. Curanderismo, the Mexican faith healing practice that the two subjects of this book, Don Pedrito Jaramillo (1829 -1907) and Santa Teresa Urrea (1873-1906) practiced, strengthened and healed individual bodies, like Priscilliano Martínez. But the curanderismo practiced by Jaramillo and Urrea also healed the social body, those people on the margins of state and institutional power in the turn of the century borderlands who faced governments, as well as the growing institution of professional medicine, that deemed non-white “others” as dangerous, outside the bounds of the nation, sometimes even diseased or more prone to carrying disease.

Borderlands Curanderos is a dual biography (part one examines Teresa Urrea, part two Don Pedrito Jaramillo) that shows how two popular curanderos provided culturally resonant healing, sustenance, and inspiration to many in the turn-of-the century borderlands, like Priscilliano Martínez.
Learn more about Borderlands Curanderos at the University of Texas Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue