Letras y Limpias is the first book to explore the literary significance of the figure of the curandera within Mexican American literature. Amanda Ellis traces the significance of the curandera and her evolution across a variety of genres written by leading Mexican American authors, including Américo Paredes, Rudolfo Anaya, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Manuel Munoz, ire’ne lara silva, and more.
Ellis explores the curandera in relationship to decoloniality, bioethics, and the topic of healing while recognizing the limitations and spiritual shortcomings of Western medicine. Ellis argues that our contemporary western health-care system does not know how to fully grapple with illnesses that patients face. Ellis reads the curandera’s perennial representation as an ongoing example of decolonial love useful for deconstructing narrow definitions of health and personhood, and for grappling with the effects of neoliberalism and colonialism on the health-care industry.
Letras y Limpias draws from Chicana feminist theory to assert the importance of the mindbodyspirit connection. Ellis conveys theoretical insights about the continual reimagining of the figure of the curandera as a watermark across Mexican American literary texts. This literary figure points to the oppressive forces that create susto and reminds us that healing work requires specific attention to colonialism, its legacy, and an intentional choice to carry forward the traditional practices rooted in curanderismo passed on from prior generations. By turning toward the figure of the curandera, readers are better poised to challenge prevailing ideas about health, and imagine ways to confront the ongoing problems that coloniality creates. Letras y Limpias shows how the figure of the curandera offers us ways to heal that have nothing to do with copays or medical professionals refusing care, and everything to do with honoring the beauty and complexity of any, every, and all humans.
About the Author
Amanda Ellis is an assistant professor of English at the University of Houston, where she teaches courses on Mexican American literature, multi-ethnic literature, and American literature.
“Letras y Limpias: Decolonial Medicine and Holistic Healing in Mexican American Literature offers the reader great insight into the way the curandera figures in our literature. [It] offers deep insight into the healer’s remedios and the items in her tool kit. The author shows that the healing of the metaphorical wound and of the innate ailments of a colonized people can and does happen via the figure of the curandera, who tends to the physical ailments as well as the spiritual needs of our community.”—Norma E. Cantú, author of Meditación Fronteriza: Poems of Love, Life, and Labor
“Ellis’s book of decolonial medicine gives us a healthy dose of what we need to learn about healing. These lessons serve anyone interested in cultivating wellness by giving us the tools to analyze the neoliberal profit-at-any-cost manipulation of the health industry. That these ideas rise up from the pages of Mexican American literature makes this book particularly inspirational; anyone can read about wellness in this way.”—Priscilla Solis Ybarra, author of Writing the Goodlife: Mexican American Literature and the Environment