Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Hola Blogueros,

This is Ruldolfo Anaya's week in La Bloga. We are celebrating the 40th anniversary of his book Bless Me, Ultima. Today Wednesday, Children's Book Authors Monica Brown and Laura Lacámara discuss the use of a curandera in their new books.

But first what is a curandera? Ruldolfo Anaya gives us his definition of a curandera and talks about his book Bless Me, Ultima in this video.

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Interview with Monica Brown

Clara and the Curandera

Clara y la Curandera

What is your definition of a curandera?

A curandera can mean many things to many different people, but most often it refers to a traditional healer in Latin America. Our most well known curandera in literature is Rudolfo Anaya's Ultima, immortalized in his novel, Bless Me Ultima.  Curandera's can work with physical or spiritual illnesses and are in touch with the traditions of their ancestors.

In my book, Clara and the Curandera, the curandera is really just a wise older woman who lends her wisdom to the members of her community, especially the children.

What did you decide to write about a curandera?

I wanted to honor the role that our elders can play in a community and also an ethic of generosity, of giving, which the Curandera teaches to little Clara.

What role does the curandera take place in your book?

This is the story of a little girl named Clara, who is grumpy. Like many others, she lives in a small space with lots of people and she gets tired of having to share her toys with her seven brothers and sisters, not to mention her chores and homework. She is especially grumpy about having to read a book a week for school.

When her Mami gets frustrated tired of Clara's grumpy face, she sends her daughter to the curandera to ask for help. The curandera gives Clara a list of things to do in the coming week: take out her own trash and the neighbors' as well; give all of her favorite toys to her brothers and sisters; and read five books instead of one!

It's a difficult, busy week for Clara. But, her neighbors are grateful for her help, and give her hugs. Her siblings are so happy that they are extra nice to her and invite her to play with them. She has fun jumping rope, playing checkers and soccer. Her mother takes her to the library to check out books and she reads lots of interesting things. When the week is over, Clara realizes that she has not had time to feel grumpy. The wise curandera gives her a new doll and relieves her of all her new duties.  Clara thinks she'll be relieved, but she misses the hugs and the stronger relationship with her siblings. She learns that helping others maker her feel happy.

Tell us more about your book.

The end of the book is fun, because when Clara runs down the hall to thank the Curandera for her newfound insight, she sees that the curandera is busy talking to "naughty Nicolas" from three doors down.

Visit Monica at

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Interview with Laura Lacámara
Floating on Mama's Song

Flotando en la canción de Mamá

What is your definition of a curandera?

In my story, Floating on Mama's Song/Flotando en la canción de mamá, the curandera is based on a Cuban santera. Santería is a Cuban religion that mixes Catholicism with African-based religions.  In addition to using herbs and magical incantations to heal and help people, santeras use divination to predict the future, cast daños or spells, and practice animal sacrifice (usually of chickens and goats).

Why did you decide to write about a curandera?

I used a curandera in my book because the story is set in Cuba and santeras are such an integral part of Cuban culture.  Santeras, or folk healers, are everywhere in Cuba. Seeking counsel from a folk healer in Cuba is like a person here going to see their therapist.  Most people will go at least once, if not regularly. 

I’ll never forget when I was in my teens and my dad returned from a trip to Cuba wearing two long, beaded necklaces -- one red and one white.  It turned out that my father, the confirmed atheist, went to see a santera while he was there.  The local “bruja,” bestowed the necklaces on him to help heal his sick brother.

What role does the curandera play in your book?

In my book, Anita seeks help from the curandera or santera who lives down the street (every Cuban neighborhood has one).  The curandera does a coconut shell divination to get answers about how to heal Anita's mama, who has been sad ever since she stopped singing.

After peering at the way the shells had fallen, the healer declares, “There’s nothing I can do to help your mama.  Her spirit is sick.” 

The curandera in my story has limited powers in healing matters of the heart.  Bringing music and happiness back to her mama and to her family is a job that Anita, who loves her mama, is best equipped to do. 

Tell us more about your book.

Anita comes home from school one day and hears her mama singing.  When Anita runs into the kitchen, she finds her mother floating in the air! Outside, the family dog is floating, too!
“Every time I sing whoever hears my singing floats!” Anita’s mama tells her. 
When Anita’s grandma forbids Mama ever to sing again, Mama (and everyone else!) is miserable.  Anita wants to see her mama smile again, so she goes on a quest to restore happiness to her family. 
Seeking help from the neighborhood healer is one of the things Anita tries.  But when that doesn’t work, Anita relies on her own instincts.  This leads Anita to discover a family secret that turns everything around.

In the end, thanks to Anita, Mama sings again and everyone happily floats on Mama's song! 

Visit Laura at

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Ruldofo Anaya writes picture books.

This is a partial list of his books for children.

The story of a young Mexican girl who saves her village by making the first tortilla with the help of the Mountain Spirit.

In this bilingual story of faith, Don Jacobo has a dream that, in the end, is a reminder that miracles do happen.

In these ten stories, Rudolfo Anaya draws on a rich Hispanic and Native American folklore tradition, capturing the rhythm of life along New Mexico's RÍo Grande valley.

Luz carries on her grandfather's tradition of gardening in order to keep his memory alive. During her first Christmas without him, she carries on the tradition of lighting farolitos in his honor. Warm, color illustrations and a heartfelt tale portray the pain of loss and the joy of remembrance.

It's Christmas in San Juan, New Mexico, and young Luz worries that with her grandfather sick and her father in the hospital, wounded from the war, their usual Christmas celebration will not be. Then Luz decides to make her own little lanterns or farolitos to light the path for the oncoming celebration, and for her father, who returns home in time for the holiday.

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