The curandera as xicanista: Hybrid spirituality as a means of provoking social and political change
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This thesis explores the suitability of Chicana feminists or Xicanistas modeling themselves on the figure of the curandera, a Mexican American folk healer whose treatments must be utilized as a means of bettering not only the lives of individuals but society as a whole. It discusses the curandera characters depicted in Ana Castillo’s So Far from God and Sandra Cisneros’ Caramelo Puro Cuento in order to present the need for curanderas to find a balance between the interests of the Self and of society. These curanderas’ failure to provoke and participate in social change limits their effectiveness as models for Chicana feminism. Furthermore, this thesis discusses two characters, Sofia and Celaya, who do not serve as official healers yet embody many curandera traits and practices and are successful in utilizing these methods as a means of revealing social injustices, both historical and contemporary, and advocating for and contributing to societal and political change. Finally, this thesis serves to define curandera writing—a form of magical realism that resists the dominant culture and attempts to heal societal ills—and to present Castillo and Cisneros as practitioners of this writing that fuses the political, the spiritual, and the literary.