Graffiti art in Medellin, Colombia

My Personal Curandera for a Day

988 1024 Cyndie Burkhardt

I was looking for a curandera for months, with no luck. I happened to mention this to my friend Maria in Colombia and without missing a beat she suggested that I meet her curandera, Albita. She’d make an introduction, arrange a meeting, and we could gather at her studio. Perfect.

Albita’s gift

When the day arrived to meet Albita I was ready with a list of questions, starting with, what exactly is a curandera? She was forthcoming with personal details of her own life, such as being abused while growing up and being traumatized from horrible racism. But she knew she was born with a gift, even as a child she could sense and see things differently in the world. 

She worked as a nanny and her sense of healing developed as she helped many of the children she raised. They were her “guinea pigs,” she said with a jovial laugh. She went to an ashram in Mexico to try and understand this ability that life had given her. She learned about the power of plants, animals, and her own energy.

Everything she learned came to her by intuition and in her dreams, such as the healing technique in which she draws. When she first meets someone she takes a white paper and draws what she instinctively sees and feels. This opens conversation about a person’s inner state.

Albita Guerrera doing a healing drawing.
Albita Guerrera doing a healing drawing.
All images ©Cyndie Burkhardt, 2019.
Colombian culture

Curanderas provide remedies for mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual illnesses. They have a long history in Latin American culture. In Colombia the practice is part of the country’s extensive African roots and its inherited African traditions. This combined with a vast indigenous history of traditional healers (often grandmothers) and their knowledge of medicinal plants makes the practice relatively common here.

Albita described ancestral traditions involving dance and feminine power in the hips and she stood up to demonstrate. Healing is done with the sound of drums, the roots of trees, and certain healing plants that a healer will mash up to create her own medicine. 

This ancestry is not as deep in North American culture, which lacks the presence and awareness of such native healers. At home in the U.S. people trust medical doctors with professional credentials and precise skills. A native healer would be considered fluff and certainly not a credible source of healing. Generally speaking, there’s a disregard for “alternative therapies.” Still, curanderas fill an accepted role in Latin America and I was curious to know about their process and who exactly seeks and believes in such a person.

Why a native healer?

Albita says Colombians today acknowledge needing help beyond conservative western medicine. People are seeking solutions for the soul. I asked why they come to her and the reasons are broad—from cancer to problems at work, relationships, and more. Not everyone believes but when medical doctors fail they seek her out.

Regardless of the problem, what’s common in everyone, she says, is blocked energy, usually from fear. “Fear is making people ill. Fear puts you in a place to help you see something you need to see in order to understand it and grow. People are afraid to look at that.”

Medellin's rural mountainside is densely populated; poverty, insecurity, and crime can make for a stressful life.
Medellin’s rural mountainside is densely populated; life can be scary and stressful.

I asked about her methods and the short answer is intuition. She understands what to do and may use multiple therapies with someone, perhaps reflexology or plant healing. But the first step with everyone is the drawings to see what their energy tells her.

My reading

Our conversation drew to a close and Albita pulled out a small suitcase and unpacked a clipboard full of white paper and tons of colored pencils. It was time for my reading.

She held her hand above the paper for a few seconds as if scanning for a feeling or a direction. She asked what colors I saw and I replied, “fuchsia, orange, and a little yellow.” She used those colored pencils to draw, they represented my vibrational frequency at that moment. She didn’t look at me much and seemed to draw from someplace inside herself. She heard a Beethoven song in her head and started singing it. “What does that mean?,” I asked. “You’re very balanced inside,” she said. When she finished the first drawing she put #1 on the page, removed it from the clipboard, and stated what she saw.

That’s how it went for the next several drawings, minus the singing. Until drawing #5. Albita held her hand over the paper and started to tremble. Her breathing changed and she put her other hand over her mouth. She asked what colors I saw and there was clearly purple and silver in the shadow from her hand over the paper. Albita kept staring at her hand and the paper as if in disbelief. Or fear. Something was happening energetically and I felt it sitting there watching her. When Albita started to draw it was very fluid and completely in purple.

Abruptly, she removed the paper from the clipboard and stuck it under some other pages. She started a new drawing. I asked Maria what just happened and why she put the drawing away. At first Albita said she used too much purple and wanted to use more orange. I asked why she couldn’t just add orange to the first one. Albita finished the second version and as before, communicated what she saw.

A profound experience

Something profound took place with the purple drawing and I needed to know what it was. Eventually Albita said she was scared, in a good way. Whatever she saw was “very beautiful” in a way she’d never experienced before and it overwhelmed her. I sat there trying to process it all, including the connection I felt to her.

The reading was finished and Albita asked if I had questions. Yes! She said I have all the answers I need inside me; I have to listen and trust myself. Then she put her pencils and paper back in the suitcase and it was time to go. 

Grateful for a special experience.
Grateful for a special experience.

©2019, Cyndie Burkhardt

2 comments
  • Mel

    I am attracted to patterns of plants wild in natural environments. That’s how I recognize the cycle of life in the world, through pattern. Your pictures reinforce how marvelous the design of nature is. How plants grow and propagate and how their shape attracts and sustains species. Both to live and grow of themselves sustain or heal the lives of their consumers a – and yet defend themselves against those who would harm, misuse or abuse them.

  • Mel

    I am attracted to patterns of plants wild in natural environments. That’s how I recognize the cycle of life in the world, through pattern. Your pictures reinforce how marvelous the design of nature is. How plants grow and propagate and how their shape attracts and sustains species. Both to live and grow of themselves sustain or heal the lives of their consumers – and yet defend themselves against those who would harm, misuse or abuse them.

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