Title

Mestizaje through Epidemic: Curanderismo as Spiritual Healing in Alejandro Morales’ The Rag Doll Plagues

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Event Website

https://source2022.sched.com/

Start Date

18-5-2022

End Date

18-5-2022

Keywords

Mestizaje, Hybrid Identities, Spiritual Healing, Curanderismo, Epidemics, Colonization, Environmental Degradation

Abstract

As Susan Sontag describes in Illness as Metaphor, there is wide use of “medical imagery” for satirical commentary, where disease acts as metaphor for analyzing corruption within society (42). Through a reading of Alejandro Morales’ The Rag Doll Plagues (1992), this paper analyzes Curanderismo, a traditional folk healing system practiced in Latinx cultures, in the novel’s representation of epidemics as individual and collective contamination from physical and social illness. Morales’ work explores colonization and pollution from the conquest of the Americas into the 21st century. In Morales’ text, a colonial physician and his successors attempt to balance their desires with the well-being of society and the state when confronting mysterious plagues in ancient, modern, and future civilizations. The plagues disrupt the temporality of each protagonist’s narrative in colonial and borderland cultures, as he struggles to live between the two sites, often visited by the ghosts of his ancestors or descendants, acting as spiritual guides. Morales presents a spiritual illness-to-healing framework that creates an environmental ethos, where the environment and spirit form an intimate relationship essential to remove pollution, discrimination, and socio-political borders. As Maria de Lourdes Medrano argues in “Performances of Mestizaje in 20th/21st Century Literature of the Americas,” mestizaje becomes “a discourse of dominance and resistance” functioning as a cultural critique (2). Morales’ text suggests that physical and social illness can produce new racial, ethnic, and cultural identities and promote intercultural communication through spiritual healing of the self and environment.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Christopher Schedler, Xavier Cavazos

Department/Program

English Language and Literature

Additional Mentoring Department

English Professional and Creative Writing

Additional Mentoring Department

English Language and Literature

Additional Mentoring Department

McNair Scholars Program

Streaming Media

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Mestizaje through Epidemic: Curanderismo as Spiritual Healing in Alejandro Morales’ The Rag Doll Plagues

As Susan Sontag describes in Illness as Metaphor, there is wide use of “medical imagery” for satirical commentary, where disease acts as metaphor for analyzing corruption within society (42). Through a reading of Alejandro Morales’ The Rag Doll Plagues (1992), this paper analyzes Curanderismo, a traditional folk healing system practiced in Latinx cultures, in the novel’s representation of epidemics as individual and collective contamination from physical and social illness. Morales’ work explores colonization and pollution from the conquest of the Americas into the 21st century. In Morales’ text, a colonial physician and his successors attempt to balance their desires with the well-being of society and the state when confronting mysterious plagues in ancient, modern, and future civilizations. The plagues disrupt the temporality of each protagonist’s narrative in colonial and borderland cultures, as he struggles to live between the two sites, often visited by the ghosts of his ancestors or descendants, acting as spiritual guides. Morales presents a spiritual illness-to-healing framework that creates an environmental ethos, where the environment and spirit form an intimate relationship essential to remove pollution, discrimination, and socio-political borders. As Maria de Lourdes Medrano argues in “Performances of Mestizaje in 20th/21st Century Literature of the Americas,” mestizaje becomes “a discourse of dominance and resistance” functioning as a cultural critique (2). Morales’ text suggests that physical and social illness can produce new racial, ethnic, and cultural identities and promote intercultural communication through spiritual healing of the self and environment.

https://digitalcommons.cwu.edu/source/2022/CAH/13