Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Martinez.
Hi Lisa, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I have joked for years that I have “dual state-ship” because I was raised and have lived between Colorado and New Mexico my entire life. I connect deeply with both states for different reasons and tend to refer to them both as “home”.
My upbringing is the reason I am who I am today, a practitioner of curanderismo, a maestra (a teacher) and a doctor of natural medicine.
My family’s roots are from Northern NM and Southern Colorado. Curanderismo was and still is very much alive there however; it was never referred to as “curanderismo”. It was traditions, practices, beliefs and remedios (folk remedies) and was not something that was separate from our daily life. It wasn’t a topic you could Google or a class you could take down the road at the little mercado. Curanderimso at its core and by foundation are daily practices integrated into every aspect of our world.
My grandmothers were my biggest influences, each of them provided me with teachings that I have used throughout my life and that I share with others. My fondest memories always take me back to walks with my grandmothers in the high desert mountains of New Mexico, where there are hidden waterfalls and the pueblos of our not so distant ancestors in the horizon or to the rich black soils of the San Juan Mountains that held and fed our sacred root medicines. On these walks, my grandmothers introduced me to the plants used in folk remedies and told me stories of how our people used the resources of the land around them and supported each other as a community. Each of these walks lead to the development and connection our family, our history, our environment and ultimately a spiritual way of life that has always been a source of guiding strength.
I was a very young mom and I did not have many resources when my son was small. I relied heavily on the teachings of my grandmothers to keep him and myself healthy, but also to help us thrive. It was more than just knowing how to help us overcome illnesses. It also was what we did to help keep our spirits safe and happy. This included connecting with the natural world around us. Even the simplest things can be powerful during difficult times. As hard as these times where, I have a lot of gratitude for them. They kept the teachings and practices of our families alive! My son was immersed in this way of life in the the same way I was, even down to the beautiful connections he has to his grandmothers.
As my son became older, we entered what is now considered a formal curanderismo apprenticeship together. Our way of life became even richer and fuller than it was before because we were able to stitch together our life experiences with even more and deeper teachings. After many years in our apprenticeship, we studied to obtain our doctorate in natural medicine and graduated together. Since then we have helped support a BIPOC community ceremony and healing circle in Fort Collins, take on apprentices and last year we opened our online store, Black Mesa Remedios.
We work together in the community and provide classes and presentations to a variety of audiences.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Sometimes you will hear practitioners of curanderismo or other indigenous practices refer to it as “walking the red road”. It is never easy, never smooth but somehow always beautiful. Every experience on the road seems to have a purpose or teaching that comes with great purpose.
The struggles and experiences are highly personal, at least for me. One of the things that happens first and foremost when you start this journey is that you dive deep into personnel healing. There is not usually anything graceful or easy looking at deep wounds. The process is lengthy and often lonely. An important lesson is to recognize we aren’t reliving it, we’ve already live through it but we do need to see it for what it is. The personal healing work is a priority especially if there is any intention of supporting the community on any level.
I had a lot to look at. My childhood was “complicated” as was my early adulthood. I had really excellent teachers, mentors and elders on my journey and as a result I was able to evolve and become a better version of myself. The work never really ends though. As practitioners, it’s important to self-reflect often.
For me the biggest obstacle has been myself. Sometimes we have expectations around where we should be or what we should be doing “by now” and that we should already have worked through certain difficulties. Learning to trust my own process, embrace wherever I was on the journey and accept support wasn’t an easy.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Curanderismo is a healing practice that encompasses the spiritual, mental and physical. As practitioners, we know that if any of those three are out of alignment, then everything is out of alignment. We have to look at our clients as a complete person. The goal is to get to the root of an issue and address it at the corel.
Curanderismo practices can vary by region, tradition and a variety of influences. Not all practices look alike! Some practitioners will be highly influenced by folk catholic traditions, while others may have a more indigenous foundation. One thing is for certain, the community work is always at the core for all of us. Some practitioners have an area of focus such as herbalism, midwifery, counseling, body work or spiritual cleansings- just to name a few examples.
My personal practice has evolved tremendously over the years but I consistently find myself working with folks who generally have a lot of susto ( a word that translates to “soul fright). Susto can be understood as deep trauma or PTSD. I work a lot with individuals who are finding their voice and stepping into a new version of themselves. I also do a lot of spiritual cleanses or what we call “limpias”. These are multifaceted practices that are done for a variety of reasons. There is so much to be said about limpias and how helpful they are for all of us. Truly, it’s an entire discussion all in itself!
I’ve done a lot of training that helps me work with folks in a trauma-informed way so that they can recognize their own road to healing. It’s important that individuals leave a session with me feeling empowered and seen where they are, just as they are and with no judgment. As a doctor of natural medicine, I can also support them alongside their primary care doctor to improve any health concerns.
In many circles, I’m most known for my work with obsidian! It’s a significant part of my healing practice and an important tool in by “box”. The indigenous Meso-American teachings highly regard obsidian as a powerful healing stone. It is used in ceremonies, spiritual cleansing and even in divination. It will help reveal the deepest parts of ourselves that need to be brought forward as well as help us repel negativity in our lives. I usually teach a class on this in the fall once a year through RitualCravt School!
Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
My advice to those who are just starting out and wanting to learn more about curanderimso is, find a teacher, sit with elders and go slow. Use discernment when seeking someone to learn from. Just because someone has a big social media following, has published books or is considered an “elder” doesn’t make them trustworthy, wise or even knowledgeable.
This is a long road. You can’t and shouldn’t become a practitioner of curanderismo just by taking some online courses or reading a few books. Having a great-grandmother or grandfather that was a curandero doesn’t guarantee that you are or will become one. This path isn’t for everyone. It’s hard and far from glamorous. Not everyone who does a full apprenticeship has the ability to actually walk the red road for the rest of their life.
There is no deadline. This isn’t a race and you don’t ever “graduate”. We are all still learning. Even elders who have been doing this for more years than most of us have been alive- are still learning. They are still open to healing. The gifts come in time. The experience comes in time. You will learn what is needed in time.