Understanding the nature of Puerto Rican folk health practices through the healers perceptions and the somatic assumptions

by Santiago-Saavedra, Fanny V.

Abstract (Summary)
This study presents Puerto Rican Folk Healing Practices (PRFHP) as a cultural experience in an attempt to understand attitudes towards health from the healers’ perspective and illuminate factors that resonate with the field of somatics studies, which regards individuals as whole (body-mind-spirit connection). Case studies were used to present the nature of six Puerto Rican folk healers and the practices they perform in the island of Puerto Rico. Qualitative research methods were used to gather the information. Semi-structured interviews, video observations, active participation, journals, and field notes were the tools used to capture the experiential approach of this research. Culturally grounded analysis was done in order to find common themes among six Puerto Rican folk healers and their practices. From the culturally grounded analysis, five major themes emerged. They are service, reverence to nature and natural cycles, the concept of medical mestizaje, physical and spiritual world as a continuum and the sense of embodiment. The second analysis explored how assumptions of the somatic framework relates to Puerto Rican Folk Healing Practices. The assumptions explored are a) perception of the world through the body. b) First person experience is privileged. c) Sarcal consciousness as a powerful guidance. d) reality as determined by the perception of the individual e) existence in the world as holistic f) The individuals as simultaneously interconnected with the world. g) The individual as a multi-dimensional being which transcends time and space. Findings from this inquiry present how the first three somatic assumptions, perception of the world through the body, first person experience as privileged and the concept of sarcal consciousness as a powerful guidance, gives discursive logic and a clearer explanation to the cultural theme of embodiment in PRFHP. However, culturally grounded research greatly expands the other four somatic assumptions, especially the last two, the interconnection of the world and the multidimensionality of time and space. Examples from the data that connect the cultural themes of reverence to nature and natural cycles and physical and spiritual worlds as a continuum add the cultural dimensions critically needed to expand the explanations of the last two somatic assumptions. This inquiry presents a possibility of developing a new paradigm for viewing folk health practices as an experiential cultural phenomenon and expand a discursive vocabulary for health and illness that describes experiences and practices for PRFHP and somatic studies. Furthermore, this investigation will open the door for scholars to compile and revise traditional practices from Latin America and the Caribbean region in order to expand the exploration of the rich legacy traditional and indigenous Latin cultures offer the areas of education, cultural studies, and traditional and alternative health.
Bibliographical Information:


School:The Ohio State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:puerto rican folk health alternative cultural studies latin american practices


Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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