by Amanda V. Ellis
University of Arizona Press, 2021
Paper: 978-0-8165-4268-0 | Cloth: 978-0-8165-4274-1 | eISBN: 978-0-8165-4438-7
Library of Congress Classification PS153.M4
Dewey Decimal Classification 810.986872

Letras y Limpias is the first book to explore the literary significance of the figure of the curandera within Mexican American literature. Amanda Ellis traces the significance of the curandera and her evolution across a variety of genres written by leading Mexican American authors, including Américo Paredes, Rudolfo Anaya, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Manuel Munoz, ire’ne lara silva, and more.

Ellis explores the curandera in relationship to decoloniality, bioethics, and the topic of healing while recognizing the limitations and spiritual shortcomings of Western medicine. Ellis argues that our contemporary western health-care system does not know how to fully grapple with illnesses that patients face. Ellis reads the curandera’s perennial representation as an ongoing example of decolonial love useful for deconstructing narrow definitions of health and personhood, and for grappling with the effects of neoliberalism and colonialism on the health-care industry.

Letras y Limpias draws from Chicana feminist theory to assert the importance of the mindbodyspirit connection. Ellis conveys theoretical insights about the continual reimagining of the figure of the curandera as a watermark across Mexican American literary texts. This literary figure points to the oppressive forces that create susto and reminds us that healing work requires specific attention to colonialism, its legacy, and an intentional choice to carry forward the traditional practices rooted in curanderismo passed on from prior generations. By turning toward the figure of the curandera, readers are better poised to challenge prevailing ideas about health, and imagine ways to confront the ongoing problems that coloniality creates. Letras y Limpias shows how the figure of the curandera offers us ways to heal that have nothing to do with copays or medical professionals refusing care, and everything to do with honoring the beauty and complexity of any, every, and all humans.