Date of Completion


Degree Type

Honors Thesis - Campus Access


History (HIST)

First Advisor

Margarita R. Ochoa, Ph.D.


Curanderismo is a healing technique common in Latin America that uses "lotions, potions, herbs, vapour-producing substances, minerals, and hallucinatives - all of them 'borrowed' mainly from native cosmology - merged with chants, prayers and ritual actions of the Catholic liturgy, as well as popular devotions to the cult of the saints." Rooted in the colonization of New Spain, curanderismo continues to be practiced in Mexican culture today. Yet, during the era of the Mexican Inquisition, curanderismo was a prosecutable crime, as curanderos (those who practiced curanderismo) were not officially licensed medical practitioners and were commonly considered to be fradulent healers, sometimes even by fellow curanderos. However, curanderos were rarely prosecuted and when they were, even by the Mexican Inquisition, they did not usually receive harsh punishments. The Holy Office of the Inquisition in Mexico, its official name as of 1571, recognized the important role of folk healers, even if technically unlawful, in a New World society that lacked a sufficient supply of officially licensed medical practitioners. Moreover, the Holy Office understood that curanderismo did not represent a true threat to the power of the Church. Thus, as this thesis will demonstrate, the Holy Office of the Inquisition essentially tolerated the practice of curanderismo, allowing it to exist and grow throughout New Spain and, with few exceptions, lightly punished curanderos.