I love the idea of earth medicines as opposed to Eastern
medicine or Western medicine.
Every time I’ve brought that up, a light bulb goes off in
people’s minds—especially people that are indigenous to the
Southwest. It’s like my Auntie Mona wrote in the forward
of my book: “If you’re out in space, you don’t see our borders. You see the Earth.” That makes sense to me, because
indigenous cultures all over the world have practiced some
type of earth medicine and still do. So, it feels uncomfortable for me to cut the world in half: to say this is Eastern and
this is Western. It feels just as important to me that I carry
on my traditions. And I love thinking that there’s someone
just like me, who may be living in India or Egypt, and they’re
carrying on their own family’s earth medicines.
You also borrow from Ayurveda and other indigenous
practices around the world. How did that start?
I was 13 when the responsibility fell into my lap to start
cooking for my family, and already many of them were diag-
nosed with diabetes and what we now consider food-related
illnesses. We ate a lot of traditional foods, but that was
overshadowed by the standard American diet (SAD), and I
just knew that I could make things that were more helpful—
that food is medicine. I first learned to cook from extended
family members back home in New Mexico, but I also
watched PBS and checked out lot of books from the public
library. I never felt like I had to cook only Mexican food or
foods of the Southwest. I made Moroccan food and Japanese
food. I made all of these different things because they were
interesting to me. That’s where my journey started.
Gradually I started looking at indigenous foods and
medicines as a whole and saw that earth medicines are
grounded and rooted in the same modalities. Even though
the teachings may be a bit different because of where people
live or because they’re rooted in religions, it still felt like
they all come from a similar place. People everywhere use
the sun for therapies and water for purification. There are
different rituals and different ways of using the elements,
but they’re really very, very similar.
I do a lot of speaking on holistic wellness and often say
that curanderismo is about working with body, mind, and
heart. That’s indigenous living. Holistic living is indigenous
living. And indigenous living is working with all of the earth
medicines. To me, it just makes sense to be a body worker
and also to work with energy and to listen to people and let them express their emotions and encourage them to stay hydrated and to eat high-frequency foods—all things
that are going to benefit them. That’s indigenous living, no
matter where you are.
Your list of kitchen supplies for recipes and rituals is very simple.
What you need is very simple. It’s also about being as local as
possible. And eating seasonally, which sounds like it should
be so easy, but I think it’s also hard for people because they
don’t even know what’s in season because we have so many
foods that are coming from around the world. I never put
anybody on a diet, but I do encourage people to eat more intuitively—which is about becoming attuned to where you are.
I don’t believe that we are stewards for the world. I think
that the world is taking care of us: The earth is taking care
of us. I believe that many people are feeling disconnected,
and I want to help people get their footing back and get
Where do your recipes come from? Are they your own creations?
Many are my own creations from trial and error. I love things
that are colorful. I love things that are extremely simple. I
don’t like things that feel intimidating for people. Some of
the body-care recipes come from trying to figure out how to make something that’s familiar to people without the
chemicals. For instance, Fierce Tigress Balm is my rendition of Tiger Balm. I loved Tiger Balm, but I didn’t want the
petroleum products. I make my own version with beeswax.
What is the way for an urban dweller to adopt earth medicine practices?
Even if you live in an apartment or a condo, it’s still about
connecting daily to the earth. If you can’t have a garden, then
make sure you have plants in your house that you care for. It’s
about opening your windows when weather permits. I find it
so intriguing that so many people never open their windows
and let in fresh air. It’s about learning what’s around you.
There are rivers and lakes and springs around every urban
area, but many people never leave their city. I can’t imagine
not being outside at some point in the day. I love, love, love to
pick plants and have them inside the house. I love to see what
is ready for foraging. I do my best to eat at least one ancestral
food a day that I’ve foraged or bought locally. It might be
making sure I have blue corn that day or red chili that day—
something that keeps me grounded.
I guess if there’s one thing I want to share from the book
it’s to trust the process and to connect with your ancestors
every single day. If that’s not part of your tradition, then
honor what your tradition is. But for me, I truly believe that
the ancestors are all around me, all the time, and they’re
encouraging me and bringing different people into my life.
There was a lot of trauma in our life as indigenous people. But
now I really feel blessed, like they’re helping so many of us
rise up and share different things that our world really does
need right now. I’m just allowing it to happen.