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El Centro Latinx for Latino and Latin American Studies

College of Arts & Humanities
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Mestizaje Through Epidemic: Curanderismo as Spiritual Healing in Alejandro Morales’ The Rag Doll Plagues

El Centro Latinx Scholarly Café Series will begin on January 19, 2022 with a presentation by Karla Maravilla titled Mestizaje Through Epidemic: Curanderismo as Spiritual Healing in Alejandro Morales’ The Rag Doll Plagues. This informal presentation followed by spirited discussion will take place in Black Hall Room 105 from 12:00-12:50 PM.

Karla Maravilla is a student in CWU’s Latino and Latin American Studies Program. She will present on her undergraduate research. Through a reading of Alejandro Morales’ The Rag Doll Plagues (1992), this presentation analyzes the use of Curanderismo, a traditional folk healing system practiced in Latinx cultures, in the novel’s representation of the epidemic as individual and collective contamination from physical and social illness. Morales’ work explores the impacts of colonization and environmental pollution from the conquest of the Americas into the 21st century. In Morales’ text, a colonial physician and his successors attempt to balance their hopes and desires with the well-being of society and the state when confronting mysterious plagues in ancient, modern, and future civilizations. The plagues disrupt the temporality of each protagonist’s narrative in colonial and borderland cultures, as he struggles to live between the two sites and is often visited by the ethereal ghosts of his ancestors, descendants, or both, who act as spiritual guides through space and time. Rather than simply framing a continuous hybrid consciousness, where pandemics act as a metaphor for a multiethnic or multiracial Latinx identity, Morales presents a spiritual illness-to-healing framework that creates an environmental ethos, where the environment and spirit form an intimate relationship essential to the fight to remove environmental pollution, racial discrimination, and socio-political borders. As Maria de Lourdes Rubio Medrano argues in the “Performances of Mestizaje in 20th/21st Century Literature of the Americas,” mestizaje becomes “a discourse of dominance and resistance” functioning as a cultural critique (2). Morales’ text suggests that physical and social illness can produce new hybrid racial, ethnic, and cultural identities and promote intercultural communication through spiritual healing of the self and environment. 

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