Over the past several decades, the Latinx community has received gifts of wisdom and guidance from our elders. They have been the cultural bearers of the traditions of our ancient ancestors and the “many medicines” that are central to IFR’s philosophy. Recognizing the need to ensure this legacy is passed down to successive generations to continue as part of IFR’s healing practices, and with a grant from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, El Camino a la Medicina Tradicional was born.
Providing monthly training to 14 individuals from throughout IFR’s programs and teams, maestras Dra. Concepción Saucedo Martinez (Concha) and Irma Alvarado Martinez organized El Camino. With the second cohort underway, Irma and participating staff member Adilia Torres shared their thoughts on the value of this sacred journey.
Irma has worked at IFR in various positions for over ten years. She currently works in Casa Corazón as the Differential Response Program Manager. Outside of IFR, she is the maestra for Xiuhcoatl Danza Azteca. Adilia first came to IFR in 2015 as a mental health intern. She has served as a Mental Health Specialist with Si a la Vida for the past year.
As one of El Camino’s teachers, Irma is quick to note that she views herself as an elder in training, sharing her appreciation of Concha’s wisdom and experience. “I am so grateful and blessed that Concha came into my life. When I first met her, I wanted to be adopted by her. She has taught me so much. Today, we know each other in this Camino as familia.”
Adilia shares this reverence for Concha’s unique gifts and contributions. “Concha was my first maestra. I saw Concha on an IFR panel and remember thinking how beautiful it was to see IFR do this kind of work. She really sold me. I don’t think any other agency offers this type of opportunity to grow and learn and use it in our work.”
One of the many treasures of El Camino is that imparts many of the traditional medicines that contribute to healing. Equally important is the personal journey each person takes to identify what they need in their lives. "My vision is that each person will be curious and explore the connections and intersections they need to find balance, beauty, and their own medicine. I hope they find their own truth, lineage to their ancestors, and heal their connection to the simplicity of life.”
To hear Irma’s words, it is clear their work is sacred, uniquely spiritual, and lovingly offered. When IFR writes that it offers traditional, contemporary, and complementary healing, this sacred work exemplifies a critical part of the organization’s traditional methods. Adilia offers an example of what this looks like in practice. “I am a Mental Health Clinician. I was able to draw on traditional medicine recently when a client experienced a great loss and was crying. The person didn’t want to speak but asked if I could sing to them. I was able to do that because I recognized it as was one medicine the client needed to heal. That act was powerful for my client and for me.”
In a recent monthly meeting of El Camino, the cohort learned how to make agua florida as there are countless ways to use this spiritual medicine in everyday life for cleansing yourself, others and removing negative energy. "This has become our 'go-to medicine' to uplift and ground ourselves from the daily stresses we encounter." Irma shared how these medicines provided support for those who became ill from COVID and who’d lost family, compadres, maestros and friends. She recounts how she and others made elderberry syrup filled with faith, prayers, and love. “They were care packages of many medicines using native plants and herbs. It became part of our basket of medicines to heal our bodies, minds and spirits.”
If healing has a presence, Irma and Adilia embody it. To watch both women engage with each other is special. There is a shared conocimiento, loving respect, and air of peacefulness. They make each other smile and their mutual trust and comfort is palpable. Once one is able to think of healing in a more holistic and spiritual sense, it is clear that the medicine is working.
Carrying these traditional healing medicines forward is the purpose of El Camino a la Medicina Traditional. Both Irma and Adilia expressed gratitude to Gloria for recognizing the value of these practices and ensuring they have a lasting place in IFR and our community. “Our ancestors left us what they thought we would need,” offers Adilia. “It is what grounds us and distinguishes us from others.”