10 August, 2023 9:23 AM

Instituto – In Every Sense of the Word

When IFR’s founders first contemplated what to name their new organization, they were very intentional to choose each word, including “Instituto.” They wanted to create an organization that would be a place of healing, but also one of learning, a training ground for emerging clinicians, health workers, and all who serve the Latino community in one way or another. Knowledge was intended to by and for community. This made us all students and teachers, honoring and recognizing the ever-changing nature of culture and community. This vision emulated the Mexica Tlamatini, a wise person who had information to share, and the Calmécac, a school where people could learn about valuable concepts.

Looking to bring this part of IFR’s vision to life is Dra. Angela Gallegos-Castillo. Becoming part of an international cohort of fellows, Angela was selected to participate in How Women Lead, an organization supporting women’s leadership. She chose to use this fellowship to develop a training institute that centers community practice, using IFR’s principles and community model. Her capstone project will be to design the institute process.

Dr. Angela Castillo Portrait

To hear Angela’s vision for this institute is awe-inspiring and a reminder of IFR’s continued commitment to the value of transformation, the Ollín. “How do we integrate this knowledge of ancestral healing practices with Western modalities of healing? The key word here is integration. What we’ve accumulated over the years from IFR’s founders to the present offers a particular perspective regarding how to center our cultura and the non-western ways of viewing the world that validate our gente.”

In previous decades, especially during the years when IFR was still an idea, the idea of holding multiple perspectives wasn’t considered viable in mainstream society. There was an expectation of acculturation, that other cultures would accommodate to a singular “American” cultural worldview. The very existence of IFR stands in defiance of that. Angela’s work to develop an institute reminds us that this is as much about embracing past traditions as it is about giving all perspectives a place of recognition.

“It is a very Western approach to think that healing can be done using a cookie-cutter approach. Our perspective that ‘it takes many medicines’ recognizes the diversity of the Chicano/Latino/Indígena community. It is the understanding that it’s not one or the other, but both/and.”

To establish a clear foundation for this project, Angela met with dozens of people from IFR’s early days to current program staff to those who are potential students. An educator herself, Angela understands the depth, breadth, and context of the needs for such an institute. She is driven, in part, by the tremendous shifts that have taken place in a world that has become larger and smaller at the same time, the changes in nature and our environment, the circumstances under which our communities live in San Francisco and far beyond, how they are increasingly intersectional and multiracial, and the reality that many others are also training our communities.

“How do we support those changes and the next generation of providers? As an anchor institution in the Chicano/Latino/Indígena community, and because of our foundational pilares, IFR is well situated to be that beacon and offer these important educational opportunities, whether it’s a one-hour webinar, a two-hour course, or a two-day conference.”

In fact, it is the full circle conceptual yet practical notion of a learning institute that blends Chicano/Latino/Indígena history, cultura, spirit, and energy – capturing the cosmology of our collective perspectives – that is the very story of IFR. And in the same way that IFR continues to evolve and transform, Angela already sees the many avenues an institute might follow.

“We are only limited by our imagination. This is about preparing the next generation. It shouldn’t be limited to professionals. Knowledge is for everyone, for the community, paraprofessionals/promotores, mental health professionals, medical professionals, and anyone interested in learning more about serving the Chicano/Latino/Indígena community. We can be a bridge to help deepen understanding and knowledge, the connection to mother earth, ceremonia, and indigenous healing practices. It can support individuals who want to become promotores, offer courses on Mayan spirituality alongside a practical CEU course for licensed professionals.”

Angela recognizes this project continues the original legacy of IFR. The more she discusses the institute, the clearer it becomes that this is as much about our own healing as it is about sharing knowledge. It is an extension of our own empowerment.

“IFR is a decolonizing project in and of itself. It is critical race theory in practice. It’s about having a critical consciousness and social critique of American society in relation to our Latinx roots. It is an affirmation of what we identify as important reflection of our values, principles, and needs – and sharing that with the world.”

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