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Folk Healers Remain Active within Chica da Silva's Land in the Minas Gerais Countryside

04/19/2018 - 11h50



Mrs. Maria Mercita Cunha, 86, lives in a house surrounded by medicinal plants. She goes into the backyard, and in front of a guinea tree, asks nature for permission to use its powers in a cure. While this is going on, a young man waits in the kitchen to receive the healing blessing. Mercita picks some leaves from the plant and starts to pray.

"This is healing. Folks say a prayer to help someone, but you have to have the gift", she explains. The ritual ends quickly, and Mercita throws the herbal leaves into the backyard again.

The former planter, now folk healer, is regularly sought out by residents and tourists who call upon her in Milho Verde (Fresh Ripe Corn), a district of the Serro Municipality, 315 km (197 miles) from Belo Horizonte, the Capital of Minas Gerais State.

The district used to be a part of the old Arraial do Tijuco (Tijuco Village), now the city of Diamantina, recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.

Gilson Ferreira/Divulgação
Dalva Fernandes Siqueira, folk healers in Milho Verde
Dalva Fernandes Siqueira, folk healers in Milho Verde

Milho Verde is where Chica da Silva was born. He was a slave who was freed and rose to a position of respect in society and eventually became one of the most important figures in the Brazilian Colonial period.

The practice of healing, inherited from the common people's Portuguese Catholicism, mixed together in Brazil with indigenous and African influences, is disappearing, largely due to the growth of other religious practices, scientific advances, and the lack of interest among young people.

The change in religious practices results in the faith healers themselves being forgotten as well.

"Many folks around here have become evangelicals and stopped blessing other people because they believe that the practice is prohibited by the Bible", says Aparecida do Rosário Ferreira Montmor, 53.

Even though she is a follower of the Umbanda Faith, she keeps a plot of land in the city of Serro, and continues unabated, performing healing blessings for those who need them.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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