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Los Santigüeros

   A "santigüero" is one who heals, using incantation, ritual, and faith, to cure one of the ills that may have befallen one or one's property. In a hybrid of native and Christian beliefs, the santigüero comes to one's home and performs a ritual for a specific end, curing one of an illness, a fear, or a curse. Sometimes the ritual involved relies upon the use of a live animal, an animal fetus, herbs, and objects that have curative powers or significance,


   The men and women I sought out in Peruvian villages are well known and respected to those in their communities and do not work for financial gain. I found that, oftentimes, a healer might refuse payment, or leave it up to the good will of the one benefitting from their service.  Their rituals combined words in Spanish and Quechua, Christian prayers blended with ancient polytheistic language.


   Although I did find people who use the black arts or hallucinogenic herbs, I made a very conscious choice to avoid them. I looked for true healers respected in their small villages. This was the difficult part of the project, as most middle class Peruvians with whom I spoke did not readily give me names of those whom they might know. It was not until I explained that I needed the help of non-Western medicine for a chronic ailment I suffer from that suggestions were forthcoming. 


   The santigüeros worked on me.


   There are twelve finished ambrotypes. I have chosen this format as the object, the ambrotype itself, has the same magical quality as the objects the santigüeros use in their rituals. It references the history of photography as well as the magic of the medium.