Indigenous Ancestors and Healing Landscapes
Indigenous Ancestors and Healing Landscapes
Indigenous Ancestors and Healing Landscapes
Indigenous Ancestors and Healing Landscapes

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This book presents new interpretations of current healing practices in Cuba and the Dominican Republic juxtaposed against the European colonization of the Caribbean after 1492. By combining data from critical historical analyses and ethnographic fieldwork, this research examines current healing landscapes and their historical background in both countries.

This dissertation situates the continuous importance of non-institutional healing practices within the rich symbolism of Cuban and Dominican landscapes. More specifically, the study focuses on practices promoting physical, mental and spiritual healing of individuals and communities. It provides various examples that illustrate human interactions with divine and ancestral beings residing in places such as water sources, caverns, or manifested in plants and other natural phenomena. Data presented in this work guides our understanding of how local cultural memory plays a key role in our construction of medicinal histories, and the profound demographic and landscape transformations which shaped the healing landscapes after European conquest. Healing landscapes are also testimonies of the Cuban and Dominican ancestors' creativity, resilience, capacity to heal and find unity in the dehumanizing and alienating atmosphere of colonial violence and exploitation. This book is not aimed solely for academic public, but also those interested in Caribbean cultures, and the history of medicinal practices.


1. Rhizomes of Healing Landscapes
Colonial discourse and the question of cultural continuity
Forgetting indigenous peoples of the Greater Antilles
Approaching Healing Landscapes
Data collection and fieldwork methodology
Outline of the dissertation


2. Healing Landscapes from a theoretical perspective
Introduction to landscape studies
Memory landscapes
Healing Landscapes

3. Natural Man in the Caribbean Paradise: the origins of colonial discourse
The noble savage idea in Lesser Antilles
Indigenous past as the beginning of the Dominican nation
Indigenous ancestors during the formation of the Cuban nation
The indigenous past in Dominican and Cuban History textbooks
The Alienation from Natural Man in the collective memory

4. Empty Pages in the Biography of Healing Landscapes
Indigenous ancestors transforming Caribbean Landscapes
West African ancestors shaping Caribbean landscapes
European ancestors reshaping Caribbean landscapes
The multidirectional circulation of the medicinal knowledge in the Greater Antilles
Concluding remarks

5. Crossroads of Cultural landscapes: the indigenous base of demographic changes
Brief account of indigenous ancestors in colonial Hispaniola
African ancestors in Dominican demographic history
The interactions among the colonized strata
The subsequent historical development of Dominican society
A brief overview of demographic background of selected Dominican sites
Major tendencies in Cuban ethnogenesis
Colonial history of Indigenous Cuban ancestors
African ancestors in Cuban ethnogenesis
Distinctive character of the demographic history of the eastern Cuba
A brief overview of demographic background of selected Cuban sites
Revising the indigenous component in demographic histories


6. Qualities of the landscape in daily life
Flora as a source of alimentation
Concluding remarks

7. Healing in sacred and animated landscapes
Other spiritual beings in Cuban and Dominican landscapes
Illness and cure
Healing specialists
Healing Plants

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