Women and Knowledge in Mesoamerica
Paloma Martinez-Cruz argues that the medicine traditions of Mesoamerican women constitute a hemispheric intellectual lineage that continues to thrive despite the legacy of colonization. Martinez-Cruz asserts that indigenous and mestiza women healers are custodians of a knowledge base that remains virtually uncharted.
The few works looking at the knowledge of women in Mesoamerica generally examine only the written—even academic—world, accessible only to the most elite segments of (customarily male) society. These works have consistently excluded the essential repertoire and performed knowledge of women who think and work in ways other than the textual. And while two of the book's chapters critique contemporary novels, Martinez-Cruz also calls for the exploration of non-textual knowledge transmission. In this regard, the book's goals and methods are close to those of performance scholarship and anthropology, and these methods reveal Mesoamerican women to be public intellectuals. In Women and Knowledge in Mesoamerica, fieldwork and ethnography combine to reveal women healers as models of agency.
Her multidisciplinary approach allows Martinez-Cruz to disrupt Euro-based intellectual hegemony and to make a case for the epistemic authority of Native women. Written from a Chicana perspective, this study is learned, personal, and engaging for anyone who is interested in the wisdom that prevailing analytical cultures have deemed "unintelligible." As it turns out, those who are unacquainted with the sometimes surprising extent and depth of wisdom of indigenous women healers simply haven't been looking in the right places—outside the texts from which they have been consistently excluded.