Culture Heals

Using the traditional arts to cope with stress and anxiety

Visite esta página en español aquí.

As part of our work with Building Healthy Communities Boyle Heights and the LA County Department of Mental Health community health educator Maria Moreno, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts developed this series of workshops in 2020 to support the community in reconnecting with cultural practices as a path to healing, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In this program, ACTA elevated traditional arts practices that center community knowledge and culture in advocacy efforts around health equity, investment in youth, anti-displacement efforts, restorative justice, and the expansion of physical and mental health services in Boyle Heights. Through the processes of co-creation, engagement, wellbeing, and collective change that are embedded in the traditional arts, ACTA’s Artist Fellows create paths for everyday activists to live into and practice the changes they want to see in their communities and beyond.

ACTA’s model has been to place one traditional artist fellow and one mentee in each of the individual health equity campaigns in Boyle Heights.  The mentor-mentee relationship mirrors teacher-student relationships in traditional arts contexts that assure the transmission of collective knowledge. The La Cultura Cura (Culture Heals) series was an opportunity for the artists to work together across four campaigns: Health Happens with Prevention, Health Happens in Schools, Eastside Leads, and Invest in Youth. Artist Fellows lifted up mental health and wellness as essential to to being able to sustain the activism work we do, especially at a time when anxiety and stress are heightened for all of us as we due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We partnered with the LA County Department of Mental Health through their Promotora program, which supports culturally sensitive community health educators who work to reach the Latinx community and other underserved communities with resources around mental health and other health issues. We worked with promotora Maria Moreno to pair her mental health curriculum with a traditional arts component led by our Artist Fellows. The program focused on how cultural practices support our healing through engagement with plants, altars, songwriting, and other day to day traditional practices. The series included five weekly sessions that took place between July and August 2020.

Note: The speakers in these videos move between both English and Spanish.

View all workshop recordings:

Testimonies on art and culture routines

Led by Juana Mena and Omar G. Ramírez (July 21, 2020)

This workshop focused on thinking about how we connect with our ancestors in difficult moments and in recognizing the cultural routines and practices that have helped us cope with our traumas.

Planting seeds of healing: How to use plants to heal

Led by Dalila Mendez and Oscar Vargas (July 28, 2020)

This workshop is about the cultural knowledge that we already have about plants, of different medicinal plants that help with stress and anxiety, and how to plant these in an easy way at home.


The rebozo (shawl) for wellbeing: affirming our healing for grief and loss

Led by Luz Marlene Cordero, Ofelia Esparza, and Rosanna Esparza Ahrens (August 4, 2020)

This workshop talked about the cultural resources that we use to cope with grief, including the creation of paper flowers and the rebozo [shawl] as meditations to transform our feelings, and feel the support of our culture and ancestors.


Love is liberation: reconnecting with our LGBTQi2S community

Led by Cecy Garcia, Dalila Mendez, and Vaneza Mary Calderón (August 11, 2020)

This workshop presented information about the LGTQI2s community and focused on an activity to understand all the elements necessary for a person to grow and prosper in their community, with love and support that the LGTQI2s community also needs. 


Music heals us: collective songwriting to move forward

Led by Cecy Garcia and Vaneza Mary Calderón (August 18, 2020)

This workshop talked about music as a source of healing and guided the participants in the creation of a song that summarized the theme of all the workshops: culture and ancestral knowledge for healing.


Healing through Cultural Knowledge

Read a Q+A with Artist Fellows Luz Marlene Cordero and Dalila Mendez as they reflect on their experiences leading workshops in the La Cultura Cura series.

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