The Impact of Deployment on U.S. Military Chicanas/Latinas in the Iraq War: Healing Susto and Finding a Spiritual Path Home Through Curanderismo




Rodriguez, Adelmira

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This interdisciplinary research focuses on experiences of Chicanas who deployed to combat, specifically when the United States engaged in war, through Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Through my subject position as a “curandera researcher”- a subject position grounded in Chicana feminist a scholarship and my own spiritual worldview and intergenerational practice as a curandera— and as a military soldier. I engage in a critical investigation of existing literature to show how Chicanas continue to experience oppression within the military ranks and how an Anglo-dominant military perceives women of color, as subordinate within the ranks. I draw on my first-hand experience as a Chicana veteran and my position as a curandera researcher. Within the spirit of Chicana feminist testimonio methodology and a phenomenological analytic lens, this study examines the experiences of three Chicanas in the military to understand the ways in which they make meaning out of their experiences with racial and sexual violence in the military. Within my analysis, I connect MST to “susto”—described as soul loss (Avila, E., & Parker, J. 2000). This study found that women who have deployed and experience mental health issues that come after the MST have used aspects of curanderismo towards a pathway to healing. I also draw from Gloria Anzaldúa’s borderlands theory to help explain why Chicanas/Latinas “shift identities” (Anzaldúa, 1987, p. 79) to adapt to a patriarchal military and often a misogynist culture as a means of survival. This study also discusses implications for decolonizing mental health.


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chicanas, Military sexual trauma, post traumatic stress disorder, susto



Bicultural-Bilingual Studies