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Ethnobotany for Borikén


Ethnobotany is the interdisciplinary fiend of study that explores the relationships that we human beings have with plants.  Most cultures are based upon the multifaceted exchanges sustained between people and the plants that share -or once shared- their territories.

In reference to post-indigenous societies, the scientific community prefers the term "economic botany". However, BotaniCultura honors the fact that our relationship with the plant world goes far beyond quantifiable economy.

Botanical medicine: a sacred trust from our grandmothers

​ ​​Rooted in profound knowledge about our plants as physical and spiritual medicine,  the botanical tradition of Borikén is our heritage as a people wise in the ways of health and wellbeing. 


The Puerto Rican folkloric tradition of green medicine and home remedies has always served as an integrated system of holistic healing. To give a brief idea of some of its characteristics . . . 

Our tradition:

  • Our tradition is available to people of all socio-economic groups and supports the economy of our homes and communities.

  • It empowers participants by:

  • emphasizing preventive care,

  • targeting our abundant  and accessible resources (neighboring plants) to prevent and cure sickness,

  • putting people in direct contact with diverse local resources.

  • Our tradition is holistic, and treats our people at physical, emotional and spiritual levels. 

  • It transmits empirical scientific findings proven over the centuries.

  • It engenders cultural and historical knowledge by strengthening communication and bonds between community members across the generations.

  • It promotes ecological knowledge and wisdom, supporting plant conservation and biodiversity.

In spite of these great benefits, during the years of exodus from our countryside into urban environments (especially during the 1950s, 60s and 70s) many boricuas (Puerto Ricans) adopted and internalized the message that our ancestral medicine was only practiced out of ignorance or poverty.  The people learned to perceive this tradition as inferior, something that only had a place among those who could not aspire to the care of doctors and pharmaceutical preparations. 


Barbara Rodríguez of Orocovis relates: They told us that the bottle was better than our breasts.  They ridiculed and threatened our midwives.  Our folk healers were “backward,” “illiterate spiritists,” “ignorant farmers.”  People started denying their botanical knowledge because they feared being called superstitious or stupid.  Attitudes like these were supported by economic structures that promoted the unfettered adoption of imported products.  As a result, instead of being a source of national pride, our age-old practices of holistic healing, human exchange and ecological wisdom were ridiculed and rejected.  Today, the survival of our tradition of botanical medicine depends on us!

Through lively conferences, participative workshops, plant identification walks, exchanges of traditional knowledge (encuentros de saberes), publications and other offerings, BotaniCultura works to reestablish, practice and teach the knowledge, skills and attitudes associated with a tradition that has always represented our people’s physical health and spiritual well being.

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