New Project: Barrio Remedios / Towa Bi Woh

We are very excited to tell you about a new project: Barrio Remedios / Towa Bi Woh, a collaboration with Barrios Unidos, to provide herbal and plant medicines for our community. Other collaborators include Colibri Corazon and Feathercatcher Apothecary, as well as other community herbalists and farmers.

Barrios Unidos, based in Chimayo, is an interdisciplinary, inter-generational and inter-cultural community investigating cultural and psychological issues related to addiction and cultural trauma in the Española Valley.

Much like Tewa Women United, Barrios Unidos has deep grassroots origins. Chimayo, Española, and Rio Arriba County have been ground zero for the opioid epidemic for years. Lupe Salazar knows the pain and heartbreak of addiction all too well. Her son, Fernando, started using heroin when he was 18 years old after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated and was then incarcerated. Because he didn’t have the money to pay bail, he stayed in jail before his trial. This is where he first encountered heroin.

LatinoUSA documented Lupe’s story in 2021:

After trying with little success to get her son treatment for his opioid use, keep him alive and disrupt the cycle of trauma, drug use, and criminal involvement within her family, Lupe reached a breaking point.

The systems in place weren’t serving her family and if there was a better way, Lupe was going to dedicate herself to finding it. So at age 40, she went back to college to get a bachelor’s degree and equip herself to better understand addiction and trauma, bring what she’d learned to her community, and help break the cycle that’s gripped much of Northern New Mexico for generations.

Lupe founded Barrios Unidos, a community center dedicated to addressing the many ways opioid use has impacted families like hers. It does this by organizing support groups for other grandparents who are raising young grandchildren, offering material support like groceries, diapers, wound care supplies, clothing, and meals to families and homeless individuals living on the street, and offering alternative therapeutic services like acupressure therapy, bodywork, rock polishing, and sweat lodge ceremonies.

This April, the Sayain (Circle of Grandmothers) offered a beautiful blessing to begin Barrio Remedios / Towa Bi Woh in a good way. After the blessing ceremony we spoke with Lupe and TWU’s Pilar Trujillo about the inspiration for this project. (You can watch the interview here on our YouTube channel.)

Lupe shared,

“When I thought about the remedios, there’s been a lot of people struggling with their addictions…. For them to go and get help at the hospital or at a doctor’s office was something that wasn’t happening. And at that time, one of my friends [had a] daughter with an abscess and she wouldn’t go to the doctor because of the way she was stigmatized and the way they made her feel. I knew that happened a lot to many individuals.

So I reached out to Kaisa [Barthuli] and she brought us together to make remedios that we could put together, kind of like a first aid kit, that we could give to individuals out on the street… I remember the conversation that started with homeless on the street… I thought this could be a piece to the soul sickness, because it brought back memories, you could see it in their eyes, it was a good thing.

I am truly blessed to be able to share the remedios like this, and the partnership because it’s growing and it’s bringing the community together.”

Pilar (of TWU’s Indigenous Women’s Health and Reproductive Justice Program) said,

“I live five minutes from Barrios Unidos and the way I actually found out about it was through some sort of serendipitous ways that connected Kaisa and me… We threw our love and passion into making remedios for the community.

The first thing that I wanted to make was a pain relief support, and wild lettuce grows all around us. People pull it out, it’s a weed and it can sometimes be a nuisance. But it was calling to me, for those of us dealing with pain, physical pain. A lot of times that turns into opiate prescriptions and then opiate abuse, and then it goes on and on. From there we just kept coming up with various formulas that the community were asking for.

Now I feel blessed with the trust and support of Tewa Women United to further collaborate with Barrios Unidos as well as some other herbal medicine makers, Colibri Corazon will be helping with this, Feather Catcher Apothecary, and various other herbalists in the community. So we’ll truly be able to support the community’s needs.

We’re hoping that it will be a thriving project with a lot of hands-on from the community, connecting back to the plant medicines, connecting to the plants that grow all around us all the time that are always asking for our attention…

Lupe does weekly outreach so she’ll be offering these remedios to the most vulnerable in our community, and Tewa Women United will be doing a different form of outreach… This is the start of a beautiful offering for the community.”

We’ll be sharing more in the future about how this project is unfolding and ways that you can support it.