New Moon: Reclaiming the Kitchen Fire and Loving the Soil that Nourishes us Now

Mama Marcela in her milpa.

I come from a lineage of healers. Women and men who tended their kitchen fire daily. My ancestors not only taught me how to take care of the Self. They also taught me the importance of sharing the responsibility of taking care of one another as a family and toward our community. I learned this through contemplation. My teachers’ mama Marcela and mamita Virginia taught me with actions. They expressed their unconditional love through the process of tenting to the soil of our cornfields, frijolares, and hortalizas. They enacted love through the kitchen fire by cooking with so much joy, power, and creativity. Even when the food shortage was our reality, I noticed that mama and mamita kept finding ways to warm our stomachs and spirits.

This summer, my teacher Raeanne Madison who is a birth keeper and decolonizing educator, taught me in her Postpartum Healing Lodge Course, more about the importance of our lineages to tend to the kitchen fire. In her Ojibwe and Mexica traditions, it is sacred to cook each meal for the birthing person and family during the postpartum process with compassion, love, and respect as sacred rituals. Food is healing medicine. The process of preparing homemade food is also a powerful ritual that I learned at a young age while being raised in Chalatenango, El Salvador. I am grateful to continue reclaiming these traditions. 

Since moving out of my village I’ve felt a disconnection with the processed foods encountered in every place I’ve lived. This year, my intuitive Spirit has been at the cellular level longing so that I can tend more deeply to my kitchen fire. Reclaiming is a process.

My sister Ruth, one of my teachers, has a lot more experience tending to her kitchen fire as she has been away from home longer and abundantly rooting her family in the new home they are building. A few weeks ago during our two-hour long conversation, she reminded me of how her family reclaims the kitchen fire in the privacy of their home. Ruth is a powerful resilient human who inherited the cooking creativity from our mamas. In our journeys of border crossing because of the inherited systems of colonization, our inner-power remains rooted in radical unconditional love.

My sister remembers the process of growing our food, picking the vegetables from our hortaliza, preparing the woodfire, and smelling the smoke coming out of the seeds of cashew. For example, first, we would make a fire pit on our patio,  then we roasted the seeds in an old pan we had. We collected the seeds as we ate the cashew fruits. Once we had enough seeds, we the siblings, and neighbors came together to share. It was a playful process. Ruth even remembers when we burned our tongues because we took the seed right from the pan to our mouth and how exciting that moment was. The burning of the fire, the burning of the spiritual powerful sensations when the raw roasted cashew seed touched every corner of our mouth.

Cashew fruit and seeds.

Nowadays as we continue to adapt, these processes of reclaiming, ritualizing, and prioritizing specific moments of togetherness with family are crucial for decolonizing our wellbeing. I call this process “Ritualistic Sacred Act of the Mundane”. We celebrated el día de almas difuntas, a very sacred day on November 2, as in El Salvador it is spiritually important to honor the Spirit and memories here on Mother Earth of our ancestors. And tending to the kitchen fire is part of the whole process. Mayita, my niece and teacher, shared with me how important it is for her to reclaim these traditions. The other day during our mindfulness conversation she shared that food makes her happy, and that food connects her deeply to both of her lineages and traditions. She loves that food brings her and her family together at the table.

When I asked Mayita, do you have any foods that are very special to you? she told me with a lot of excitement “I love pupusas, tamales, pastelitos, and Salvadoran quesadillas” and then she continued, I especially love the pupusas made at home by my mom Ruth because she knows that I am vegetarian and so she makes them without meat for me. Then, she enjoyed that her tía Erika (me!) introduced her to the Salvadoran quesadillas, a traditional dessert that mama used to bake in her artisanal oven for almost all of our holidays, birthdays, and simply to apapacharnos while growing up.

Then, Mayita stated that she also honors the foods from her Chinese traditions. She was excited to share that the process for making dumplings and pastelitos, even though the dough is different, for the latter is corn flour, the process to make them is similar. Her smiley face said it all, the kitchen fire warmth her body and Spirit. Then she paused for a moment. She looked at me and said, I am grateful for my mama Angel, my grandparents, and aunt from that side of the family as well. In general, Mayita stated, it is those moments when family comes together that food taste more delicious, and the laughter, fun moments of cooking together, for me is through those moments that I learn more about where my ancestors come from and how to honor and respect them and their traditions.

Salvadoran quesadillas made by mama Marcela.

During my recent visit to my sister Ruth and her family, we felt the need to tend to the collective kitchen fire as well. So, we reached out to Melisa, a friend of ours who is also from El Salvador who now lives with her family in Vermont. We did an impromptu trip to visit them. We were inspired to learn about Ananda Gardens, a diverse, small-scale farm, located 10 minutes from downtown Montpelier. To learn more about how Ananda’s Gardens works you can visit their website by following this link: Go Ananda, Melisa, Patrick, and Munay!

This was a sacred visit, in which Maya got to make new friends, learn about the sacred complex process of growing food, see some chickens, and observe her tía Erika jump of fear when a worm said “hello, there!”, in a surprising way while drinking hot cacao with the family outside in their patio. Melisa welcomed us to grind the corn as we reconnect with our tradition of preparing the corn flour to make tortillas from scratch, a process our ancestors call nixtamalizar —nixtamal is a word that comes from Mayan traditions in Mesoamerica.  This moment was powerful, for us who have been away from our land and traditions for a long time, touching the molino was a sacred moment!

Melisa and Erika grinding maíz.

After walking around the gardens, asking so many questions to Melisa and Patrick about their work, joys and challenges of growing food to provide at a small scale to their Montpelier community, we all tended to the kitchen fire, made fresh tortillas, which we ate with bean soup, rice, salsa, cashew sour cream, and ended our beautiful visit sitting around the fire-pit in their patio, telling stories of how the respective partners have met and continue to tend their families as they continue to reclaim their traditions and honor a home rooted in love and practices that bring them aliveness and joy!

In January 2021 I will facilitate the Reclaiming Home Ancestral Program Spanish version, an 8-week group coaching online course designed for Black, Indigenous, and people of color of the Global South. You can join my e-mailing list HERE to receive more information soon.

How are you all tending to your kitchen fires within the privacy of your homes?

What are the traditional foods in your lineages that support you feeling rooted in radical love?

How are you reclaiming your ancestral home through homemade cooking now?

Copyright © 2020-2021, Erika Murcia | Todos Los Derechos Reservados

Writing as a Bridge between Death and Life

Throughout 2019, I wrote more frequently. Writing from emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and bodily sensation perspectives. Writing poetry. Writing my memories and anecdotes of my mother in her multidimensional life experiences. Writing as a storytelling tool was my automatic way of responding to my pain. And a powerful habit. Writing on actual paper. It was, at the same time a conscious response to gently show my Spirit its path through one of my worst metamorphoses. Either way, I am very grateful for doing so. In Indigenous mystique, this whole process means that I was shedding my Serpent skin.

In September 2018; mother, a powerful and resilient Medicine Woman had a stroke. She fell into a coma. This was a devastating process for me and my family and still is. It was especially hard for me, as this happened two days before my birthday. As a believer of a deep spiritual Indigenous mystique rooted in Mother Earth, I feel this has been one of the hardest tests I have been exposed to. Death and life are fully intertwined.

Mother was in such a vulnerable state for ten weeks. One of the first barriers I experienced was being separated from her physically, as she was in El Salvador. Also as a working-class family, we could not afford private health care and had to go through all the systemic bureaucracies that impoverished and working-class families go through within public hospitals. These barriers are only an example of how little control we had during this radical change. Hence, the hardest to deal with.

I still remember how my body trembled the moment I saw my mother connected to many machines at the hospital. During the entire time she was at the hospital (September through December 2018), and most of last year after she transitioned, I had panic and anxiety attacks daily. I still get mild anxiety moments, but less regularly. All of these experiences are normal to my grief process. It was both a traumatic and stress-inducing change.

In December 2018, after my mother passed on, I felt as if life did not have a purpose. Though, this process of feeling uprooted pushed me to dive into a mindful reflection. Through her unconditional love, she gave me the trust, freedom, and courage to pursue change and transformation.

Journaling, and seeking for holistic medicine supported me being present in my pain and all the emotions that came with it. Aha moments kept me rooted. One of the reasons it has been harder for me to let go, was because in my body, her death felt like a part of me died with her and part of her spirit was born within me. Confusing, right? Not really!

Everything was difficult to grasp. I kept having dreams about my childhood. Dreams about her life experiences, her storytelling. Those dreams did not allow me to rest at night. The lack of rest only exacerbated my irritability, anger, and fear during the day. I was hurting and my mood changes also brought up behaviors and words with which I also hurt loved ones.

Change has been the daily tortilla for me since I was born. And even though I embrace it most of the time, adapting and transforming requires radical love expressed in nurturing energy and time. It requires a lot of intentionality and patience. 2019 was the most challenging because this painful and saddening experience woke the most creative and healer aspects of my Spirit. What a way to end a year and decade, ha!

Through my writing, I realized these contradictions. In the beginning, I resisted because I felt it did not make sense to be joyful and happy in life when my beautiful mother passed on. Suddenly I would feel a drastic change of mood from guilt to anger and a spectrum of emotions, all of which are normal. At the age of nine, I used to tell my mother very boldly, I will be a writer one day and my writing will be published in other languages. Her death reconnected me with a deep desire to finally sit to write, to fill my days with writing. In writing poetry, journaling and writing my mother’s memoirs to share with future family generations, I kept slowly feeling more awakened, more connected to my Roots. I was Reclaiming Home. I felt a powerful responsibility.

Building new positive habits and returning to inner rituals during change is hard for me. Writing has been the most constant one, which led me to seek other tools to support my healing.

Some of the things I’ve noticed are that to decrease stress, little by little I had to combine various tools. To allow movement in my new process, I needed to NOT run away from fear and anger, and instead HEAR what they wanted to say. One big part came from journaling, at-home yoga practice, meditation, poetry, and coloring rituals that require my time and my presence, no money involved. Another big chunk comes from holistic medicine including talk therapy, massage, acupuncture, and swimming; which requires a lot of planning, prioritizing, and monthly budgeting because financial resources are indeed limited. 

I owned my pain even if people told me I was a “hot mess” and even if they could not deal with the new me. It was my opportunity to not be okay, to keep trying and making sense of all the pieces at my own pace. There is not a “grief formula”.

The third source for Reclaiming Home healing practices are creating and setting new boundaries with loved ones. This is the hardest for me because navigating, nurturing and sustaining healthy relationships while healing takes time, energy, being vulnerable, and the aspects of acceptance and owning being hurt and hurting others. In this process, I also realized that I was craving connection at a deeper level. Somewhere to crash. Somewhere to be nurtured. Therefore, taking time away from social media and choosing social spaces that filled my soul was empowering. Even decreasing the consumption of food that hurts my body was part of choosing. I choose to feel alive instead of exhausted. Reaching out to my partnerships and friendships to host me and feed me for a few days. Unconventional retreats. There is a privilege in that. As a non-US citizen, this is not the case for anyone who goes through these huge metamorphoses. I speak English. I speak Spanish. Most of my life this skill set has allowed me to build community and trust across cultural borders.

I’ve started to notice the benefits of being responsible with my mindful well-being. I am aware that the process of practicing compassion and being patient with myself have supported reconnection with my Creative Medicine. These guided me to reclaim home rooted in a healthy radical healing practice to repair my sacred body, mind, and Spirit.

I’ve recovered my seven-hour sleep cycle after a year and a half-sleeping only 3-4 hours. I am now embracing the sensuality around healthy homemade food. My ancestor’s food.

Change continues to teach me lessons to recognize how resilient I am. Change this past year has reminded me that I am a creative healer. This has been my journey and I deeply believe each human being can find a tune with their inner Medicine. It may look very different from person to person, that does not mean there is a “wrong” or “right” way to do it. One can evoke power in one’s very specific way, and healing is never about “fixing” oneself and/or assimilating into ideas based on toxic social conditioning. Healing can be a self-paced guiding process of what one’s main needs are. During change and in any type of heartbreak, it is normal to not feel or not be okay; while at the same time trying ways to peacefully release the stress, whatever its roots are.

How do we as a global community hold space for our shared stories of death and loss in supportive ways? 

What are rituals rooted in your ancestral wisdom that allow you to feel more connected during moments of death, loss, grief and change?

In this moment of global pandemic and the feeling of global loss: 

Are there intentional ways you wish to be supported while you support your loved ones?

Also, if you have not joined my blog yet, please subscribe to Sanadora Soy directly on my website. 

Sending light and love to all.

Full summer moon

Great Mother
I feel you even if I don’t see you
Awaken inside my spirit
Your force has kept me alive
Is your voice

Great Sister
I sense your light
That grows deep
My soul
It is time to slow down
Observant I am

I call you with my inner desires
Traveling between worlds
I want to balance
Speaking human languages
And the spiritual ones

Full summer moon
Invites me to harvest
A life full of spiral cycles
Re Earthing
Letting go
Returning home


Copyright © 2020-2021, Erika Murcia | All Rights Reserved