I sit across the table from Concepción (her name changed in this story to protect her privacy) at a café up the street from her current home, a shelter for youth at risk of being unhoused. She immigrated to Sonoma County alone from San Martín, a region of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest.
“The water from the river pools into a deep, clear swimming hole where I am from. I stay in the water all day. My father and I are expert swimmers….and my mother knows all about medicinal plants. I think my father fell in love with her because of her expertise.” She brightens as she shares about a paste made from cacao and cinnamon that her mother uses for treating her acne.
Concepción arrived in the United States early 2023 with a serious injury to her foot and hand. Unable to walk due to nerve damage, she experienced extreme hardship. “The first week I arrived was very hard. I felt so much sadness. But the next week I started to find help.”
She first visited the Botanical Bus clinic at La Plaza: Nuestra Cultura Cura in Santa Rosa about a month after her arrival. “I had started receiving care for my injury, ex-rays and medication from the hospital, but I was in a lot of pain. I started asking around about a place to find natural medicine and someone in Roseland (Santa Rosa) told me about the Botanical Bus.”
Concepción speaks fluent Spanish and Quechua. She shares, “When I arrived at the clinic to hear people speaking Spanish, I felt more free.”
She has attended 12 clinics this year and received 36 direct healthcare services, including clinical herbalism, acupuncture and physical therapy. She tells us, “After my first few visits taking recommended herbal medicine and receiving acupuncture at the Botanical Bus, I could feel my nerves reacting to the treatments. I thought to myself, yes…this is working.”
She continues to share with pride more plant remedies: llanten [plantain] and amargon [dandelion] for stomach aches; apio [celery] and hierba larga [native plant similar to horsetail] for endurance; jengibre [ginger] and limón [lemon] for colds. I am happy to see her recovery. Over the last few months, her limp is barely noticeable and there is joy in her voice and eyes.
“My mom sent me looking for natural remedies. It is because of her advice that I found the Botanical Bus and that I am feeling better.” She smiles. “My mom always told us to trust our knowledge.”
Concepción confirms our commitment to cultivating spaces of belonging where Botanical Bus clients can communicate in the comfort and ease of their lengua materna [mother tongue], celebrate their knowledge of herbal medicine and connect to the place- to the plants, the land and the river- where they are from.