Gustavo Munguia, Contemporary Temazcalero
By Jade Arroyo
Gustavo Munguia is a man dedicated to traditional medicine and a guardian of ancestral oral tradition. He is best known in the San Miguel community for his work in the temazcal at the ecological reserve of Charco del Ingenio.
Born in Mexico City, he moved to San Luis Potosi at an early age, and there he learned from the mystical traditions and alternative culture and encountered the temazcal for the first time.
But what is the temazcal? The word comes from the Nahuatl temazcalli, which means steam house. It is a steam bath used in traditional medicine and by various indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica and North America (when there was no border) for medicinal purposes of detoxification through sweating and herbal teas.
“There is the physical part, through sweat, and the spiritual part, which is reborn, debugged of mental judgments and remembering cosmic memory.”
A temazcalero is someone responsible for perpetuating the tradition of sharing medicine and being the guide for the experience. It is more than a profession. Gustavo had his first temazcal at age 20. It was a deeply transformative experience, and he knew that he was dictating his subsequent fate, opening his head; opening himself to knowledge.
His teacher was José Dimas, an expert temazcalero, who introduced Gustavo to the tradition of the temazcal with chichimeca roots, which is practiced in San Luis. Thus, Gustavo trained for seven years as a “man of fire,” the poetic name for one who is responsible for assisting at the temazcal from the outside and going past the stones to monitor temperature and assist with the management of medicinal herbs.
Later, Gustavo was invited to direct his first temazcal. He has held this position for eight years. Among the skills that are needed to run a temazcal are sensitivity to nature and the elements and good physical condition. Intuition also very important, having the openness to feel the energies available and coming from the circle to meet people.
Six years ago, Gustavo initiated a special preparation trip called Vision Quest, which is a Native American tradition under the totemic animals, the eagle and the bear, consisting of four days of fasting and ending with an encounter with oneself. The idea is to heal the land, heal the way through the new vision.
According to Gustavo, one of the main functions is to reconnect with temazcal. It is an experience that helps us connect with our environment, calms emotions, and opens the heart. “It’s like a reset.” He likes to attune his temazcales with astronomical events, such as equinoxes and solstices, to join with the Earth’s changes.
One of the first lessons within the tradition is the origin. Our origin is the womb of Mother Earth, and it is one of the first ceremonies through which we come to know how to accept the life force. It represents the rebirth.
The origin of the temazcal is lost in the dawn of civilization, but it is one of the first ceremonies given to the human being, based on the blessing and purification of human beings through the sacred liquid water and heat, which is the breath of life.
“I find it curious that when people come to experience the temazcal for the first time, they have the impression of a new experience, like being old. The temazcal is culture that is still alive.”
In addition to experience in the Charco del Ingenio, Gustavo has a center at home, where the temazcal is more specific to people with more experience. “El Charco del Ingenio is a very nice place because it is halfway: it is open to all who want to get closer to their roots, and tradition is respected.”
Gustavo is a husband and father. He has been in San Miguel de Allende for six years as a medicine man. In addition to being a temazcalero, he gives Janzu therapy, which is a massage therapy in thermal water, working as physiotherapy.
Practicing a life in contact with nature is akin to the philosophy of the Huichol, the cosmogony of this cultural area. In San Miguel de Allende, he has found a balance between a small, warm place and cultural and thought diversity.
To contact with Gustavo, you can write to email@example.com.