Wendolyne Omaña is cultivating a Latine community focusing on alternative healing
The group Construyendo Poder hosts massage and herbalism clinics for members of the Latine community in Durango.
On a recent afternoon, Wendolyne Omaña hosted the group’s first clinic of the year. She is Poder’s founder and a licensed massage therapist. Latine community members have signed up for free massage sessions, and Omaña had a room prepared with a bed, towels, and oils.
“I am an immigrant myself, I went to the ESL classes myself, so I’ve merged into the community fully,” said Omaña.
The volunteers at Construyendo Poder are bilingual, and all sessions are private. Word of mouth is an important part of this community work, according to Omaña.
“It's a grassroots organization. Our way of spreading the word is ‘comadre a comadre,’ which is like peer-to-peer, neighbor-to-neighbor,” said Omaña. “We're not centralized; we don't have an office on purpose. Because our main goal is to have that level of privacy and safety for people.”
The mission of Construyendo Poder is to provide access to healthcare services to a community that wouldn’t otherwise have them. Omaña started the group in 2018 after Immigration Customs Enforcement began conducting frequent raids in the Durango area. Omaña wanted to help alleviate the stress and fear created by the raids.
“Because of intergenerational trauma," she explained, "We decide to bring alternatives for them to understand what is trauma, stress, and anxiety.”
Omaña used to work with a local activist group focused on immigration issues, and now she has transitioned to healing.
“If I provide the tools to my community, wherever I go, I believe that we become a stronger population in terms of emotionally speaking,” she reflected.
Kate Husted, Construyendo Poder’s herbalist, is happy to give out free teas and salves in her private sessions.
“These alternative modalities of medicine, like massages, herbs, and acupuncture, have cost barriers to them,” said Husted. “I used to work at an herb shop, and herbs are expensive. If I wasn’t making them for myself, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford them right now.”
Husted enjoys working with this community because alternative healing practices are essential to Hispanic culture.
“Working with this community, they grew up with their grandmothers making home remedies for them. And so there’s a lot less skepticism and a lot more enthusiasm, and like, people come to it, believing that it will work,” said Husted.
Donations from individuals and grants from the Colorado Health Foundation and Colorado Women of Color fund Construyendo Poder.
Voices From the Edge of the Colorado Plateau, a joint reporting partnership between KSUT and KSJD. seeks to cover underrepresented communities in the Four Corners. The multi-year project will cover Native, Indigenous, Latinx, and other communities. KSUT provided editing and web production for this story.
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