Document in Translation: Two Historical Afro-Atlantic Remedies

Among the photographs and personal papers belonging to twentieth-century Afro-Atlantic religious leaders that I consulted, there were a lot of notes. Ochún Guerre, or Hortensia Ferrer (1907-1992), documented her work thoroughly. Below is one of the notes from her collection.

Feb25~15 copy

Here is a translation of the document that Ochún Guerre likely wrote in the 1980s:

Remedies for Asthma*

Take one small piece of turtle shell and boil it in a liter and a half of water. Reduce to one liter. Take this three times a day for 21 days. Repeat the cycle two more times. That means to say, 21 days and 21 days more to complete a cycle of 63 days. Then stop taking this for one month and repeat the same formula.


Take one bottle of honey and one of dry wine. Boil them together and reduce into one bottle. Afterwards, place the bottle in the sun and leave undisturbed for three days. Take two times a day, morning and night.

Although very brief, these treatments involve significant references to mythologies and arts of the oricha, or the divinities of the Afro-Atlantic. Admittedly as a writer and art historian, I am tempted to break down these mythologies and meanings in Ochún Guerre’s note above for you and place these in the context of the Special Period in Cuba in the 1980s . However, as an educator, I suspect that this note might be a compelling way to engage students learning about African Diasporic history and religious arts.

*Please note: This is a translation of historical Afro-Atlantic treatments for asthma as written in the 1980s. The author of this website takes no position on efficacy. As in the past, contemporary Afro-Atlantic religious leaders insist that anyone suffering from such a condition must consult a licensed medical doctor.

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