Yerba Buena

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KA) and I (ZM).

ZM: Do you know any like remedies for a cold that maybe your parents told you? Or just other thing like that…

KA: Um, we always have like yerba buena. Which would… I would have to look up what it is… It’s an herb. It’s a plant that we grow. And then so, just like boil that in water and then we’ll put that like on our forehead, on our chest, and then we’re big on like, um, Vicks.

ZM: Wait say the name again?

KA: Yerba buena. Which is like, “good herb.”

ZM: Is it specifically for… something? Is there something that it’s supposed to help?
KA: No. Nothing.

ZM: Like what do you use it for? You said you put it on your head for…

KA: Like you can put it on like your head maybe… Well I guess if you have like a headache. You can put it like on your stomach…you can also drink it. Like people make tea out of it. So it’s like if your stomach hurts, if kinda you just don’t feel well… It’s kinda just like a go-to. Also, with like Vicks. And um, we’re big on soups… healing-wise. Um, if you have like a… your throat hurts, ehh lemon and honey. Like in a spoon. So we’ll have that. Growing up, if my stomach hurt, my mom would chop off, um chop little bits of garlic and then I would just like swallow it. And then, it’ll go away.

ZM: Magic!

KA: It was magic, yeah. It really was. I don’t know if it was like… If it had some like physiological effect, or if it was just like I thought that, “this is medicine. It’s supposed to help me, so it cured it,” but… It would always help. It would always help. It would always make my stomach ache go away.


Context: I was talking to KA about their childhood when this conversation was recorded.


Background: KA was born in El Salvador but raised in South Central Los Angeles. She is a junior at the University of Southern California.


Analysis: I thought the combination of commercial product and traditional remedy was interesting. They don’t rely completely on one or the other, rather a mixture of both.