Storytelling and Healing

Storytelling has existed for a long time and shared in every culture. Like others, Latinos use storytelling for many reasons. Some use it as a vehicle for preserving their cultural practices, values, norms and beliefs. Others use it to tell their story, expressing how they feel, describing what happened, informing how they succeeded or failed and why life changes. Still others use storytelling as a means for healing.


Health experts report that storytelling (personal stories) helps improve health outcomes. For example, it is effective in improving safety behaviors, improving knowledge in medication use, improving intention to vaccinate and increasing the perceived risk of the Hepatitis B virus among some men.


Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the Susquehanna Art Museum’s (SAM) onsite Después de la Frontera/After the Border, a bilingual group exhibition that honors the stories of recent unaccompanied immigrant youth, families and young adults who fled their homes in Central America. There, I learned the remarkable stories of nine Latino Artists: Dr. Emma Cervone, Latin-American studies scholar, Towson University; Eric J. Garcia, political cartoonist; Tanya Garcia, multimedia artist and curator; Silvia Mata-Marin, social graphic designer, Fulbright & Robert W. Deutsch Fellow; Armando Mejia, photographer Valeria Molinari, illustrator; Michelle Angela Ortiz, Philadelphia-based artist and muralist; Edgar Reyes, graphic designer, community artist; and Levi Vonk, Fulbright Fellow, anthropologist.


These artists use storytelling “to share the complexities involved in crossing the borders, challenges of integrating into the new environment and what youths and families envision their futures to be.”


Their storytelling combines gestures and expressions. The visual art describes a moment in time that transforms a person.


Director of Education at SAM Tina Sell afforded me the opportunity to meet in-person some of these Latino artists. Each highlighted “the challenges and triumphs of services within the community, and the changing landscape of immigration to the U.S. as it is influenced by our Presidential election.” They use art as a means to educate, inform and possibly help people cope and heal.



Después de la Frontera/After the Border is at the SAM through December 4, 2016. This exhibition, curated by Tanya Garcia, is the culmination of her year-long Baltimore Creative Alliance fellowship supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. Garcia is a Puerto Rican community artist, organizer and storyteller. Her approach to storytelling is multifaceted and includes oral histories, video and installation. Individual and group tours and school visits are welcome. Artist opportunities are also available.  For more information, visit or call (717) 233-8668.  Visit in-person at 1401 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg.


Take good care of your planet, communities and health. Send your health questions to ¡Hola, Oralia! at  Together we can help keep Pennsylvania residents healthy.  ¡Salud!


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