Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work

First Advisor's Name

Mario De La Rosa

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Richard L. Beaulaurier

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Paul H. Stuart

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Albert Wuaku

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Social Welfare, Social Work

Date of Defense



Among Latinos, Santería functions as both a religion and a health care system in occurrences of health versus illness within various Latino sub-groups in the U.S. This exploratory study offers a comprehensive analysis of the function of the folk healing tradition Santería as a culturally congruent informal mental health support that assists with coping with the psychosocial sequelae of living with cancer among Latinas in Miami-Dade County, FL. It (a) determined the attitudes of Latinas living with cancer towards Santería as an informal mental health support and (b) explored how Santería offers Latinas effective mental health support that assists in coping with the psychosocial sequelae of living with cancer. The mechanisms and characteristics underlying the motivations of Latinas living with cancer to seek and integrate this informal modality for their cancer care were identified. A purposive sample of 15 Latinas ages 18 and older in Miami-Dade County who had received a diagnosis of cancer were recruited from sites in Miami-Dade offering formal mental health support services and botánicas. Data collection incorporated in-depth interviews and a validation focus group. In an effort to generate theory through a modified Grounded Theory approach, data analysis was accomplished by means of multiple coding passes and the constant comparison method which resulted in higher levels codes that were grouped into three major themes: 1) Participants’ Experience with Folk Healers, 2) Influence of Santería on the Cancer Experience, and 3) Participants’ Experience with Conventional Healthcare and Mental Healthcare. Results illustrate how, among Latinas, the folk healing tradition of Santería co-occurs with professional medical and mental health treatment in what Arthur Kleinman defines as the popular sector, which identifies and sets the parameters for culturally acceptable forms of healthcare and mental health treatment options.





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