Traditional healing practices originating in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao: A review of the literature on psychiatry and Brua

Jan Dirk Blom*, Igmar T. Poulina, Trevor L. van Gellecum, Hans W. Hoek

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Brua is an Afro-Caribbean religion and healing tradition from the southern part of the former Netherlands Antilles. Like other Caribbean healing traditions, it plays a significant role in shaping how individuals experience and express disorders which Western health professionals consider to require psychiatric care. Because little has been published on Brua, and because patients from Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao are often reluctant to discuss their commitment to this tradition, they are often misdiagnosed and either over- or undertreated by biomedically trained health professionals. The present paper provides a review of the literature on Brua and its relation to psychiatry. A systematic search was carried out in PubMed, the Ovid database, Google Scholar, and the historical literature. Our search yielded 35 texts on Brua, including three peer-reviewed scientific papers and eight academic theses. From those texts Brua emerges as a holistic patchwork of creolized beliefs and practices which are considered to be both cause and remedy for a wide variety of ailments. Despite the fact that tension between the Brua discourse and Western-oriented psychiatric practice is significant, adherence to Brua does not seem to cause much patient delay in help-seeking. However, belief in Brua as a possible source of mental and physical complaints, as well as patients' frequent recourse to Brua practices, including the use of hallucinogens, may affect the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)840-860
    Number of pages21
    JournalTranscultural psychiatry
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec-2015


    • Afro-Caribbean religion
    • Dutch-Antillean folk religion
    • magic
    • sorcery
    • transcultural psychiatry

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