Kimberly Vrudny


In Education, HIV/AIDS, Literacy, Mexico, Non-profits / NGOs, OMIECH on August 10, 2010 at 3:15 am

Organizacíon de Médicos Indígenas del Estado de Chiapas

Founded in 1985, OMIECH is a non-governmental organization that is devoted to the promotion of Mayan medicine. Its vision is to develop and strengthen Mayan medicinal practices throughout the state of Chiapas by providing a unique model of healthcare centered on the philosophical and medicinal principles of the Mayan peoples. Currently, OMIECH serves 600 members who represent 13 indigenous communities from the highlands and the jungle, as well as the northern and central regions of Chiapas. Longterm objectives of the organization include:

• Defending the natural resources of indigenous peoples against biopiracy;
• Rescuing, conserving, systematizing, and developing indigenous medicines;
• Producing medicinal treatments for illnesses most prevalent in indigenous communities;
• Producing and distributing health-related instructional material into indigenous communities.

The key projects of OMIECH to support these objectives are:

Mayan Medicine Museum: Visited by school and church groups, as well as Mexican and foreign tourists, the museum project is an effort to present to a broader public the various elements of traditional Mayan medicine. The museum features:

1 – The Public Plaza shows the visitor the extent to which traditional medicine is practiced and preserved in the communities of Chiapas. Also on display here are the most common categories of indigenous medics that form part of the Organization of Indigenous Medics of the State of Chiapas (OMIECH). The most common categories of the Indigenous Medics are the J’ilol (pulse reader); K’oponej witz (mountaintop prayer healer); Tzak’bak (bone healer); Jve’t’ome (midwife); and the Ac’vomol (herbalist). The plaza also explains that becoming an indigenous medic is not something that can be learned. Rather, only those who have the gift or the “don” and have discovered this gift in dreams can practice indigenous medicine.

2- The church is a sacred space protected by saints who were blessed specifically for this space.

3 – The Mountaintop Prayer Healer’s Garden has on exhibit examples of plants, animals, and minerals that are used in healings by the traditional medics of the Chiapas Highlands. A mural representative of the magnificence and density of the southwest mountains of Mexico occupies one wall. At the center of this space the mountaintop prayer healer can be found.

4 – The Midwife’s House shows how a Tzotzil midwife assists in childbirth using just a few instruments.

5 – The Herbalist’s House demonstrates how to prepare sacred plants.

6 – The Candle Workshop shows the making of candles, for in indigenous medicine, candles are a fundamental element with a the curative capacity.

Herbal Program: Central to the herbal program is the defense of indigenous medicine against biopiracy. The herbal program disseminates medicinal plants and knowledge about them into member communities. An herbal pharmacy at the organization’s headquarters in San Cristobal de las Casas makes the plants available to those nearer to the city. Medicinal gardens in member communities enable the organization to provide herbs to outlying communities. The organization has also developed a number of workshops that train people in the care and use of medicinal plants.

Midwife Program: A fundamental principle of the midwife program is to provide a space where women can safely share with one another their experiences of pregnancy and childbirth within the context of indigenous medicinal practices. In this way, the community supports and defends the right of women to discuss, analyze, and make decisions over the reproductive process. The elderly and the young gather at these meetings, together with midwives, to share knowledge about the use of medicinal plants during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as in relation to infant care. Health promoters often attend these meetings in order to disseminate health-related information in the communities.

Media Production: The organization produces audiovisual materials with the objective of training members of indigenous communities about the use of Mayan medicines in treating the most common illnesses impacting indigenous communities. Materials are also made to promote health by informing the indigenous communities about emerging health issues, including HIV/AIDS.

If you would like to donate to OMIECH, please send an e-mail ( including the following details:

1. Please specify the area you would like to support:

Mayan Medicine Museum
Herbal Program
Midwife Program
Media Production

2. Please specify the currency you are sending:

American dollars
European Euros
Mexican Pesos

3. Please specify the amount you wish to donate.

4. Please identify yourself:

Residential or Commercial Address
E-mail Address

If you wish to visit or write to OMIECH, the Organizacíon, as well as the Mayan Medicine Museum, are located at the Center for the Development of Mayan Medicine (CEDEMM):

Av. Salomón González Blanco No. 10, Col. Morelos.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México.
C.P. 29230. Apdo. Postal 117.
Telefax 01 (967) 67- 85438

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