Kimberly Vrudny

Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

Participant 28

In 30/30 Participants, Mexico, OMIECH on August 12, 2010 at 2:15 am

"Participant 28" is a traditional healer at OMIECH. He believes he has successfully treated people living with HIV, but keeps the treatment a secret due to fears of biopiracy.

I have taken care of three people in the community: San Antonio Naranjal [Orange Grove], in the Municipality of Simojovel, Chiapas, that are infected with AIDS. I treated them with medicinal plants for 10 days or up to a year. [The length of treatment depended upon] how they reacted to the medicine. In this way, I verifiably cured them. As to which plant I used, I will tell no one, for this remains among us, since it is a secret among indigenous doctors, so that later on we [are able to] retain the authority to patent it, as the case “Pozol y Frijoles Rojos” [the case of “boiled barley and red beans”] already demonstrates. I knew that a person in the city of Guadalajara patented Tepezcouite, that is, a plant that serves [to treat] the burns of the skin. Then, an announcement followed that our plants served their needs, so they stole them from us and patented them. [Once they are patented,] we no longer have them to use.

I have said to them also in the United States, in Arizona, where I have visited, that if they already patented our pozol, this means that it is no longer ours. For us rural folk, pozol is our only food, and already they took it away from us. Our pozol, that is made from corn, is, for us, sacred.

When one knows the illness and its symptoms, one can apply medicine by means of the plants. I am old, but I do not need to go for a [doctor’s] analysis, because I know the plants than can cure me.

AIDS spreads because there are many women who are sold to be with men. But also the infected males transmit that illness to their spouses or to other people. That is very serious, because sadly they do not take care of themselves.

I have seen that there are people who have been infected—they do not disclose [their status] to the public, because they are afraid to be rejected, or mistreated by the community, friends, and family. [Their status] remains a secret. Other times, what is even more worrying, is if a man is infected who wants to have sexual relations with his spouse, but he tells her nothing, the consequence is that he infects his spouse. And this is also very serious. More should be communicated to couples to prevent the illness. This is not only the case with AIDS, but also with other contagious viruses.

In another case, I encountered patients who came from Germany. They came to visit us at OMIECH. I also treated them with medicinal plants, because they suffered from infections, one with syphilis and the other with AIDS. They told me that during the treatment, they functioned well. Before, they burned and itched a lot. After two months of treatment, they went on living. This means that we can cure illnesses by means of our herbs.

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Participant 29

In 30/30 Participants, Mexico, OMIECH on August 12, 2010 at 2:10 am

"Participant 29" is a Tzeltal midwife, who shares what is known about HIV/AIDS in her indigenous community. She emphasizes an ethic of treating all people respectfully.

I have taken care of three people in the community: San Antonio Naranjal [Orange Grove], in the Municipality of Simojovel, Chiapas, that are infected with AIDS. I treated them with medicinal plants for 10 days or up to a year. [The length of treatment depended upon] how they reacted to the medicine. In this way, I verifiably cured them. As to which plant I used, I will tell no one, for this remains among us, since it is a secret among indigenous doctors, so that later on we [are able to] retain the authority to patent it, as the case “Pozol y Frijoles Rojos” [the case of “boiled barley and red beans”] already demonstrates. I knew that a person in the city of Guadalajara patented Tepezcouite, that is, a plant that serves [to treat] the burns of the skin. Then, an announcement followed that our plants served their needs, so they stole them from us and patented them. [Once they are patented,] we no longer have them to use.

I have said to them also in the United States, in Arizona, where I have visited, that if they already patented our pozol, this means that it is no longer ours. For us rural folk, pozol is our only food, and already they took it away from us. Our pozol, that is made from corn, is, for us, sacred.

When one knows the illness and its symptoms, one can apply medicine by means of the plants. I am old, but I do not need to go for a [doctor’s] analysis, because I know the plants than can cure me.

AIDS spreads because there are many women who are sold to be with men. But also the infected males transmit that illness to their spouses or to other people. That is very serious, because sadly they do not take care of themselves.

I have seen that there are people who have been infected—they do not disclose [their status] to the public, because they are afraid to be rejected, or mistreated by the community, friends, and family. [Their status] remains a secret. Other times, what is even more worrying, is if a man is infected who wants to have sexual relations with his spouse, but he tells her nothing, the consequence is that he infects his spouse. And this is also very serious. More should be communicated to couples to prevent the illness. This is not only the case with AIDS, but also with other contagious viruses.

In another case, I encountered patients who came from Germany. They came to visit us at OMIECH. I also treated them with medicinal plants, because they suffered from infections, one with syphilis and the other with AIDS. They told me that during the treatment, they functioned well. Before, they burned and itched a lot. After two months of treatment, they went on living. This means that we can cure illnesses by means of our herbs.

Participant 30

In 30/30 Participants, Mexico, OMIECH on August 12, 2010 at 2:00 am

"Participant 30" is a health promoter working with indigenous communities in Chiapas, Mexico, who shares in her journal some Mayan perceptions of HIV/AIDS.

I will talk about my experience with AIDS, working with women in traditional Indian medicine.

In communities where there is an AIDS infection, or an illness, [the diagnosis] is not clear. What is AIDS? [in Tzotzil] People only speak of “potz lomal chamel,” which is found in bed, so to speak. (For example, when someone invites us to go swimming in the river, we encounter the spirit of disease.) For diagnosis, it is necessary to ask: How did we encounter it? When did it come? What symptoms do we have? When did they start? Traditional doctors make the diagnosis by [reading] the blood, whereas the doctors at the hospitals make the diagnosis by means of special machines. “Potz lomal chamel” is not the same as AIDS, but it also causes the body to weaken. Sexually transmitted diseases are complicated. And so this is presented as AIDS.

When men and women go outside of their communities, and migrate, they spread the illness when they return, infecting their wives or husbands. So grows the seed.

The AIDS community is called [again in Tzotzil] “veel chamel” because it is something that eats you from the inside. It is difficult to speak of AIDS, due to grief, prejudice, customs, and because you must not speak publicly about the private parts of men and women (the penis and the vagina).

When we speak of AIDS, we speak about how to prevent it by using medicinal plants. People who are sick, only they know in their hearts [that they have AIDS]. They do not speak of it due to grief [and] fear. It is not made public—only the one who tested [the blood], only the doctor knows. It is not God’s punishment! On the contrary, lack of self care is bad. We are to protect the body and to prevent illness, and to treat the body. God has given us medicines and plants, which we respect. We listen to those who know (doctors and midwives) that it is the devil’s work simply to have sex with anyone. Furthermore, there is no communication between the young, who do not understand advice and who do not care to prevent diseases. So there are herbs that we can use, but we must not condemn people, for it is most important to prevent discrimination among the population. There are some herbs that we take but because of a lack of economic resources, they have not been researched to show their effectiveness and thereby help to prevent and cure AIDS in the population.

OMIECH

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 (omiech@prodigy.net.mx) 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:

Name
Residential or Commercial Address
Country
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