Tag Archives: indigenous

Glimpses of Guatemala: Do You Know This Place?

After winding along the hairpin curves enroute from Guatemala City to Chichicastenango, you might need to stretch your legs or enjoy an extra cup of coffee. Ahead is a brightly-colored sign. Maybe this is a good place to stop. Here in the mountains, the morning air can be chilly. A hot cup of coffee definitely sounds good! As you walk up to the door, the smells of wood smoke and hot corn tortillas beckon to you. Once inside, rustic tables and chairs offer space for many travelers.

What would be good to order with a cup of coffee? Homemade pie – what could be better? Well, pay de papaya y piña! What about the cake with chocolate sauce? Mmmm. Decisions, decisions.Chichoy pieChichoy cake

 

 

 

 

If you’ve traveled this way before, perhaps the story is giving it away. Do you know the name of this place?

¡Sí! ¡Muy bien! El Chichoy has welcomed travelers for decades. Nestled right by the road, it is the perfect stop for a meal or just a refreshment.

In the Guatemalan mountains where the Chichoy is located, Guatemala’s indigenous languages – totaling 22 – are still spoken. Although many of the people now also speak Spanish, some words are slightly different or are used differently. These people and their unique use of language were part of the inspiration behind Understanding the Guatemalan PatientWe hope they will be just as clearly understood by those who serve them as their completely bilingual neighbors.

 

Chichoy sign

 

Of Weaving & Words

IMG_1543Thread by thread, line upon line somehow turn into a work of art. Strands of color slowly come together under skillful fingers until the tapestry is complete.

Back-strap weaving – who can help but admire the craft and the woman sitting with her loom hanging from the post and connected to the strap around her waist? This is a skill passed down from generations, and it is a hallmark of Guatemala’s highlands.

Along with captivating textiles of various colors, in the mountains of Guatemala you may also discover a vibrant selection of languages. Many of the indigenous people speak a Mayan dialect, and, though they often speak Spanish as well, their indigenous words are woven in just like the hues on their looms. Of course, one can appreciate the beauty of the spoken words without understanding just as one can admire the pattern of a corte (woven fabric made into a traditional wrap-around skirt) without much knowledge of the art behind it. However, just as knowing the hours and skills that went into creating the corte adds depth to the admiration so understanding of the words deepens the appreciation of their beauty. That is one of the reasons we created Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. May all who read it grow in their value of both these words and, most importantly, the people who weave them every day.

 

 

When a patient has lost his soul…

This is your third medical mission trip to Guatemala, and you’d felt like you’d pretty much see it all. But this latest case has you floored.

You’ve just been told that the patient in front of you has pérdida del alma. Since you’ve read about it in Understanding the Guatemalan Patientyou have a grasp on its basic meaning – “soul loss” – and you know that your patient is exhibiting one of the common symptoms: muteness.

How do you handle a case wrapped in traditions and folk medicine practices like this? One thing you know: you’re glad you’re here to serve.

Want your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine so you can be informed of not only slang expressions but also folk illnesses? Check it out on Amazon! And don’t forget our “8 for $48” bulk special ends on Thursday, April 30, 2015!

canilla

You’ve dreamed of this day. You’ve studied and saved for this day. Now here it is: your first day seeing patients with a medical mission team in Guatemala.

The still-cool morning breezes waft through the metal screens over the windows of the concrete building. You smile at your first patient, a man from the campo who looks like he has labored long throughout his life, and begin a conversation. Since you’ve studied Spanish for several years now, your team decided you don’t need one of the in-demand interpreters as much as other team members, so you’re on your own for this conversation. Shouldn’t be hard, right?

Then your patient says, “Me duele mi canilla.” 

Your optimistic thoughts screech to a halt. Canilla? You’ve never heard that word! So much for those years of studying. The way he set his worn hand on his leg makes you think there’s some connection, but you want to know…and you don’t want your ignorance to make him feel uncomfortable.

You calmly look around. No interpreters nearby.

Then you remember that little blue book your dad gave you when he dropped you off at the airport. “Might come in handy,” he said.

You pull it out of the bag on the table next to you. It’s a glossary. Where are the “c” words? Oh, yay, there it is! 

canilla – leg, lower leg

You look your patient in the eye with a smile and say, “¿Se duele su canilla?” You set your hand on your leg like he had. “¿Cómo su pierna?

¡Sí!” He nods his head vigorously. “Me duele mi canilla.”

Oh, good! Now you can continue with your consultation.

Later you get a chance to ask one of the translators about canilla. He laughs. “Canilla is like an animal’s leg,” he says. “People, especially those who grew up speaking a Mayan language and speak Spanish as a second language, use it for a person’s leg, too.”

Ah, now you understand even better. And maybe tonight you’ll look through more of those words from that Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. It seems like it really might come in handy.

Gearing up for a medical mission trip to Guatemala or know someone who is? Maybe you’ll want your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. Check it out on Amazon today!

 

folk illnesses

Have you heard of these Guatemalan folk illnesses? Search our “Word(s) of the Week” archives to see some of the definitions or have them all at your fingertips after you pick up your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient on Amazon.

folk illnesses (n.)

aire, cir, ciro, empacho, mal hecho, mal ojo, pérdida del alma, pujo, susto

calf (of the leg)

calf (of the leg) n.

camote, pantorrilla (more formal), posta (also means a cut of meat)

ventosa

f. a folk treatment with a candle and a glass which creates suction on the skin; often leaves a circular bruise; can be used to remove “aire”; also means flatus