Tag Archives: medical missions in Guatemala

¿Me duele mi…coco?: A Taste of Guatemalan Slang

hrum-coconutAs you chat with your Hispanic patient, he tells you that his “coco” hurts. You know he doesn’t mean chocolate, and you’re quite sure he doesn’t really mean “coconut”…In fact, you are nearly positive he means his “head” hurts and can get right to the heart of that matter. After all, you read about it in the English-Spanish section of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient last night. The best part? Your patient feels like you really can communicate together.

Would you like to learn not only other slang expressions for “head” but also other words and folk medicine tidbits to help you communicate with the Guatemalans you serve? Check out Understanding the Guatemalan Patient today!

When a “vulture” entered your conversation…

Summer – at long last! You’ve been so ready to be done with your thick textbooks and exams, and you finally are…at least for a few glorious months. Right now you’re daydreaming about your upcoming trip to Guatemala. You can’t wait to go back. In fact, you’re going through medical school so that you can serve Latin Americans with your hard-won skills.

You start doodling out a packing list. After all, you learned some things on your trip last year. Might as well benefit from them!

Hey, where is that book, the little blue one that your Spanish-interpreter aunt gave you before your last trip? You scour your shelves – or rather the piles on your shelves. (Your organizational skills haven’t recovered from the “finals flurry” yet.) Ah-hah! There it is. Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk MedicineSettling in your overstuffed chair, you flip through the pages. Wow, does it bring back memories! Like that time with the “vulture”…

It was the second day of your first medical mission trip to Guatemala. You were seeing patients under the supervision of an MD with a Spanish interpreter nearby. Your little patient looked to be about five and was having a hard time of it. The interpreter was talking through the symptoms with the mother when a funny word caught your ears. The mom, who was clearly of Mayan descent, was saying something about “zope“.

Since your aunt is a Spanish interpreter Spanish is woven into your life pretty well. But “zope”? Doesn’t that mean “vulture”?

That’s when you remembered that your aunt gave you that book that’s supposed to deal with slang expressions. You pluck it out of your pocket and flip to the “z” words. Yep, there it is: zope.

“So he’s been vomiting?” you ask.

The translator nods. “Yes, how did you know?”

“Well, I speak a little Spanish, but -” You hand her the book. “- my aunt gave me this.”

She skims a couple of pages. “We should have these here.”

“Maybe I can get some to you,” you say with a smile.

Yeah, that was a fun memory. Your Spanish is a lot better this year, but you’re definitely taking this book along again. In fact, maybe you’ll get a couple of extras. Why not check it out on Amazon? Your other team members should have them as a recuerdo if nothing else.

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!


It’s been a long day. You’re a nurse on a mission trip in Guatemala, and the heat must be getting to you a bit. But it looks like this is your last patient for the day. The fact that she doesn’t speak English doesn’t bother you. After all, you’ve taken several Spanish classes. During your week here in Guatemala, you’ve been doing pretty well so far.

When you ask what’s wrong, she says, “Me duele el pesquezo.

Pesquezo? That’s a new one! Casually, you glance around. Where is that translator when you need him? No where to be found apparently.

You decide to try to figure it out. You ask her to show you where it hurts. She put her hand on her neck and shows you how it hurts when she moves her head.

Ah-hah! Now you’re getting somewhere. You proceed with the visit and wrap up another rewarding day seeing patients at a special rural clinic.

That night you tell one of your team members about pesquezo. She, also a nurse, says, “Oh, that means ‘neck’, right?”

“Yeah,” you say, “I think so. But how do you know?”

She pulls a little blue book out of her backpack. “I bought this before we came. That word’s in here. It’s says pesquezo is formally used to mean an animal’s neck. I guess that’s why we didn’t learn it in school.”

“Hey, why didn’t I know about this?” you wonder, thumbing through the spiral-bound, pocket-sized book.

“Well, you can look at it tonight if you want,” your friend says. “It’s been really helpful to me.”

“Thanks. That would be great. Then maybe I’ll get my own copy before our next trip.”

Heading out on a medical mission trip to Guatemala or southern Mexico? Make sure everyone on your team is prepared with a copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient ! Check out the special bulk package on Amazon of 8 copies for on $48. (Offer available through April 30, 2015.) Happy reading and happy travels! 



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