Up front, I’ll say that I didn’t even see this woman I’m writing about or her sick baby, it’s just …. last week I heard a vivid story and I wanted to comment on Guatemalan acceptance, desperation, folk belief and the just plain lamentability of living in a country where the absence of public health resources can kill a child suddenly.
There was a warning though. A mother here in the community took her 7-month old child to the health center and was told that it had a high fever and needed medication urgently. Returning the next day, the mother was told that the situation was dire and her child should be rushed to the emergency room immediately.
There was no money.
The mother, with likely very few options, came to the Municipality to ask or beg or plead with the Mayor for the means necessary for a hospital visit, but the mayor couldn’t be found. So the woman brought her dying child to the OMM (Oficina Municipal de la Mujer), and she asked for help.
I have to interject for a second – this baby is going to die. It was incredibly sick, apparently white as a sheet, diagnosed in critical condition and yet the mother didn’t have the means to save her child. Probably desperately, she opened up to any suggestion that emerged.
The coordinator of the OMM is a midwife, and she determined that the baby might be stricken with Ojo, The Eye, something I don’t know about. I get the sense that it’s like a curse.
The coordinator went to the market to buy pepper and a plant called rue or the Herb of Grace and chewed them up, taking a mouthful of aguardiente (cane liquor) and spraying the whole mixture into the face of the child.
Then the child went into convulsions, and the coordinator went on to turn the child upside down, hanging while she began to pound on the soles of its feet, meant as a cure for the soft spot on the baby’s head.
The baby died. And it’s not to say that the coordinator was responsible – by all accounts the baby was already incredibly sick. As for the methodology or its aim, I don’t know.
I feel like one lesson here is that you can’t discount folk belief - people will still do what seems right no matter the circumstances. And regardless of whether you disagree with me, consider the panicked mother: if you were poor like her and had no other option, wouldn’t you consent to just about anything with the hope that it might save your child?