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The Hot and the Cold

The Hot and the Cold: Ills of Humans and Maize in Native Mexico

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    The Hot and the Cold
    Book Description:

    Examines indigenous worldview and myth to challenge the prevailing notion that hot-cold reasoning of health and illness in Latin America is a product of the Hippocratic humoral doctrine brought by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8146-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-2)

    The twentieth century brought radical changes to practically all aspects of life among indigenous populations of Latin America. Together with state institutions, national and global economic interests have become progressively involved in shaping people′s daily lives, drawing indigenous communities into market economies driven by the logic of profit and capital accumulation in the hands of the few. Increased contact with the outside world has meant, among other things, the loss of local autonomy in matters of health. Local belief systems and practices nonetheless continue to play a central role, with the result that people now draw from native and western...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Humoralism
    (pp. 3-15)

    The widespread notion that folk medicine in Latin America rests upon concepts derived from the Hippocratic doctrine raises many questions. Is the hot–cold syndrome as portrayed by George Foster truly faithful to the Hippocratic tradition? What is humoral and what is not? Is humoralism in Latin America different from classical humoralism in important respects? By what reasoning should we consider the similarities to outweigh the differences?

    To compare classical humoralism with Hippocrates′ New World legacy, it is important that we have a good grasp of both belief systems. We summarize the so-called original model below, and then proceed to...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Balance and Movement
    (pp. 16-40)

    Before we present our case study, comments should be made regarding concepts of equilibrium prevailing in the hot-cold literature and the alternative model we propose. Researchers generally agree that since pre-colonial times health has been associated with a condition of equilibrium between heat and cold within the body and disease with its rupture. This is as far as the consensus goes. The literature shows many variations regarding the meaning of the equilibrium concept and related debates over the interpretation of historical and ethnographic data. Arguments about what constitutes a healthy equilibrium state and what is meant by a harmful disruption...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Solar Life, Birth, and Diarrhea
    (pp. 41-81)

    For the Popolucas and the Nahuas, life is essentially a matter of balance, cyclic equilibrium, and heliotropic growth. The first two principles involve an equal distribution of temperatures balancing out in organic space and over time. The body is constantly combining and alternating between hotter and colder conditions and activities, mixtures and motions that are considered healthy and provide points of reference for normal behaviour and for healing practices as well. Heavenly bodies, plant growth, soil fertility, and life itself are all governed by cyclic motions, bodily states constantly evolving in the midst of their surroundings and moments hot and...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER FOUR Lovesickness and Fear of the Dead
    (pp. 82-115)

    The Conquistadors recorded with admiration the great respect subjects showed towards Moctezuma, always bowing in his presence, never daring to raise their sight. But what the Spaniards interpreted as respect went much further. A divine force, hot in nature, was believed to emanate from the tlatoani′s eyes, a force so powerful that it could kill subjects that dared look into his eyes (Viesca Treviño 1986, 89). Gutieras-Holmes (1961,4,306) also remarks how the Tzotziles of Chiapas associate heat with physical strength, age, masculinity, and socioreligious status. For the Tuxtla area, Münch Galindo (1983, 193, our translation) writes: ′The spirit of man...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Frights and Chaneques
    (pp. 116-154)

    Although ailments can be caused by exposure to intense heat stemming from snakes, the dead, or women in swelling, attacks of excessive cold can also deprive the body of its solar strength and life energy. This brings us to the local notion of fright known in Spanish asespantoor susto (nemotilin Nahuat, tsɨy in Popoluca). The issue first came up during a conversation with María, a Popoluca community worker, while discussing local beliefs on the causes of diarrhea. An excerpt of the conversation follows.

    maría: If you get frightened, fright attacks the body! Fright is indeed true! It...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Milpa Medicine and the Lunisolar Calendar
    (pp. 155-171)

    Measures of hot and cold govern all cycles of life. New life begins in water, yet its natural progression is a movement away from life-giving fluids flowing in the human body and watering the earth. In the end, life is a gift from the heavens - from the solar warmth that gives movement and strength to all bodies that grow and thrive under the sun. This energy increases as humans age and dry themselves up toiling the land and raising the seed of future generations of children and ears of corn.

    Heliotropic growth must nonetheless proceed with a sense of...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Corn, Water, and Iguana
    (pp. 172-218)

    The preceding chapter explored the botanical side of native healing practices, with an emphasis on how cycles of human activity and lunar motions affect corn growth and the sustenance of human life. Corn harvesting and plant pruning are best done in days of the full moon, a low-tide moment of the month when plants reach optimum levels of dryness, ripeness, and maturity. Conversely,milpasowing and early corn growth require a good dose of coolness. Young growths thrive on the freshness of fluids flowing at high tide, during days of the new moon. Given these requirements of wetness and coolness,...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Ants, Turtles, and Thunder
    (pp. 219-240)

    Having given up life that begins in water to the east and having mastered the iguana, Sintiopiltsin the corn god seeks his adoptive father′s permission to travel to Oaxaca, west of the land that gave him birth. The Gulf Nahua hero is thus empowered to move between water, earth, and sky, closer to his father in the highland. Steps are taken to reunite the high and the low, and movement occurs through time as well. The child has grown and his journey to the headwaters of the Papaloapan River, from sunrise to sunset, is undertaken in the company of pilgriming...

  15. CHAPTER NINE Diffusion and Syncretism
    (pp. 241-260)

    This completes our analysis of healing practices, agricultural rituals, and corn mythology in the Sierra Santa Marta. In previous chapters we saw how ritual and mythical notions of thermal balance interact with dynamic concepts of cyclic shifts and heliotropic growth to sustain human and plant life over time. These principles were shown to govern not only illnesses and remedies affecting humans and maize but also mythical events implicating human beings, corn plants, and divinities alike.

    On the medical side of things, the composite rules we explored govern a wide range of regulations concerning practically all human activities, from eating to...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 261-276)
  17. References
    (pp. 277-282)
  18. Index
    (pp. 283-302)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 303-304)