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Back You are here: Home Columns Columns Allyn Hunt Storm-crowded late November stings a campesino girl’s family, sending her to a ‘medieval’ government hospital

Storm-crowded late November stings a campesino girl’s family, sending her to a ‘medieval’ government hospital

On a November morning in the early 1960s, the young girl woke, listening to another of the stinging series of unseasonable mountainside storms.  Daily temperatures fell, afternoon and nightly rains increased clasping the scattered adobe homes of the extended Rosales family in their grip.  The many-branched clan, along with their herds, flocks, coveys and packs of livestock and poultry, accepted this soaking chill stoically.  It was just a natural turn of weather. 

Sixteen year-old Concha Rosales, who endured heat more easily than cold, rolled off her straw petate (sleeping mat) and into her huaraches.  She had gone to bed wearing a boy’s denim shirt and pair of pants, rare at that time.  They were gifts from a gringo who was teaching Concha lessons in reading Mexican history from a frayed set of encyclopedias.  The morning air stung her feet and especially her hands as she stepped outside to do her necesidades.  Returning, she shook off the cold and dropped to her knees as she did each morning, crossed her legs behind her and bent forward over a molcajete – a mortar chopped out of volcanic rock.  With regular motion, she began preparations for the family’s morning tortillas.  Soon she was warm.      

Four members of the less cautious associated families were already bed-ridden with what traditionally was called the gripa. It was an umbrella term for any illness, slight or severe, that families of ill relatives hoped wouldn’t last.

The term “modern medicine” was then not widely used because it was not available to most of the population, and this north-of-the-border term smacked in government circles of gringo superiority.  And Mexico’s touchy reaction to that reality shunned such a concept.  Mexico’s true superiority in healing lay in folk medicine, from which other nations poached ancient remedies, tinkered, bottled and boxed them, marketing the result expensively.

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