Surviving the Distance: The Transnational Utilization of Traditional Medicine Among Oaxacan Migrants in the US

Abstract

Transnational health practices are an emergent and understudied phenomenon, which provide insight into how migrants seek care and tend to their health care needs in receiving communities. We conducted in depth interviews with return migrants (N = 21) and traditional healers (N = 11) to explore transnational health practices among Mixtec migrants from Oaxaca, specifically in relation to their utilization of traditional healers, medicinal plants, and folk remedies. In established migrant destination points, folk remedies and plants are readily available, and furthermore, these resources often travel alongside migrants. Traditional healers are integral to transnational networks, whether they migrate and provide services in the destination point, or are providing services from communities of origin. Findings encourage us to rethink migrants’ communities of origin typically thought of as “left behind,” and instead reposition them as inherently connected by transnational channels. Implications for transnational health care theory and practice are addressed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Traditional medicine and traditional healers refers to both material and human resources that have been classified in Mexico according to their fundamental role in delivering traditional therapeutic interventions, particularly within rural and/or indigenous communities. The most well known practitioners are parteras (traditional birth attendants), but other practitioners such as hueseros (bone-setters), curanderos and chamanes (physical and spiritual healers), sobadores (massage-based healers), culebreros (snake healers), and hierberos (herbalists), among others are frequently sought out for curative measures [50].

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Acknowledgments

The funding for this project came from the Mexican government, El Fondo Sectorial de Investigación en Salud y Seguridad Social SSA/IMSS/ISSSTE-CONACYT SALUD-2008-01-87533. Additional support came from the Health Initiative of the Americas at the University of California, Berkeley. We also wish to acknowledge the support during fieldwork of the federal program “Vete Sano, Regresa Sano” of the Secretaría de Salud de México.

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Correspondence to Blanca Estela Pelcastre-Villafuerte.

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González-Vázquez, T., Pelcastre-Villafuerte, B.E. & Taboada, A. Surviving the Distance: The Transnational Utilization of Traditional Medicine Among Oaxacan Migrants in the US. J Immigrant Minority Health 18, 1190–1198 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-015-0245-6

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Keywords

  • Transnational
  • Migrants
  • Oaxaca
  • Mexico
  • Traditional medicine