David Carey, Jr.

Dec 13, 2023

Health in the Highlands

Indigenous Healing and Scientific Medicine in Guatemala and Ecuador

University of California Press 2023

Health in the Highlands: Indigenous Healing and Scientific Medicine in Guatemala and Ecuador (University of California Press, 2023) explores how, in the early to mid-twentieth century, the governments of Ecuador and Guatemala sought to expand Western medicine within their countries, with the goals of addressing endemic diseases and improving infant and maternal health. These efforts often clashed with indigenous medical practices, particularly in the rural highlands. Drawing on extensive, original archival research, historian David Carey Jr. shows that indigenous populations embraced a syncretic approach to health, combining traditional and new practices. At times, the governments of both nations encouraged--or at least allowed--such a synthesis, yet they also attacked indigenous lifeways, going so far as to criminalize native medical practitioners and to conduct medical experiments on indigenous people without consent. Health in the Highlands traces the experiences of curanderos, midwives, bonesetters, witches, doctors, and nurses--and the indigenous people they served. Carey interrogates the relationship between 'progressive' public health policy and indigenous well-being, offering lessons from the past that remain relevant in the present. Our best way forward, this history suggests, may be a compassionate syncretism that joins indigenous approaches to healing with science and a pursuit of environmental and social justice.

Ethan Besser Fredrick is a graduate student in Modern Latin American history seeking his PhD at the University of Minnesota. His work focuses on the Transatlantic Catholic movements in Mexico and Spain during the early 20th century.

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Ethan Fredrick

Ethan Besser Fredrick is a graduate student in Modern Latin American history seeking his PhD at the University of Minnesota. His work focuses on the Transatlantic Catholic movements in Mexico and Spain during the early 20th century.

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