Mapuche medicine comes out of obscurity with Raguiñ Kien

“The Hiengueihual community is very young. She is 23 or 24 years old and all the knowledge with which she was trained came from interviewing her. He told them what and how they should do. And one of the things that he indicated, is in sight. This”.

Luis Salazar looks up and directs his chin. “Esto” is a crescent-shaped building, a few meters from Route 18 in the Ruca Choroi basin.. The baptized Raguiñ Kien, the first intercultural center in the country that will combine traditional biomedicine with Mapuche ancestral medicine. “She” is Carmen Antihuan, the best known machi in the area, who died in 1980, and who is credited with guiding former governor Jorge Sapag to approve the ambitious project in 2008.

On Wednesday it was officially inaugurated, although there are still administrative steps for this unprecedented experience for Neuquén to be formalized. His management has already been decided: it will be led by a Nor Feleal, a collegiate body that will form representatives of the communities, philosophical authorities (those who maintain balance and send strength), workers from the center and the Ministry of Health.

Salazar is a sanitary agent, he belongs to the Hiengueihual community and was chosen by his colleagues from the work team to be part of that organization. “The two medicines are going to be here: biomedicine and Mapuche medicine. Patients will have the possibility to choose which professionals to be treated with”, He synthesized.

Professionals with Mapuche knowledge are called kimche: people with wisdom. The Ministry of Health will open 12 positions for these specialties which, as planned, will be appointed in the next two months. I know will add to the nine of western medicine that include administrative, nurse, general practitioner, dentist.

Salazar explained that Mapuche specialties can include bone composers, lahuentuchefes (a kind of equivalent to a general practitioner), machi. Many of them participated in the opening ceremony, but they keep a strict low profile.

“It is very difficult for them to sit here and speak openly, because there has been a double rod. Suddenly, everything was forbidden to us. Later, the strategy was that they interviewed us, saw us, acquired the knowledge and then that Mapuche knowledge was sold or they are still doing it ”, clarified the young man.

In the Health center, each room has signage in spanish and mapudungun: The lahuentuchefe office, the machi office, but also the dental office, the nursing office, and the immunization and healthy childhood office are already reserved. There are hospital beds with an imposing view, although in Mapuche medicine that term is somewhat neglected.

“We tell him amucon, where the person may not only have a health imbalance due to some ailment, but also due to requiring a spiritual or even nutritional accompaniment. Here we will have the space where all the kimche and we, health workers, can accompany him without the need for that patient to be unable to get up or be plugged into something”Salazar described.

The medicine or remedy in Mapuche knowledge is named after lahuen and can take the form of “Medicinal herbs, plants, some stone, water from a spring, smoke, a food or an animal”. In the crescent-shaped building, a display of plants from the area that can be used is exhibited as a billboard: pimpinela, triqui triqui, manzanilla, ñire, paico, forget-me-not, llanten, zomo kal pewen, white mint and more. Its collection and planting time is linked to the lunar cycles and hence the importance of the symbol for the design of the building.

He was the lonco of the community and coordinator of the Pehuenches area, Daniel Salazar, who drew the first sketch freehand that today is exhibited in the photographic exhibition that was installed in one of the galleries. The orientation, it was decided, had to be facing east, where the sun’s energy arrives.

Carmen Caitruz belongs to the Ruca Choroi community, is also a member of the Nor Feleal and is presented as they catch zomo. A kimche with a specialty in spiritual healing. “Our part has a lot to do with prevention. There is much to do before reaching the disease and that is the good thing about this, because it is something that I do not see in other medicine, “he said.

He said that prevention encompasses “the spiritual, food, how you relate to nature” and even behaviors for women when they are pregnant.

Salazar added that the Mapuche worldview is also “totally different” from the Western one in terms of healing. “From our point of view, health is everything, it is not individual. It can start from one person, but it covers the whole family and, at the same time, covers the whole lof, that’s the difference. When there is a sick person, the lof is sick “, he claimed. “Healing is also joint, we should all participate so that all that person or family restores balance,” he said.

Luis Salazar and Carmen Caitruz, in the ruca where medicines and ceremonies will be held. Photo: Florencia Salto.

Carmen Antihual is remembered as the best known machi in the area. She was visited by all because, they say, her patients returned healthy after their encounter.

The lonco of the Ruca Choroi community, Hugo Licán, rescued part of his life in the speech he gave during the inauguration of the intercultural center and assured that She was in charge of guiding Jorge Sapag to approve the project in 2008.

The kushe ñuke (grandmother with an affectionate tone) “in bad times, had to flee from Bio Bio, Chile” and settled in different places in Neuquén, among them Las Lajas and Caichihue, where he ended his days in 1980. The lonco narrated that it was Nguenechén (Mapuche god) who taught him in a dream “how he should heal and heal people” and said that “she was a naturopathic doctor, philosophical, midwife, pediatrician, generalist” who understood all the physical, psychological and social cures, being recognized by all the communities and other neighboring countries “.

“Maybe this hospital, This crescent comes to represent it and to vindicate our ancient and millenary practice. She always said: somewhere I am going to give a signal, I am going to be present, ”said Licán.

After the last military dictatorship, there were no existing machi left in the country. There is only in Chile and, as soon as entry through the borders is regularized, they will be able to provide care at the intercultural center.

Anyway, the communities they have hope for two that “are in process”, in Bariloche and Junín de los Andes.

“They don’t choose to be machi, it comes spiritually. First the spirits begin to make, then they have to diagnose that they have a machi pilli (soul) by another machi or by a lahuentuchefe and, if they see that they have the pilli, they begin to prepare until it is time to receive it ”, said Luis Salazar, from the Hiengueihual community.

Jorge Sapag in front of the samples of medicinal plants. Photo: Florencia Salto.

The decree 1969 signed on Friday by Governor Omar Gutiérrez confirms the figure of Nor Feleal for the administration of Raguiñ Kien and empowers the Ministry of Health to pay with non-refundable contributions the Mapuche benefits of the Health Center.

The norm is the one that gives legal support to the institution and explains that interculturality in Health implies “the articulation between different health cultures that through comprehensive health actions, they respond to the health-disease-healing process and guarantee individual and collective rights to health in conditions of respect for the cosmovision and diversity ”.

He also quotes the ethnic preexistence that the Provincial Constitution recognizes the indigenous peoples of Neuquén and the duty to promote positive actions in their favor.

The same norm explains that, through “a long-term process”, an understanding and consensus spaces were achieved between the communities of the Ruca Choroi basin, the hospital, the health teams, and the loncos, with the objective of to put the hospital into operation.

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