Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Spring 2012

Thesis Advisor

Frances Barg


This study explores the help-seeking behavior of Tz’utujil Maya mothers with ill children in the town of Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala. Santiago Atitlán is well known for its retention of Maya culture. However, the pueblo is currently undergoing rapid “westernization”, and many aspects of the local traditional culture are being affected by the arrival of North American ideologies and commodities. One realm in which the meeting of the traditional and the modern is evident is the area of healthcare with the strong presence of both traditional medicine and biomedicine. This study utilizes ethnographic methods to develop a decision-making model in order to understand what mothers consider as they seek to cure their ill children in a town with such a variety of healthcare resources. The results show that various factors such as recognition of an illness and knowledge of a remedy, confidence in a particular treatment option, perceptions and costs of the different healthcare resources, and perceived seriousness of an illness all play a role in their actions, which is consistent with the literature. This study has been able to elaborate upon when Atiteco mothers perceive illnesses as “serious” and how this affects a mother’s response. The results also reveal how Atiteco women navigate a pluralistic health system by making use of both these disparate health systems in curing their children. These findings will help medical professionals in Santiago Atitlán better understand and serve their patient population.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Date Posted: 08 June 2016


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