Yesterday my young neighbors and I had the sad task of taking their sick puppy to the vet to be put to sleep. An aunt in the country had given it to her, and it was already weak from parasites when she brought it home. We had brought it to Marco Antonio for a check-up and parasite medicine and super-extra flea treatment that a puppy could endure. At that time, Marco Antonio was concerned about her. He looked at her teeth and said were in bad shape, and she showed other signs of malnutrition. But we tried. She seemed to be making a bit of progress, but over the weekend, she nose-dived, poor baby. Marco Antonio diagnosed the problem as distemper, always fatal. We had not yet vaccinated her because she was too weak when we firsts went in. He was hoping she'd be strong enough this week. Distemper, he told us, kills huge numbers of puppies in Mexico, and unvaccinated puppies that survive to adulthood develop immunity only to become carriers leading large numbers of the next generation, like Blanca and Rosi's puppy, to an early death. Rosi and Blanca, especially Blanca, were very sad, but resigned. Resignation seems to me a notable quality here. It isn't passive so much as a quick review of the situation and a generally accurate summation that yet again there's nothing we can do. Marco Antonio and his wife and co-vet Mathilde were also sad. They have never gotten used to animal suffering and to putting animals to sleep.
Anyway, before we left (and this is really the topic of the post) I asked Marco Antonio and Mathilde what they thought about homeopathy. It is very common here and many people I like and respect prefer homeopaths to what are called here allopathic physicians, or what in the US are the standard crop of physicians. I had looked homeopathy up previously and not encontered much favorable on US and British sites.
I am not sure that I am ready to go to a homeopath, but Marco Antonio and Mathilde told me (as I have known) that there is not such a wall between various practices here in Mexico and that in fact homeopathy is well accepted and respected, especially for certain kinds of treatment. They mentioned that their own daughter had asthma and that it was really bad when she was very young. Marco Antonio's sister, he said, was a pediatrician of the allopathic sort in Monterrey, and when she heard about her niece's asthma, she reminded Marco Antonio that she herself had suffered from asthma and that her family had taken her to a homeopath. She said she sent her asthma patients to homeopaths as well since they could do better than she. Marco Antonio and Mathilde's daughter apparently improved drastically fairly rapidly -- at an age that he thought was too young for a strictly placebo effect.
He discussed the reasons for the fact that he considers it a valid form of practice. He's a pretty science-based kind of guy so I think maybe there's something to it. He says there are two good homeopathy schools, one in Guadalajara, the other one I think he said was in Querétero, but on that one I may be misremembering. He also said that the center of homeopathy today was in France.
Anyway, the reason it all interests me is that there aren't virtual armed camps here. Somehow there's an awareness that body, mind and shall we say spirit are integrated and can't be separated. Among people like my dentist and our doctor and Marco Antonio and Mathilde, this isn't New Agey so much as Old Culture.
I am reminded of two semi-relevant events from my Peace Corps experience some 40 years ago. We had one student at our school, a boarding school in eastern Uganda, who came from the north. He started losing his teeth. He kept saying he was pretty sure someone had done some witchcraft and he had to go home to straighten it out. The westerners among us were pretty skeptical, but not wanting to risk that he was right, we let him go home. Sure enough, he came back happy and with tooth loss stopped -- and not from flossing. People in Uganda at that time, by the way and unlike here, had excellent teeth and a young man losing them was not normal.
The other incident involved a student who started to do very badly in his course work. The Wagisu, the group which lived in our area, all the boys were circumcised in cohorts around the start of puberty. This boy, Gidongo, was terrified of the ritual, and so he let us Anglos convince him he didn't need to go through with it. In any event, it turned out his failure to be circumcised dramatically affected him, and it was only by being circumcised (if I remember, since he'd missed the right time, it was done in a hospital -- much easier) that he could shake off his despair and return to his previously excellent performance.
Anyway, our veterinarians both said American medicine had become "machine medicine," where most improvements were sought through technical means. This is an interesting and valid point. I indexed a book of essays written by Latino doctors and practitioners in the US for the purpose of educating Anglo physicians on Latino expectations of medical treatments. Soon I will elaborate on it. I think we have a lot to learn in the US.