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samedi 6 décembre 2008

Medical Anthropology, Marginalization and MI CUBA

Medical Anthropology is not about medicine,  but about Society. It is a tool in which we can divert the gaze of the academics who focus on rituals and symbolism to the more fundamental causes of suffering and violence in our societies, in a predictive manner, so that the information collected from societies and cultures would be useful not only to understand the exotic nature of human thinking but also prevent the all the more prevalent abuse against human beings, usually exotic people, who live marginalized in oppressive societies:  Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia in case of American Indians, and also the seemingly integrated aboriginal populations of Canada, USA, Aotearoa and Australia, who have much in common

Marginalization happens to every one, they don’t have to be exotic. Women who are partners of men with emotional, psychological and addictive problems, even though they may not share a common culture, but become marginalized, especially if the economic situation is unsteady. We always talk about human rights in Colombia, but what is the root cause of that? It is the same root cause of violence in Mexico, Peru, Honduras and other countries in the hemisphere.

No one pays attention to the fact that majority of the Mexican immigrants are paid less than normal, but they emphasize the fact that very few Mexicans graduate from American high schools where they reside, but they don’t make the connection. 

I still remember very clearly, one of my first visits to an Indian Reservation, and discussing the possibilities of Diabetes Prevention. Of course the discourse was strictly on technical terms: low fat food, more exercise, such as is continued to this day. An elderly Lakota man got up and said: Outsiders think Diabetes and Alcoholism are our main problems, but for us, the main problem is lack of employment. Give us jobs and you would see how quickly Diabetes and alcoholism disappears. At that time, I was also working with Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Texas, an anomalous cultural entity in that, they are deeply Presbyterian but they never lost their language. Also they had one of the highest rates of employment among the Indian tribes and one of the lowest rates of alcoholism. The connection did not go unnoticed by me but to this day, the linear thinking of the western mind, look for cause and effect, and expect correction of deficits and deficiencies, with money put into mechanical projects which produces very little result.


Miami with its Cuban connection has always been endearing to my heart. I still get a nice feeling when the plane lands in Miami. My love affair goes back to the day in August when I arrived here to pursue graduate studies, and then became part of the university medical/hospital system for many years. I wouldn’t have believed that it was an artificial system, the artificial city we lived in , breathed and slept in . Long hours in the hospital, cafeteria food, hours and hours in the Medical Library, and friends from all over the world who shared the same time and space.

I would have met thousands of people at this artificial ambience (during my 5 years there), virtually thousands, but I do not have a single friend from those days. We spent so much time together, perhaps not because we wanted to , but we did not have any choice.

I met just one of them, recently at the meeting. An Ecuadorian, who was selected to come to Miami on the promise that he would go back and strengthen the faculty of medicine where he had graduated, inculcating new knowledge and methodologies. He is still here, 20 years later, part of the conservative and oppressive system of Disease Care, apart from the selfish fact that he has made lots of money, he has contributed nothing, he has done nothing and he has betrayed his country, betrayed those invited him to come here. I fully agree with Fidel Castro, if the educated ones wish to betray their country, then they will have to pay a price, since it is the materialistic dream that drives them to betray their countries of origin.  Perhaps in the future, it would be possible to live in two different countries and work under two situations, one to make money and other to spend money and thus achieving a balance of sorts.

This is the artificiality of Life

Where Literature does not exist, when you mention Literature to a doctor, what comes to his mind is the medical journals published independently or with the help of drug companies in this country.

As an exercise, I used to ask my students ( in Medicine, you teach someone just a year behind you) to write poems or at least recite poems.

I said without shame, if you don’t know the opening verses of Poema 20 de Pablo Neruda, don’t go on telling me about your latin American heritage.

In Cuba, a well read country, on evenings when we had nothing better than our company to content with, we used to outdo one another with first and last lines of well thumbed books .. but from memory

Books of Gabriel Garcia marquez was my forte… On the day he was going to be murdered, Santiago Nasser… I would drone on..and someone would say.. How did the following story end, and would name the story and someone would chirp in…and we would all laugh with contenement.  The sheer pleasure of having read and remembered, and regurgitate for further pleasure, in a country where there is very little instant pleasures other than sex between consenting adults