Maya Traditions Journal > Preserving and Promoting Traditional Maya Medicine in Guatemala

Posted by on July 18, 2014 in

Juan Pacach was nineteen years old when he found a piece of bone on a construction site in Santiago Atitlán. Without thinking much about it, he put it in his pocket and continued working. Days passed, and that small piece of bone kept appearing in his dreams. Once he even recalled the dresser where it was stored making a loud noise, only to find the bone, undisturbed. Weeks passed, and Juan finally decided to seek the meaning of all that was happening. He went to a local spiritual guide, and there he learned of his destiny: to become a bonesetter. The Maya people believe the Ajq’omanela’, or Maya healers, have been granted a “gift” to heal. This gift—passed on by ancestors or known intuitively—comes with a sense of commitment to the community to carry out the duties of a healer. Juan has been a bonesetter for over 15 years and says that he doesn’t charge people who seek his help as it is an obligation to fulfill his destiny as a healer for his community.
For more than five years, Maya Traditions Foundation has been working with the same group of Maya healers, the Atitlan Ajq’omanela’ Network, in promoting natural medicine and traditional Maya knowledge through workshops and medical clinics throughout the Lake Atitlan region. In indigenous communities, where traditional medicine is more accessible, affordable, and recommended by trusted Ajq’omanela’, Maya Traditions works to promote and preserve these traditional medicinal practices that are fast disappearing. Most recently, the Foundation has supported the Atitlan Ajq’omanela’ in becoming a legal association in Guatemala.

Also falling under the Community Health Program is our Organic Medicinal Plant Gardenlocated in Panajachel. From the plants grown in the garden, the healers produce various natural medicinal products available in local stores as well as in the indigenous communities where the Ajq’omanela live and work. The garden is accessible to the public and currently serves as a community educational center where both locals and foreigners frequent the garden to learn about medicinal plants native to the area Please contact for more information on tours of the garden, the Atitlan Ajq’omanela’ Network, and the Community Health Program. 

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