Ideal for Pre-Med students and Medical Anthropology students and other persons from any variety of research and applied fields who are interested in cross-cultural health and healing.
Traditional Maya Health and Healing
Today in Yucatan Peninsula traditional Maya healers of different types continue to practice their work in maintaining the health and well-being of communities. Maya healers are especially important in rural areas where allopathic medicine and doctors are not frequent. However, even in urban settings traditional healing methods are sought out and used by those who also use Western medicine.
Maya healers range from traditional priests or ritual specialists, called Hméen, to midwifes, bone-setters, divinors, and herbalists.
Some healers have attained significant reputation in the Yucatan. For example in Dzitas there is a healer who cures eye-infections, in Much'ukuxkab there is a healer of spiritual and metaphysical problems, in a community near Cancun there is a healer who operates without piercing the body of the patient.
There is a diversity of healing methods and practices. Significantly there is no institutionalized structures of hierarchy or organization. Each practitioner has their own mode of operation and thus can provide different knowledge to be learned by students in the OSEA Health and Healing Program.
Tensions Between Traditional Healing and Allopathic Medicine
Traditional Maya health practicioners live and work in the same communities with allopathic doctors, nurses, and clinics throughout the countryside. Today persons may choose to go to allopathic healers as well as traditional doctors depending on the kind of illness and success of treatment by other healers. Women may use both traditional midwifes for many aspects of the process of carrying a child to birth and an allopathic doctor other aspects. How persons choose one or the other or both are important personal and sociological questions that students in the OSEA program will learn about.
Students live in Piste and take seminar coursework at OSEA. During the four weeks of the program students do shadow work with different types of healers. OSEA sets up ethnographic shadowing and direct learning with healers of different types and in different communities.
Two weeks of the program the students will shadow local Piste healers. Options include traditional herbalists, midwifes, private allopathic doctors, and doctors in private clinics or in the government social security clinic. During the other two weeks of the program, students have the opportunity to do ethnographic shadowing with healers in other communities located between 20 and 60 minutes away from Pisté. Opportunities include working with spiritual healers, herbalists, midwifes, traditional Maya massagers and bone-setters, Hméen, and traditional divinors. The majority of program fees supports this long distance travel away from home-site of Piste. Specific monolingual Maya healers may require interpreter, which would included in the program fee.
normally conduct 3 to 4 hours a day of shadow work for twenty days during the four week period. This totals 60-80 hours total of shadow work with the variety of traditional Maya and allopathic healers. The program also includes 25 hours of seminar coursework.
Participants in the OSEA Maya Health and Healing Program do seminar work in two areas. Students are provided an introduction to Medical Anthropology and read extensively on Maya culture specifically focused on health, healing, spiritualism, religion, and identity. Students are not expected to have any background in anthropology. However, because the program is restricted in size, OSEA can tailor fit coursework and readings to the appropriate level of the participants. Participants who have an advanced knowledge and coursework experience in Medical Anthropology are provided individually designed coursework to match their career objectives and professional research goals.
Coursework syllabus, TBA
Credits and Hours
OSEA Maya Health and Healing Field Study Program is a four week, 6 credit course. The course is accredited through the Facultad de Antropologia of the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, based in Mérida, Yucatán, México. The credits appear as anthropology courses.
Direct Link to the Enrollment Application Form
Summer: 4 week program. See OSEA calendar of activities
Dates: Health & Healing One: Noon Sunday June 9 to Noon Saturday July 7, 2013 -- 4 weeks
Health & Healing Two: Noon Sunday June 30 to Noon Saturday July 27, 2013 -- 4 weeks
Start: Start date is the day of Arrival, plan to be in Piste for Orientation Meeting at 1pm.
End: End date is the earliest date of Departure from Piste after 12pm.
Location: Pisté and Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, México, and surrounding Maya Indian communities
Find Cancun on Google Maps— —
Find Pisté & Chichén Itzá on Google Maps
Credits: 6 credit hours, at undergraduate or graduate level. “Maya Health and Healing”
Total Cost: Tuition plus Room & Board
Tuition & Fees: $1500
Room & Board: Option A. $980 Single Room in Posada Olalde & 2 meals with Maya family
Option B. $700 Limited Availability Option for Homestays (3 meals)
Tuition & Fees Include:
Transportation to & from communities located within a specific perimeter of Pisté and Chichen Itza to visit regionally reknown healers each of whom has a unique specialization; these include Yaxuna, Dzitas, Yokdzonot, San Francisco, Xcalacoop. These include non-invasive eye surgery, bone-setting and massage, midwifery, spiritual healing, divination, herbal remedies and traditional curing. Fees also include cost of interpreter or translator on necessary occassions with monolingual Maya speakers and may include on particular distant locations an all-day cultural guide.
There are other healers, midwifes, hmeeno'ob, yerbateros of some fame located at greater distances. Travel to work with particular healers located in communities at greater distance from Piste or that involve special transportation may require additional out of pocket expenses to be calculated at the moment.
Airfare, Transportation to/from Pisté at start/end of program, lodging before and after program start/closing, incidentals and personal items, non-program travel, research supplies and equipment
Program is open to: undergraduate majors and graduate students in any social science, art, culture, communications, and applied research fields; persons who have completed a BA, MA, or other higher degree but are not currently enrolled in a degree program.
GPA of 2.5 for coursework taken to date
Completion of Sophmore year of college, university, or equivalent institution
Minimum 1 year of college level Spanish or 3 years High School Spanish, or demonstrated proficiency
No prior coursework or knowledge in Maya language is necessary
Home-stays provide linguistic and cultural immersion. Families are carefully selected based on the Program Director’s 24 years of experience in the community of Pisté. Participants are required to purchase a hammock for sleeping in homestays; a special hammock shopping trip to a nearby town is organized during the first days of the program.
Posada Lodging and Meals: OSEA partners with the Posada Olalde a Maya family-run posada that offers superior linguistic immersion and cross-cultural experience. Victor Olalde, owner and tour guide, has been a friend and collaborator of OSEA for over 20 years. He has significant cross cultural experience with OSEA students and tourists and he has often worked as the Student Liaison for OSEA. This experience helps make the Posada Olalde a particularly welcome place to stay. The Posada Olalde provide a comfortable experience with privacy, study areas, internet, immersion, and ease of a hotel. The Posada Olalde is ideally situated within 2 blocks of the OSEA Headquarters, one block from the main road of Pisté, and 20 minutes walking distance from Chichén Itzá.
The cost of Lodging and Meals are adjusted every year in accordance with the cost of living and the exchange rate with the Mexican peso (mxn). The prices are set in the fall of each year as an estimated price. The fluctuations in the exchange rate have forced us to establish a price verification of lodging and meals in mid-April. OSEA reserves the right to modify the fee for room and board from $50 to $100 if the price of the peso rises over half a point compared to the rate in the fall when estimated prices were established. This rise in cost will be communicated as soon as possible. In cases where such a change is warranted, participants can be assured that the additional funds are directly paid to homestay families and meal providers.
Mexican and other Latin American Nationals who are not Studying in the USA or Europe:
Special pricing for Mexican and other Latin American citizens is available. To be eligible you must (1) not have US citizenship or passport nor have a dual citizenship with the USA and an other country. (2) You must not have studied for or be currently enrolled in a high school, bachelors, masters, graduate certificate, or doctoral program in the USA or in any country of Europe. (3) You must be a citizen of and reside in Mexico, Latin America or other qualifying country with full time residency. (4) You must be able to provide proof of advanced levels of English proficiency of sufficient level to be able read and comprehend English language texts.
Mexican, Latin American and other qualifying nationals can receive up to a 55% discount on OSEA programs. Each program rate is different. Discounted rate to participate in Maya Health and Healing for credit is $900 plus the costs of food and lodging.
External Resources for Pre-Med and Medical Anthropology Students
"What is Shadowing a Physician?" From Univ Washington Med School
Online Directory of Medical Anthropologists, SMA
Society for Medical Anthropology Resources page
The Politics of Healing. A History of Alternative Medicine in the USA
"What is Naturpathic Medicine?" from American Association of Naturpathic Physicians
Course Syllabi in Medical Anthropology, provided by Society Medical Anthropology, AAA
As an allopathic doctor, "Why learn Cross Cultural Perspective about Health and Healing?"
The Centre for the Cross-Cultural Study of Health and Healing
Jonathan Ellerby PhD Comments on Cross cultural Healing Perspectives
Definition of Naturpathy by the National Center for Complimentary and Altnerative Medicine, at the NIH
Naturopathy—also called naturopathic medicine—is a medical system that has evolved from a combination of traditional practices and health care approaches popular in Europe during the 19th century.
Naturpathy History from Wikipedia
Non-western Medicine. article by Peter Worsley
What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)? by the National Center for CAM
* Direct OSEA Enrollment allows students from any university with any residence status or nationality to enroll directly with OSEA. Payment is made directly to OSEA as per guidelines described in the application process and on the OSEA website. Upon completion of the program the student receives an OSEA transcript and a transcript from its accredited partner the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán or UADY. In order to facilate the transfer of credits, students receive two copies of each transcript in two separate sealed envelopes in September following the completion of summer program. One of these sealed and stamped envelopes should be stored among your important papers and the second envelope is then hand-delivered by the student to the registrar of their university in order to comply with their rules for accepting transfer credits. Please note that your university may have a policy that requires the registrar to reject transcripts delivered in envelopes that have been tampered with or broken.