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Maya Bonesetters

Maya Bonesetters
Manual Healers in a Changing Guatemala

The first book to thoroughly examine bonesetting in Guatemala, Maya Bonesetters offers an ethnographic portrait of an underdocumented yet culturally vital healing tradition within the lived landscape of its practitioners.

February 2020
256 pages | 6 x 9 | 2 b&w photos, 17 b&w illus. |

Scholarship on Maya healing traditions has focused primarily on the roles of midwives, shamans, herbalists, and diviners. Bonesetters, on the other hand, have been largely excluded from conversations about traditional health practitioners and community health resources. Maya Bonesetters is the first book-length study of bonesetting in Guatemala and situates the manual healing tradition within the current cultural context—one in which a changing medical landscape potentially threatens bonesetters’ work yet presents an opportunity to strengthen its relevance.

Drawing on extensive field research in highland Guatemala, Servando Z. Hinojosa introduces readers to a seldom documented, though nonetheless widespread, variety of healer. This book examines the work of Kaqchikel and Tz’utujiil Maya bonesetters, analyzes how they diagnose and treat injuries, and contrasts the empirical and sacred approaches of various healers. Hinojosa shows how bonesetters are carefully adapting certain biomedical technologies to meet local expectations for care and concludes that, despite pressures and criticisms from the biomedical community, bonesetting remains culturally meaningful and vital to Maya people, even if its future remains uncertain.

  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Bonesetting over Time
  • Chapter 2. Empirical Forms of Maya Bonesetting
  • Chapter 3. Sacred Forms of Maya Bonesetting
  • Chapter 4. Challenges and Changes in the Injury Landscape
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix. Traditional Medicine and Bonesetting: Integration and Lessons
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

Servando Z. Hinojosa
McAllen, Texas

Servando Z. Hinojosa is a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He is the author of In This Body: Kaqchikel Maya and the Grounding of Spirit and coeditor of Healing by Hand: Manual Medicine and Bonesetting in Global Perspective. Servando G. Hinojosa is a retired educator and an active sculptor, muralist, and illustrator.


"[A] well-written, well-researched ethnograpy of bonesetting among Guatemalan Maya…Recommended."

“This book shows why bonesetters are important in the health care landscape of Guatemala and beyond. It is appropriate for undergraduate and graduate courses in anthropology and Latin American studies, particularly courses focusing on the Maya or traditional healing. The writing is very accessible, with theories and concepts presented free of academic jargon.”
Jonathan Maupin, Arizona State University


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca