Tag Archives: Indigenous People

We try to protect the biosphere, but what about the Ethnosphere?

According to the Living Planet Report issued in 2012 by the Word Wildlife Fund Global, due to increasing deforestation, natural resource procurement, and habitat destruction, global biodiversity—plethora of plant and animals found on the planet—has decreased by 30 percent since the 1970s with tropical zones incurring a 61 percent loss. This fact is shocking but will not come as a surprise to many. What few people realize, however, is that the world is seeing an equally staggering loss of cultures, traditions, and ways of life due to the same manmade conditions, a loss that significantly decreases the chances of a sustainable future.

One way we can measure cultural destruction is to examine the loss of language. A product of a culture that evolved over many generations, language embodies a culture’s imagination and unique perspective of viewing the world into a concise, single form of expression. This means every time a language dies so does a unique conglomerate of knowledge that took hundreds of generations to develop. Read More »

Guest Roast: “Traditional Birth Assistants: Scapegoats or Potential Miracle Workers?”

Thomas Hart has been called ‘a fine example of a “citizen of the world”’* and an expert on traditional Maya practices having lived, worked and studied in Guatemala for the best part of two decades. Thomas is an anthropologist at heart and has consolidated his vast knowledge in his book “The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya”. He works for a British NGO called Health, Poverty, Action and as a guest roaster shares with us some potential solutions to high maternal mortality rates in Guatemala**.

Comadronas, Guatemala’s Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), are community midwives who are estimated to deliver up to 90% of births in rural Guatemala. Their relationship with the Ministry of Health has been a complicated one. In many communities, they have been derided by health professionals as uneducated (they sometimes are), illiterate (they sometimes are) and even superstitious (for practicing their own indigenous culture). As such they have served as convenient scapegoats for high maternal mortality rates, which are estimated to be twenty times higher in developing nations (1). Read More »

Guatemala Field Notes: Men of Maize

Until recently, probably like for many of you, my imagination when it came to corn, aka maize, was limited to a bright yellow sunshine goodness, steamy and fresh on the cob soaked in butter and lightly salted, bursting with warm juices with every bite, the remnants of which I discover in my teeth hours after I am done. Or, perhaps, some ready-to-eat tinned sweet-corn kernels added to my jacket potato, tuna, chilli (sin)carne or simply adding a crunch and a juicy burst to my salad plate. In reality corn comes in a rainbow of colours and subtle gradient of tastes and despite one or two varieties being only an occasional dinner or snack companion for many of us in the West, corn or, as it is known in Spanish, maiz, has been the mainstay of the peoples of Central America and many other countries for centuries. Read More »

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