The Hot and the Cold: Ills of Humans and Maize in Native Mexico

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University of Toronto Press, Jan 1, 2003 - Social Science - 301 pages

Pre-Hispanic notions of heat and cold continue to shape native Mexican ideas about health and illness in humans and food plants. In The Hot and the Cold, Jacques Chevalier and Andrés Sánchez Bain examine indigenous worldview and myth, and challenge the prevailing notion that hot-cold reasoning in Latin America is a product of the Hippocratic humoral doctrine brought by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century.

Based on extensive field work in southern Veracruz, this innovative study details folk tales and stories of illness from indigenous people, and provides explanations that emphasize the close connections between healing practices, milpa cultivation, and corn mythology. These close connections reveal that human health and the life cycle of the corn plant are governed by the same principles founded on native concepts of the hot and the cold. Notions of what is frío and what is caliente pervade the ways in which the Nahuas and Zoque-Popolucas of the Sierra de Santa Marta think about their relationship with the land and all entities that surround them, including fellow humans, plants, animals, and spirits. By revealing the connections between ethnomedicine, agriculture, and mythology, Chevalier and Sánchez help clarify puzzling aspects of Mesoamerican religion and symbolic thought, and lead the way towards better understanding of indigenous worldview in the modern world.

 

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Contents

Humoralism
3
An Ethnography of Womens Activism
15
Balance and Movement
16
Solar Life Birth and Diarrhea
41
Lovesickness and Fear of the Dead
82
Frights and Chaneques
116
Milpa Medicine and the Lunisolar Calendar
155
Corn Water and Iguana
172
Ants Turtles and Thunder
219
Diffusion and Syncretism
241
Notes
261
References
277
Index
283
Copyright

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About the author (2003)

Jacques M. Chevalier is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University. His previous books include Semiotics, Romanticism and the Scriptures. W. Andrés Sánchez Bain is a Program Officer at the International Development Research Centre.

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