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Revista Uruguaya de Antropología y Etnografía

Print version ISSN 2393-7068On-line version ISSN 2393-6886


NAVARRO, Roberto Campos  and  QUINONES MARRERO, Herlinda. “Empacho”: a popular infants disease in Uruguay. Rev. urug. Antropología y Etnografía [online]. 2017, vol.2, n.2, pp.45-61. ISSN 2393-7068.

“Empacho” is a digestive pathology widely recognized by traditional medicine in Latin America. In this historical review about the “empacho” in Uruguay -encompassing from the 18th century to the present- we incorporated 33 documents collected in different libraries in Montevideo, and some others from Argentina, Chile, and Mexico. As part of the results, we present several data about the conceptualization of the disease (with the difficulty to find an equivalent scientific term), its causality (exceed the gastrointestinal capacity and eating non-digestible food or materials), its distribution and frequency (higher prevalence during summer and in infants), main symptoms and signs (loss of appetite, diarrea, vomit, abdominal pain), and the therapeutic itinerary (where de mother usually is the first healer, then, traditional therapists, and finally, the academic providers). In addition, it shows the most used therapeutic resources (medicinal herbs, massages, blessings, cathartics, homeopathy, and specific maneuvers), highlighting the positive perceptions about those methods, and some preventive recommendations.

It ends with a discussion about the analyzed information, and as a conclusion, we emphasize the relevance of the popular knowledge and healing practices related to “empacho”, which are continuously reproduced among social groups in Uruguay and the rest of Latin America. Therefore, it is important to keep its consideration within the medical field and in its anthropological dimension as part of the health/illness process.

Keywords : “empacho”; traditional medicine; cultural bound syndrome; traditional healing practices; medical pluralism.

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