Unpacking the Bricolage Box: Understanding Medical Choice Among the Maya of Guatemala

Document Type


Publication Date



In Guatemala, several distinct medical care systems simultaneously attempt to address the health care needs of its people. Individuals may choose between the nation’s public health care sector, an established network of international aid organizations, and traditional medicine associated with the nation’s prominent Mayan indigenous population. Through literature review and 2 weeks of field research in Guatemala, this study seeks to identify what factors influence how a Mayan individual navigates these 3 systems in order to make a health care decision. Conclusions from past studies have indicated that individuals often practice traditional medicine until the condition reaches a certain degree of severity, at which point he or she will turn to the next most readily available option. The study’s fieldwork supports such findings and also examines correlations between gender, education level, language use, number of changes in residences, and economic level of individuals and the health care decisions they make. Through the analysis of medical decisions made by Mayan individuals who face more than one health care option, the study considers what characteristics are most important in developing a model of intercultural health.


Approved by: Bruce Campbell, Jessica O'Reilly, Jeff Anderson, Roy Ketchum, Elena Sanchez-Mora, Richard White

Part 2-MAT.docx (610 kB)