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How Traditional Healers Use Their Royalty Payments.
Antonio and Juana Cuc: Both are 80-plus "grannie healers" who raised 15 children; they are the primary care providers for up to 200 family members including children, grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren as well as countless nieces and nephews. The last check was spent on new farming tools for Mr. Antonio and a new dress and kitchen supplies for Miss Juana. The next check will be spent on the rethatching of their house.

Miss Barbara Fernandez: 65, the most well-known traditional healer of the Creole culture in Belize. Aunt Barbara, as she is known, has a herb stall in the Belize City Market where she administers to the entire country at one time or another. Her only daughter, Blossom, died four years ago and left Aunt Barbara with five school age grandchildren to raise and educate. Aunt Barbara's money goes towards clothing, food, and books for her grandchildren.

Mr. Thomas Green: 90-year-old bushmaster, dorry maker and village healer of Duffy Bank, Cayo District, is now too old to work as a canoe guide which was his only source of income for a decade. His royalty payments go toward his personal needs such as food and clothing.

Winston Harris: 55-year-old renowned bushmaster of Belize, uses his royalty to feed and educate his 12 children in the village of Cristo Rey. Mr. Winston's only source of income is from his work as a bushmaster. Being named in the book has given him prestige in his village -- now he and the others have been elevated by their community to healers, doctors, and experts in their field.

Don Elijio Panti: 103 years old when he died in 1996. This was the only source of income other than our monthly stipend for him so it meant that he was not a charity case in his last years. The royalties were paid to his grandson who was able to purchase the basic needs of the aging healer until he died. For Don Elijio it was a great source of pride that he was able to provide for himself up until the end. The healers voted to allot his royalty payments to Miss Beatrice Waight.

Mr. Andrew Ramcharan: 90-year-old snakedoctor and village healer who lives alone but close to his family in the village of Ranchito in Corozal. He has a great-grand-daughter whose mother died a year ago. She requested to stay with Mr. Andrew and his royalty check helps to keep her in high school. Without this money either she wouldn't be able to go or he would have to rely on a member of his family to help him. He has independence and self-reliance at the age of 90 because of these payments.

Miss Hortense Robinson: A 67-year-old herbal midwife and traditional healer of Ladyville. She has been trying to build a birthing center for 20 years with no success because of the lack of finances for materials and labor. She takes only what her clients can afford to pay and most of the time has a household of up to eight persons to provide for by herself, since she has no husband. So, her royalties have greatly assisted the building process. Each check goes to a special aspect of her new birthing center -- a washroom, a set of windows, part of the roof, the septic tank, etc. children recently ran up a clothing bill at a store where and the owner threatened to slap a lien on Miss Hortense's so her last check actually went to pay off that bad debt to keep land title clear or she might have lost all! She told me if she couldn't get this birthing center finished, livering babies. For the past 50 years she has birthed them all on her own bed and slept on the floor next to them.

Mr. Leopoldo Romero: "Polo" as he is widely known, is a 55-year-old accomplished bushmaster and snake collector of medicinal plants. Using the royalty payments over the past few years he has constructed a new home, one step at a time, using one payment, for example, to buy cement blocks, another to build the roof.

Miss Juana Shish: Village healer of Sukkotz in Cayo District. She raised 15 children and has one disabled daughter still living at home -- and her youngest who is about to be married. Her royalty checks have helped her start a business. With this money and the help of her sons she has set up a restaurant and one guest cottage known as Las Palmeras. Visiting seminar groups spend a few hours with her and enjoy her wonderful cooking. So the royalty payments have given her financial security and a future in the growing tourism market of Belize.

Beatrice Waight: 49-year-old mother of nine, village healer, women's group organizer, and community health care volunteer worker who spends her royalty payments on books, uniforms, and school fees for her children. Her husband makes a small salary at the local saw mill and would not be able to send all of his children to secondary school and feed the household as well. The royalties are enough to pay for books and uniforms for two of her high-school-age children.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Rosita Arvigo