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April 11, 1966

Folk Diseases Among Urban Mexican-AmericansEtiology, Symptoms, and Treatment

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas.

JAMA. 1966;196(2):161-164. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100150107026

Acculturation and assimilation of persons of L Mexican origin in the Southwest has been slowed by various social mechanisms of the larger society which tend to keep these people separate, and by a tendency on their part to separate themselves from the larger community by living in barrios. One result of this sociocultural isolation is the preservation of many folk beliefs of Spanish and Hispanic-American origins. Most important among these from a medical point of view are the prescientific concepts of health and disease and the related practices.

Prominent among the disease concepts are mal ojo (evil eye), empacho (surfeit), susto (magical fright), caída de mollera (fallen fontanelle), and mal puesto (hex). Gillin1 gives a detailed account of susto in Guatemalan natives and draws parallels between folk and scientific (psychiatric) therapeutics. The existence of the first three concepts among Spanish-speaking Americans has been described by Saunders.2 Clark's work

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