Coins for Styes

Description (From Transcript): “I don’t know if you know what styes are but like they’re an eye infection sometimes, and what they would tell us to do, or what my grandpa would tell us to do is to get either like a cold penny, or a cold spoon that you would put on the ground first (which I don’t know why). And then you would put that on your eye, and it would somehow help it go away. He (my grandpa) would leave it (The penny or spoon) outside and then put it on the stye to heal it. There were other things they (my grandparents) did. If they had like cuts, or like burns, they would wrap it in like banana leaves, or things like that, so they (the rituals) never had specific names. It was just kind of known things they would do and then they were passed on. And I actually was just talking to one of my friends, who’s Korean American, and she was talking about how they have similar things that they would do. But they would pull out an eyelash for styes as well.They would pull out the eyelash that’s near it (the stye) and then they put the eyelash on the ground. So it’s always having to do with something outside, I feel like which is interesting. Because, especially in Ecuador, for my grandparents growing up, they were very connected to the land and farming and things like that. I feel like, for them, it (spoons and coins) was just like things that were accessible to them. Maybe just like single household objects, because they didn’t necessarily…I know my grandparents growing up didn’t necessarily have the means to have the most medical things, if that makes sense”.

Context: T.M. is a student at USC. She is part Ecuadorian and part Native Alaskan. She explains that her grandparents are originally from Ecuador, and this was a medical tradition their parents taught them. Her grandpa then taught it to her mom, and her mom would tell her about it, even though has never personally done it. Even though she has never personally done it, she does believe that it works because her mom told her that it worked for her. She remembers it from early childhood because she always had a problem with styes. Her parents would take her to a doctor and she would get medicine. But when she would tell her grandparents about it, she got to hear their history and what they would do. Since then, it has always stayed with her. 
My interpretation: I thought the use of a metal object was important because metal can become cold easily, especially if it’s placed outside when the weather is cold. The fact that it has to be cold is also important because the cold (like ice packs that get placed in freezers and are used when a child gets injured) is known to lower swelling, which can sometimes happen with styes. The overlap with the informant’s friend over aspects of the outside world is also very telling about how medical treatments are connected to the resources people have in the geographical environment they are in. In this case, the informant’s grandparents being from Ecuador, a developing country with a rich ecosystem, reveals why they used affordable items and made sure to physically place them on the land.