Folk-medicine “Se Empacho”



This piece of folklore was collected on April 19, 2018 around 6 pm. I went over to my girlfriend’s parents’ house for dinner and I overheard a piece of folk medicine and was intrigued. My girlfriends mother was telling this piece to my girlfriend, so I interviewed her. This is a rough translation of the conversation because she only speaks Spanish and I did not go prepared to record the interview as this was a spontaneous interview.


Main Piece:


At my girlfriend’s parents’ house, I overheard my girlfriend’s mother say that the baby, a 2-year-old, she babysits “Se empacho”. She said that she already had cured him by “sobandolo” (massaging). I was bit intrigued as to what sickness could be cured with a massage, so I asked if I could interview her on the topic.


Me: “Que significa que se empacho”. (What does “empacho” mean)


Teresa: She replied that sometimes when a baby eats something “se queda atorado en su estómago” (it will get stuck in their stomach). The baby the shows symptoms such as “no comiendo y estando triste” (not eating and being sad). Teresa : “Solamente… ninos se pueden empachar, o tambien adultos” (Can only kids get this sickness, or can adults get it also” Teresa: “Todo la jente se puede empachar” (Everyone or Anyone can get this illness) Me: “Oooh… ok, y como se dice… como se cura. Ay una manera specifica que se tiene que sobar. Pues como… adonde se tiene que sobar y tienes que usar algo cuando lo sobas” ( Oooh… ok, and how do I say this… how do you cure this. Is there a specific way you need to massage then? Like how… where do you need to massage them and is there anything you need to use when you massage them.) Teresa: She replied that you have to massage their stomach downwards to get the whatever is stuck to go downwards and get dislodged. Then you have to pull their loose skin from their back. Background: My girlfriend’s mother is Mexican, born and raised in a small ranch in the state of Nayarit. She is 47 years old and was a nurse for the ranch. She tended to most small illnesses for the people of the ranch. She moved the United States when she was 33 years old. She said that she learned most of her remedies, including the cure for when someone is “empachado” from her mother who was also lives in the ranch. Analysis: This piece of folk medicine is a prime example of how people transfer share their own remedies to sicknesses. Although I have never heard of this sickness before and could not find any specific studies to what this sickness could be or how massaging one’s stomach could cure it, it is still a significant part of one’s culture. When interviewing my girlfriend’s mother, I saw how serious she was about the sickness and the pride she had for curing it. Although traditional and scientific medical research shows no evidence of how this sickness is possible or how the cure works, it is widely believed and practiced in the small ranch.