Lard for illness

–Informant Info–

Nationality: Costa Rican

Age: 47

Occupation: Unemployed

Residence: Los Angeles

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Spanish  

(*Notes: The informant will be referred to as GC and the interviewer as K. Many parts of this story were told in Spanish and appears here in its translated form, translated by her son)

Background info: GC is a mother of 2 who grew up in a small town in Costa Rica. She grew up poor with a Grandma who believed in natural medicine, so most of her cures for illness as a child were natural or cheap items.

Context: The informant told me this at her home in the daylight over drinks. I had mentioned how I felt like I had a cold, and she began to tell me.

K: Yeah, I think I’m getting a cold after nearly 2 years. I don’t wear a mask once, and this is what I get

GC: Ah! You know what my grandma used to do whenever we got sick? She would take uh…lard, like fat from a pig, ya know?

K: Mmhm, like the stuff you fry food in?

GC: *laughter* yes, exactly. She-she would take lard and uh rub it on our uh…back and chest to help us feel better

K: Like a fucked up Vicks vapor rub?

GC: *laughter* Exactly! It worked though, I always felt better the day after she did that *Informant smiles*

I think it’s interesting how many different cultures how a version of Vicks vapor rub. The informant grew up poor, so they had to use what they already had and they had to treat illness quickly, as they couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. Lard is also used heavily in Costa Rican cooking, as later noted by the informant, so using something that would always have made the most sense. The informant also noted that her feeling better may have been psychosomatic, but made it clear that even if it was, it didn’t matter.