Serving Oaxaca’s Mixtec Alta, How it Came to Be
Life’s journey is unpredictable. Much that we anticipate often never comes to be. Instead, new adventures present themselves and from these, life often takes new direction. If we allow it, our lives will be enriched in ways we would never suspect it to be.
In the last Donor Update, I wrote about just such an instance. Twenty-two years ago, I remember leaving for Mexico’s Yucatan with the expectation that my time would be filled studying ancient Maya culture. Instead, because of Barbara’s inspiration, it led to the founding of A Promise of Health!
Several years later, while in Mexico City, I met a National Congress deputy from Oaxaca’s Mixtec Alta region who passionately told me about their need for medical care.
Though APOH was working in Yucatan at the time, he wanted us to replicate our work for Oaxaca’s indigenous poor. It wasn’t possible for our small charity to undertake the task, but his passionate plea for help remained, stuck in my mind.
When Barbara was asked to speak at a Mexican National Homeopathic conference in the city of Puebla, which was close by the Mixtec Alta, the deputy’s plea again echoed in my mind. When we attended, we drove into the mountains in the direction of Oaxaca just to take a look.
From steep mountain sides clung small villages, each with its patch of fields. Along the roadway were often men carrying large baskets filled with corn they had harvested. There were no trucks filled with corn, nor were there burros carrying the harvest.
The villages reminded us of small Maya pueblos in Yucatan. The difference was where they were built. Certainly, there was no sign of affluence. In that way, they were no different from the Maya.
When our work in the Yucatan was complete and we had returned home, again Barbara and I talked about what we had seen and I continued to recall my meeting in Mexico City.
This time, knowing that whatever we might do would depend upon support from people from that region, Barbara began to investigate help from Oaxaca’s migrant community in California.
Meetings with Oaxaca migrants then led us to Oaxaca and Dr. Soledad Ramirez Medina became APOH’s doctor starting in the village of Ayoquezco de Aldama.
From reading Dr. Soledad’s interview, you know the rest of the story. You have read about her “Golden Dream” of returning home to the Mixtec Alta where she was born to see the building of a clinic in Yanhuitlan.
Now, a year has just passed since Dr. Soledad first opened her APOH clinic in Yanhuitlan, Oaxaca, Mexico. Let’s take a look at these life changing moments. Also, at the conclusion of the Donor Update, we want to share with you a surprise event in APOH’s life journey that we hope you will find heart-warming.
Yanhuitlan’s APOH clinic celebrates its first year of service!
For Yanhuitlan., May 16, 2022 became a historic moment because, as far as anyone could remember, it was the first time their community had a permanent place to actually see a doctor and get medicine if they were sick.
It wasn’t a case that the town was only a backwater, forgotten by the outside world. Sadly, for all rural indigenous Mixtec people living throughout Oaxaca, Yanhuuitlan was no exception. Living without a doctor or medical care was, for most, a fact of life.
There was a short time in the 1950s that Mexico’s government began a serious effort to reverse that fact. Mexico’s President Adolfo Ruiz Cortines began his administration in December 1952 by supporting small-scale public works programs that attempted to provide economic relief to rural areas. This program included building small medical dispensaries that were to be visited by a doctor and nurse.
Sadly, for Mexico, it was a costly, overly ambitious plan that never materialized. The toughest nut to crack is finding enough doctors who are willing to work at low government salaries and commute from village to village. With a change of presidents, the proposed medical program was abandoned.
May 16th, 2022 President Cortines dream was revived in Yanhuitlan! At long last, its many scattered pueblos and ranches had a doctor and medical care in its own clinic!
APOH asked Dr. Soledad for her thoughts about the past year and she wrote, “When I reflect upon this year, it is hard for me to believe that it is really true, that we can serve all these humble people.
“It gives me a feeling of great personal pleasure that APOH and I can bring my people the medical assistance they have so long needed!
“When I realize it was only a short year ago that sick people here did not know how to go for help and that now they do know that Yanhuitlan has a doctor, I think of all the great support and effort that APOH has given to make all of this come true.
“Each day I thank God for APOH and its donors, who so generously have supported this work for so long. The thoughts of what we have accomplished are those that help sustain me in my work!”
So, faithful donors, on this the first anniversary of Yanhuitlan’s clinic, let us give thanks that after all of these years, God miraculously put together all of the elements needed to make this, Dr. Soledad’s dream, come true.
Opening Week 2022 – APOH Yanhuitlan Clinic
Elderly are a large part of Dr. Soledad’s patients
Reading Dr. Soledad’s first year of weekly reports, an overwhelming number of patients are 60 years old or older. When APOH asked her about this, she wrote, “Yes indeed, I see several elderly patients coming each week. Some weeks they are the majority of my patients.
“In Yanhuitlan, like most of rural Oaxaca, we have a very large older population. I think it is because so many young people move away.
“The vast majority leave because there is not enough work or families cannot earn enough to support themselves. Many are looking for an easier and better life than that of the campesino. Often they emigrate to Mexico City or the U.S. Left behind are our elderly, whose homes are here. They do not want to leave because this is all they know.
“Yanhuitlan’s older population are poor. For many, their only income is from their work. A lucky few receive remittances each month from their family that has moved but they are the exception. The homes of my patients are humble. Sometimes they are just adobe with a sheet metal roof. Often, cooking is still done the old-fashioned way, over a small wood fire.
“Many of their complaints are often related to the climate and many years of hard work.
“Often, I see the crippling effects of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Sadly, arthritis is a progressive condition. Patients whose condition progresses rapidly tend to be older and have multiple affected joints. I think there is more arthritis here because of our very cold climate. In the rainy season, the men who work in the fields only wear sandals. From both cold weather and rain, their wet feet suffer. Over the years this condition takes its toll.
“Likewise, women get up early and the cold and rain also affect them. To ward it off, they may wear many layers of long socks but still, without a heated house, cold, damp air affects them greatly.
“Also, the majority also have hypertension and diabetes.
“I believe this is from their diet. Although the food here is very rich and delicious, their cooking habits are generally not healthy. Many consume far too much fat. Sadly, because of this, it is not just in the elderly that I find both illnesses. Hypertension and diabetes affect much of the general population as well.
“Not feeling well often leads to anxiety and chronic depression, especially among elderly patients. As a result, I must treat not just their multiple ailments, but also attend to their mental health as well.
“As I write about the elderly, I want to comment on the unfortunate health effects of Covid in our community.
“Almost everyone in Yanhuitlan and the surrounding villages have been infected by the disease! Now, nearly all my patients and especially the elderly have a complication or condition (a sequelae) resulting from Covid infection. This must be considered as I treat their other ailments.”
The story of Lucretia and Magdaleno, age 86 and 89
Writing about this elderly couple, Dr. Soledad touched our hearts. No doubt Soledad’s life journey led her home to help people like them.
She writes, “Early this year, an 86 year old patient, Mrs. Lucrecia, came to my office. How she got there is still a mystery, she was so crippled!
“She told me that she and her husband, who is 89, walked here. How that could be, I do not know!
“She said she came because she frequently chokes on her food while eating and sometimes these choking spasms occur even when not eating. But, as I soon discovered, that was only a small part of her multiple ailments.
“For 20 years Mrs. Lucretia has suffered from burning pain and throbbing, swelling in her knees, that does not allow her to walk. Upon examination, both her knees are completely rigid. She cannot bend them. When she tries to walk, she has to drag her feet. She tells me that attempts to walk are intensely painful.
“On both feet, her toes are completely deformed, and overlapping one on top of the other. The same is true of her hands.
“Mrs. Lucretia suffers from acute rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, she has arterial hypertension.
“While talking, she told me her story. She says she suffers great moral pain because of her treatment by her daughter-in-law, who convinced her son that it would be better if she and her husband did not live with them.
“She told me that her son and daughter in-law moved her husband and her out of their house and into a smaller one, keeping all of her possessions. She said that every time she thinks of her treatment, she cries. While talking to me, she sighs and nearly cries.
“I prescribed a homeopathic remedy and told her to take my prescribed dose every 24 hours.
“Two weeks later, Mrs. Lucretia returned to the clinic as I asked. The pain and swelling in her legs was greatly improved, but it is still there. Her skin now looks shiny and is red from the swelling. She told me that sometimes now she can sleep well, for which she was very grateful.
“Her blood pressure has improved considerably. On this day, when I checked it, it was normal. She also told me she is no longer choking on her food and can eat in confidence that it will not occur.
“She told me that she is still bothered by the calluses on her feet. Her feet are very crippled, but she tells me she endures the pain. Only quietly, she told me, does she cry so as to not worry her elderly husband, Magdaleno, who is also ill.
“During this visit I prescribed another homeopathic remedy and I told her that I will see her again very soon.
“The day after Lucretia’s last visit, Mr. Magdaleno, her husband, visited my office. He is 89 years old.
“Mr. Magdaleno told me he came because he suffers from hives, which occur at night, and do not let him sleep. Each day, he tells me, he wakes up very tired and exhausted. He told me that this puts him in a very bad mood.
“Mr. Magdaleno said that at night he also suffers from cramps that also disturb his sleep. The cramps occur in his legs with intense muscle pain.
“He is very stooped due to a very accentuated spinal deformity and walks completely bent over, supporting himself with crutches and with a lot of work. As a consequence, he suffers from very accentuated knee pain. In cold weather the pain becomes much worse.
“Like his wife, he too suffers from arterial hypertension which he has had for some years. This was probably caused from their diet.
“His character is of a very nervous, angry old man. He tells that he constantly lives with great depression and disappointment because his children have abandoned him and his wife.
“He repeated the story told by Mrs. Lucretia, telling me his children have thrown them out into the street and have taken their property. With a little money given them by a daughter who lives in Mexico City, they rent 2 small rooms. Until just recently, they didn’t even have furniture, but she sent them additional money to buy a bed, some plastic chairs and a wardrobe. This story of their life is indeed a very sad one.
“To help with his pains and lack of sleep, I have prescribed a homeopathic remedy, one dose taken every 24 hours. This should also help his hives to leave and as he sleeps he should grow calmer. I told him I would keep seeing him in the weeks ahead.
“Upon his next visit, he told me he was already seeing his progress. He told me his hives have nearly disappeared. During the night he had very few cramps or muscle pain and could sleep.
“The excellent news is that his blood pressure now is more stable and he has no symptoms of high blood pressure.
“During this visit, his character no longer looks as sad and tearful as it was on his first visit.
“This time I changed his medication telling him to take it once every 12 hours and I would see him each week for awhile.
“As I write this, I report that today I visited them both at their home. I brought them their medicine and told them it was without charge, because they have no money for my consultations. We will keep doing this until they are both much improved.”
We asked Dr. Soledad about the situation faced by Lucretia and Magdaleno. How common is this, we asked. Sadly, it is too common not only in Yanhuitlan but throughout Oaxaca. She said that among many poorer families there are conflicts between the older parents and children who often force them out. Many times, they are relegated to a smaller structure on the property, or in the case of Lucretia and Magdaleno, forced completely out to find another place to live.
Sad and tragic indeed!
Surprise! The story of an inspired new APOH supporter !
In April 2021, APOH President Bill Grannell wrote an article about our project in Yanhuitlan.
Shortly afterward, we received an email from a person in Rome, Italy, who wrote, “I read your article in Homeopathy for Everyone and I wonder, how much is the total cost of the building of the new clinic? To help the poor, I am trying to build a similar small homoeopathic clinic in Afirca. I am interested in your project.”
Amazingly, APOH struck a chord!
Someone in Italy was responding to our article and trying to build a similar program half way around the world in Africa!
I responded, discovering that the person in Rome, Italy was a Catholic priest, who had no money. But, using a small inheritance, was planning to build a clinic where homeopathic medicine will be practised.
The news of APOH’s clinic had inspired him. In an exchange of several emails, he devoured the information we sent. Then we heard nothing more from the priest until just recently.
This year, on March 20, Homeopathy for Everyone published Bill’s interview with Dr. Soledad. The next day APOH received this email:
“Dear Mr. Grannell, I am the Italian priest who wrote to you in April 2021.
“I’ve just read the wonderful interview with Dr. Soledad Ramirez Medina that you did for Homeopathy for Everyone.
“Her story really touches the heart of readers. I am very, very happy to see the APOH Clinic finally built and operating. The great heart of Dr. Soledad will do the rest.
“My project to build a Clinic in Africa is on the way. Next summer one Italian retired homeopathic doctor will have a first experience”.
“It is a first step and only God knows what will be the future.”
Again, there was an exchange of emails and then on Easter day, APOH received yet another email from the Catholic priest. He wrote that he had decided to become an “APOH member” by donating monthly.
What an exciting Easter gift! Besides looking to APOH as inspiration for the clinic he wants to build, he wants to support our work in Oaxaca!
In his email he wrote what I believe sums up the theme of this Donor Update.
He wrote, “God guides our lives, our steps and prepares the meetings. This all seems like a coincidence of chance circumstances, but it’s not.”
On your life’s journey, know that nothing is really left to chance. When those things we planned are somehow turned or deflected, always believe something better lies ahead!