Maya Mobile Medicine in Guatemala: The “Other” Public Health


Maya mobile medical providers in highland Guatemala and the goods and services that they offer from “soapboxes” on street corners, local markets, and on buses exemplify an important yet underinvestigated domain of localized health care, one that I refer to as the “other” public health. This medical and linguistic examination of traveling medical salespeople calls for a reconsideration (on a global scale) of what has come to be understood as “public health,” arguing that “othered,” local forms of public health that are often overlooked by anthropologists as “nontraditional” and delegitimized by bio-medicine as nonscientific merit serious consideration and investigation. This ethnography of marginalized forms of public health offers global insights into emerging heterodoxical forms of public health care that contest bio-medical authority and challenge our preexisting definitions of what counts as “access,” wellness seeking, and even health care itself.

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