cover of book

Maya Bonesetters: Manual Healers in a Changing Guatemala
by Servando Z. Hinojosa
illustrated by Servando G. Hinojosa
University of Texas Press, 2020
Cloth: 978-1-4773-2028-0 | eISBN: 978-1-4773-2031-0 | Paper: 978-1-4773-2029-7
Library of Congress Classification F1465.3.M4H56 2020
Dewey Decimal Classification 972.81


Scholarship on Maya healing traditions has focused primarily on the roles of midwives, shamans, herbalists, and diviners. Bonesetters, on the other hand, have been largely excluded from conversations about traditional health practitioners and community health resources. Maya Bonesetters is the first book-length study of bonesetting in Guatemala and situates the manual healing tradition within the current cultural context—one in which a changing medical landscape potentially threatens bonesetters’ work yet presents an opportunity to strengthen its relevance.

Drawing on extensive field research in highland Guatemala, Servando Z. Hinojosa introduces readers to a seldom documented, though nonetheless widespread, variety of healer. This book examines the work of Kaqchikel and Tz’utujiil Maya bonesetters, analyzes how they diagnose and treat injuries, and contrasts the empirical and sacred approaches of various healers. Hinojosa shows how bonesetters are carefully adapting certain biomedical technologies to meet local expectations for care and concludes that, despite pressures and criticisms from the biomedical community, bonesetting remains culturally meaningful and vital to Maya people, even if its future remains uncertain.

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