Health Beliefs in the Latino Culture

6 June 2016

Vomiting, fever, crying, restlessness (Evil eyeness), brought on by an admiring or covetous look from a person with an evil eye. All children are susceptible. Prevented if the person with the strong eye touches the child when admiring her/him; also by wearing particular earrings, necklaces, or other jewelry. Treated with a barrida (Puerto Rican) or limpia (Mexican) which is a spiritualistic sweeping of the body with eggs, lemons, and bay leaves, accompanied by prayer. Barrida/limpia are believed to have treatment value.


Health Beliefs in the Latino Culture Essay Example

Anorexia, insomnia, weakness, fright disease hallucinations, and various painful sensations, brought on by traumatic situations such as witnessing a death. Treatment may include a barrida (see mal de ojo), herb tea and prayer.

Caide de mollera

A condition thought to cause fallen, sunken anterior fontanella, crying, failure to suckle, sunken eyes, vomiting. Popular home remedies include holding the child upside down over a pan of water, applying a poultice to the depressed area of the head, and/or inserting a finger in the child’s mouth and pushing up on the palate.


Lack of appetite, stomach ache, diarrhea, and vomiting caused by poorly digested food, or uncooked food sticking to the walls of the stomach and/or digestive tract. Treated by massaging the stomach; drinking a purgative tea (estafiate); or by azarcon or greta,  medicine that has been implicated in some cases of lead poisoning.


Severe expression of shock, anxiety or sadness, characterized by mutism, hyperventilation, bizarre behavior, hyperkinesis, violence, and uncommunicative behavior. A culturally appropriate and sometimes expected emotional response to shocking or unexpected news.


Vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, migraine headaches, nightmares, loss of appetite, and the inability to urinate brought on by livid rage and revenge fantasies. Believed to stem from bile pouring into the bloodstream in response to strong emotion, resulting in an imbalance of “yellow bile” and the person “boiling over.”

Bilongo (hex)

Any illness may be caused by a bilongo or hex; proper diagnosis and treatment requires  consulting a Santero/Santera (priest or priestess).

Hot and cold theory

Health is the product of balance of the four body humors–blood and yellow bile being “hot” and phlegm and black bile being “cold.” Diseases are caused by humoral imbalance. Foods and medications will cure disease by restoring the balance. Thus a “hot” illness is cured with “cold” medication and food; “cold” illnesses are treated with “hot.” Those that

believe the common cold is caused by a cold draft entering the body will not drink cold fruit juices because it will add more “coldness” to the body. However, the provider can recommend more hot teas, broths, and soups for liquids. The family would accept this.

Note. From Delivering Preventive Health Care to Hispanics: A Manual for Providers (pp. 57-58, 66-68), by

COSSMHO, 1988 , Washington, DC: The National Coalition of Hispanic Health and Human Services Organization.

Copyright 1988 by The National Coalition of Hispanic Health and Human Services Organization. Reprinted with


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