Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In Santo Tomas la Union

This week Maria del Carmen and I are guests of CSJP Associate Sheila McShane, who runs the Clinica Maxeña (that's pronounced mashenya, more or less, and is the Quiche version of Thomas) in Santo Tomas la Union, Suchitepequez, Guatemala.  It's been great to connect with Sheila (working away on her laptop here, in the common dining room) and to see the good work this clinic has been doing for almost fifty years now. 

The Clinica Maxeña is a mission of the Diocese of Helena, Montana and Sheila has been part of it almost from the beginning, though she had to leave for many years during Guatemala's Civil War. Along with Father Kevin, who joined the mission this year, and BVM Sisters Mary and Anna (alas, I don't have their last names!) Sheila forms a small North American community in this very Quiche Mayan community.  Unlike Suchitoto, this is a town where you don't see any foreigners outside the Clinica group and visitors like Maria del Carmen and me. 

Today I toured a very beautiful and very special part of the Clinica Maxeña, the natural medicine garden.  There were some familiar plants - oregano, mint, marigold - but others that seemed fantastic, like this plant with long leaf blades and tiny flowers along the sides of the blades.  It's good for taming parasites, I was told.

Another plant with broad, flat leaves thrust up a group of delicate bell flowers (I didn't learn its purpose):
and the trees hosted their own communities of parasites and collaborators, including a white orchid in bloom:
It's no surprise that the garden was full of butterflies of many different colors, sizes and shapes.  Here's one that was kind enough to pause for a photo:

Indeed, an enchanted garden.  I hope those who work with the traditional medicines made from these plants will be able to keep the knowledge and interest alive among the people of Santo Tomas.

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