Anthropology Faculty Publications and Presentations

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This paper examines how Mexican American sobadores (folk manual therapists) provide needed health services to South Texas residents. Operating in a region with high levels of workplace injuries, chronic disease, and low levels of insuredness, sobadores offer a kind of attention that is appealing in terms of cost, accessibility, and cultural familiarity. The latter is particularly evident with respect to two factors: convergent ethnophysiological discourse and pain validation. Injured people can approach the sobador with minimal trepidation, in part, because sobadores and clients have shared ways of talking about the body and disease. Clients can also expect that sobadores will not discount their pain experience. Coming from the same socioeconomic background as many of their clients, Mexican American folk manual therapists can appreciate pain in daily life and what effects it can have on wage earners and heads of households. The empathy shown by sobadores facilitates an informal complex of care that, at times, cuts across ethnic lines. This paper uses an ethnographic approach to explore the vocational significance of sobadores to their largely Mexican-American clientele and examines some vectors of exploration that can yet be pursued into manual medicine.


Copyright © 2008 by the Society for Applied Anthropology.

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Human Organization



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Anthropology Commons



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