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My Mexican Mom Had A Weird Remedy For Every Illness

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Growing up, my mom knew more than all my doctors. At least that’s what she’d tell me back then, and still does to this day. She insists that American doctors only push pills they’re paid to prescribe, and that those pills valen pura madre. So she has always used her own style of medicine, much of it passed down to her from her own mom.

When doctors tell her she shouldn’t be messing with medicine, well, let’s just say she isn’t having it.

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Every time I’ve gotten sick with anything from a cold to viral meningitis, my mom has come to the rescue with her Mexican mom remedies that somehow, and seemingly magically, got me back on my feet in no time.

There were, of course, the staples of Mexican medicine cabinets.

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“Ponte Vicks en las patas y en el pecho. Y mas te vale que te pongas los calcetines!” Totally normal, right? Well, my mom also added banana leaves to the Vick’s foot wrap. Why? Because that’s what her mom did, and that’s reason enough.

Even then, she took it a bit further, making me eat a chunk of Vicks she would scoop out with her fingers and shove into my mouth.

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I have no idea where she heard that this works, but my stomach would feel weird for hours after. I’m also pretty sure this could have poisoned me. By the way, Vicks doesn’t taste good. Luckily, there was always caldo on the way to get the flavor out of my mouth.

Lemon also made its way from the kitchen to the medicine cabinet.

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Along with gargling lemon for a sore throat, my mom would make me put it on my arm pits instead of deodorant, rub it on my elbows to get rid of dark patches or use it on my face when I broke out. Lemon fixes everything.

Fear of needles was not allowed in my house. If I acted scared, my mom basically called me a wimp.

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When my anginas were swollen or if I came down with a fever, my mom went to the pharmacy, bought a fresh pack of needles and the serum needed to cure me. When she came home, I knew what time it was.

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And it was going to hurt.

There was no messing around. It was “bajate los pantalones, chamaca” and then…

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It worked though, and fast! I rarely missed a school day.

And it went both ways. If she was sick, I was tasked with injecting her despite having zero medical training. Because I was a teenager.

To say stabbing a needle into my mom’s butt cheek made me nervous is an understatement.

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But I didn’t have a choice. Mami was sick and I had to help, because she always did the same for me. Now as an adult, I’ve got it down. Well, better than when I was 16 at least.

“Tronando los cueritos” is another one of her go-to remedies.

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While it sounds pretty gross, and sort of like a norteño song, tronando los cueritos meant pulling the skin on my back and stomach until it cracked. Yes, cracked. It’s not fun, but that was her cure for empacho, or a uncomfortable blockage in the stomach or intestines. Sexy, right? She’d cap it off with a teaspoon of olive oil and orange juice down the throat, which she said would unstick food stuck to my stomach. Again, sexy, right?

While my mom didn’t use lard in any of her cooking, she would mix it with sugar and slap it on my head if I got a bump.

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It seemed to get the swelling down pretty quick too.

Trust though, she would rub it on while reminding me that’s what happens “por andar de vaga.”

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“A ver si así aprendes.”

Burns happened in our house all the time. It’s unavoidable when most of your time is spent in the kitchen. That’s where mustard came in handy.

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The burn would kill, but the mustard soothed it every time.

My mom truly had a cure for anything, and it didn’t dawn on me until years later that some people might think her remedies were strange. They worked though, and I still use many of these years later.

And no matter how old I get, any time I’m sick, I know exactly what I want.

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And maybe a spoonful of Vick’s.


READ: You Are NEVER Too Old to Try Abuelita’s Tried and True Cold Remedies


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Here’s The Little Known History Of How Cuba Took In And Treated Thousands Of Children After The Chernobyl Disaster

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Here’s The Little Known History Of How Cuba Took In And Treated Thousands Of Children After The Chernobyl Disaster

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Everyone is talking about “Chernobyl,” the HBO miniseries that retells the apocalyptic nuclear accident in Ukraine and its chilling, bleak aftermath. The TV show is meticulous in its reconstruction of the Soviet Era event, pointing at how the government response tried to keep panic under control. Truth is, the accident was one of the worst the world has ever seen and in the years of the Cold War. It was a catastrophic reminder that even though we might have political and ideological differences, we only have one planet. 

The event happened on April 26, 1985, when the now infamous No. 4 reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near Pripyat in what is now Ukraine, superheated and caused a steam explosion. Radiation was released and the area became uninhabitable. Casualties estimates vary depending on how they are counted: some only count the immediate aftermath of the accident, while others take into consideration the effects that radiation had on life expectancy. As many as 200,000 died, according to Greenpeace. At the time, more than 600,000 civilians and military personnel were drafted to contain the nuclear fallout. 

At the time, as you know (and if you don’t its time to brush up on your contemporary world history), the world was basically divided in three: countries that aligned with the United States, countries that aligned with the Soviet Union and a few non-aligned countries. Among the Soviet Bloc countries, Cuba stood out for its response to the Chernobyl disaster. How? Well, putting to work its team of world-renowned doctors, who treated young Ukrainians affected by the radiation. 

Cuba created a massive health center for the children of Chernobyl after the deadly disaster.

Credit: b065124cef5ae6971e0fd77ff3665214_XL. Digital image. Periodico 26

About 30 kilometers from Havana lay a holiday village that was converted into an enormous facility in which the Castro regime treated children that were affected by radiation poisoning. Most of these kids came from Ukraine, but up until 1992 the program also cared for little ones from Russia and Belarus. Originally Cuba received 139 children, but the number soon increased exponentially.

The number of treated children is impressive and quite shocking.

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As many as 25,000 children (yes, 25,000, a whole small town) were treated between 1990 and 2011, according to Cubadebate. This is a gargantuan effort that needed considerable logistical planning.

The illnesses these kids suffered required medical specialists.

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The kids were mainly treated for cancer, deformations, and muscle atrophy. Among all the things that the revolutionary regime in the island could have done better, its medical training is not one of them. Cuban oncologists and physiotherapists are among the best in the world. Other specialties that were needed: dermatology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.

But why did the Cuban government do this?

Credit: 160413_abc_archive_chernobyl_kidscuba_16x9_992. Digital image. ABC News

Besides being aligned with the former Soviet Union, Cuba follows a principle of internationalism, which is a political principle which goes beyond nationalism and advocates a greater political or economic cooperation among nations and people. Cuban doctors have not only provided aid to these Ukranian children but have also spearheaded relief efforts in countries like Venezuela and Brazil. According to Foreign Affairs, “Cuban health care workers have given aid to 158 nations, and Cuba has trained 38,000 doctors from 121 countries without charge”. Those are really impressive numbers.

Despite tremendous efforts, this was not easy or cheap for Cuba.

Credit: f4b6dca0e2911082f0eb6e1df1a0e11d_XL. Digital image. ACFS Melbourne

The collapse of the Soviet Union, for which Chernobyl holds partial blame, was also a hard blow to Cuba’s economy. All of a sudden, Cuba’s main export customer was gone. Despite this, the Tarara center continued its operations. One Cuban doctor told TeleSUR in 2017: “Although Cuba went through economically difficult times, our state continued to offer specialized treatment to minors, fulfilling a commitment of solidarity”. Dr. Julio Medina, who was the general coordinator of the program, told the official newspaper, Granma: “Many people who are unaware of our ideals still wonder what Cuba might be after. It is simple: we do not give what we have in excess; we share all that we have”. 

Unfortunately, these efforts have been mostly ignored by Western media.

Credit: 040860_360W. Digital image. The New York Times

Despite being a feel-good story amidst the avalanche of bad news that we listen, read and watch every day, this story has been swept under the heavy rug of history, perhaps due to geopolitical reasons. At the time, outlets like The New York Times published information on the matter. With the success of HBO’s show, this has been pointed out. A reader of The Guardian, one Dr. Doreen Weppler-Grogan, wrote a letter stating: 

“No other country in the world launched such a massive programme. The Cubans responded – as ‘an ethical and moral,’ not a political question, as it was put at the time, and the programme continued despite changing governments in the Ukraine.”

“Today, the aftermath persists. Just a few weeks ago, Cuba announced that it will resume the programme in a new facility for the sons and daughters of the victims, who are now showing ailments similar to those of their parents.”

Tarara was a community, not only a big hospital.

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The facilities were adapted to provide a healthy environment for the victims. Besides the medical areas, it included schools, a cooking center, a theater, parks, and recreation areas. In 2005 one of the kids, a 16-year-old girl named Alina Petrusha, told the Sunday Telegraph: “It helps. We sit under the infrared lamp and they put a lotion on our heads. Then we go to the beach.”

Everyone knows how expensive medical treatments are, but for the patients being treated in Tarara, treatment was free.

Credit: Chernobyl / HBO

As reported by The Guardian in 2009, treatment at Tarara was free. Most children were orphans or came from very poor families who could not afford care. Then, the deputy director of the program, Dr. Maria Teresa Oliva, told The Guardian: ” Ukraine now has a capitalist economy and for most of the families these kinds of treatments are very costly. Here, thanks to the revolution, we can provide everything for free”. In 2009, Natalia Kisilova, mother of Mikhail Kisilov, a 15-year-old boy who was born with one outer ear and auditory canal missing, told Noticias Financieras: ‘In my country, the treatment that my son receives would cost 80,000 euros (105,362 dollars)”. This would have been unaffordable, to say the least.

The program survived due to Ukraine-Cuba collaboration.

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It is estimated that Cuba spent $300 million USD a year in the program. By 2009  Ukraine covered transportation, while room, board, schooling, and medical services were covered by the Cuban government. In 2011 Ukranian president Viktor Yanukovich visited the center alongside then Cuban President Raul Castro. A year earlier the Ukranian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishenko said: “We will never forget what Cuba has done for us.”

You can watch this documentary to get the full story.

Credit: Chernobil en nosotros / Television Cubana

There is a 50-minute documentary that tells the story of the medical program at Tarara. Doctors talk about the effects of radiation in an approachable, if chilling, way. You can watch the documentary with English subtitles here

You can also watch this footage from AP about the program in Cuba for Chernobyl children.

Have you seen HBO’s “Chernobyl”?

READ: Here’s How Cuba’s Tumultuous History Forced A Cuban Diaspora That Changed The World

Our Abuelas Swear By These At-Home Remedies To Cure Anything You Might Be Struggling With

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Our Abuelas Swear By These At-Home Remedies To Cure Anything You Might Be Struggling With

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Everyone is going down right now with the cold, but not Latinos who follow their abuela’s advice like a religion. Honestly, our families have very interesting ways to try to make your illness vanish before dinner. Whether you are putting Vicks Vaporu on your feet and weraing socks to bed or gargling hydrogen peroxide for a sore throat, some are super questionable and some are genius. However, don’t get crazy and always seek medical advice if you are sick and need assitance. That being said, here are some remedies our abuela’s swear by.

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