Tragic news out of Guatemala.
A RESEARCHER for a London University has been burnt alive by violent mob after being accused of practising witchcraft in his homeland.
Domingo Choc Che, 55, an expert on traditional herbal medicine, had been working with a team from University College London (UCL), before being set upon by a group of men in his native Guatemala. The violent group accused Mr Choc Che of causing the death of a member of the community after he had given medicine and for carrying out a ceremony on the grave.
Disturbing pictures shows huge plumes of smoke bellowing from the victim who desperately tried to save his life by running through the field.
Moments later Mr Choc Che collapsed and died at the scene before emergency services were able to attend.
. . .
The Mayan medicine specialist had been working as a collaborator on a UCL pharmaceutical project ... The scientific project involved researching biodiversity use of Mayan medicine in Guatemala.
There's more at the link.
I was very sad to read that news, but not surprised. In any primitive culture, anything that doesn't fit the traditional narrative is regarded with suspicion and distrust. From attacks on medical teams trying to use modern medicine to treat Ebola in Africa, to the burning alive of suspected "witches", to the murder of albinos in Tanzania to obtain their body parts for shamanistic rituals and "medicine", to the "cargo cults" of the Pacific, the problem of primitive, uneducated, non-scientific (or rather pre-scientific) culture is rampant in much of the Third World.
The biggest problem is not that such lack of understanding exists: it's that those from a modern scientific background can't understand or appreciate the depths of superstition confronting them in such places. They don't take enough time or trouble to understand local beliefs and attitudes, or to explain what they're doing and why. They simply press on with their studies and research, because they don't want to "waste time" explaining what they know locals are unlikely to understand.
That's what leads to tragedies like this. Because the locals feel ignored and "left out", they naturally put the worst possible interpretation on what they see the outsiders doing. If that threatens the foundations of their belief system or culture, they're going to do something about it. In this case, Mr. Choc Che was the victim of that response, with locals assuming his medicines had caused the death of the sick person he tried to help.
I experienced similar reactions in primitive African society. I learned early on that one couldn't just hand out medicines. It wasn't safe if improvement didn't result. Rather, it was best to take the sick person to another location, where they could be treated by doctors and nurses without having suspicious family members hovering over them, ready to lash out at any sign that things weren't going well.
For those of my readers who may venture "off the beaten track" for any reason, tourism, research or whatever, please bear that in mind. You're on someone else's turf. You're the intruder, the outsider. You can't assume that you're welcome, or that you're understood, or that you're free to do whatever you please. Conformity to local customs and expectations is at least polite. It may, at times, help to save your life.