This is about the development of health care in Jimena between 1952 and 2007 as remembered by
Francisco Jiménez Jiménez, our good friend and fellow blogger Currini, who kindly allowed us to translate it. It is
truly a personal story of how things used to be here and how much
they've changed. It was originally published in JimenaPulse in October and November 2007.
I had to go to the medical centre in Jimena for the first time the other day. As I sat waiting, looking around at the cleanliness, the size of the place and the number of people being served in this modern facility, I remembered how public health used to be in the village where I was born and raised. My first memory was of the capacity for suffering we were handed down from our parents, not to mention the resignation we showed for those illnesses and accidents that beset us all little by little.Every home had its own medicine 'chest', which at mine consisted of an enormous talega (bag, photo shows one for bread) hanging from a big nail in the wall. Inside were a lot of little bunches of herbs tied together with wool. Eucalyptus and poleo (pennyroyal) for colds, leaves of tilo (limetree), bitter orange and hierba luisa (lemon verbena) ‘for the nerves', manzanilla (chamomile), doradilla (?), arnica, romero (rosemary), tomillo (thyme), oregano, ruda (?) (which they used to pass across the eyes for the measles), rompepiedra (‘stone-breaker' for, you guessed it, kidney stones) and a whole lot more I forget now. What I do remember, though is that on another nail beside the first one, hung a long red rubber tube with a sort of tap, black, on one end and a green tin at the other. Yes, this was for the famous lavativa (enema it would be called today) that we got when we overdid the chumbos (prickly or cactus pears). There was another smaller lavativa, too, called pera de goma (rubber pear), but that was for the ears.
Our parents had a lot of these remedies, which, and even if they really did cure you they made you suffer even more. Opening my mouth my mother would say, "Your tongue's white" and off she'd go to fetch the classical laxative that came in a variety of tastes, including ‘chocolate', or Agua de Carabaña, which tasted awful, or little papers known as Panacea. If you had a temperature they'd put cold cloths on your forehead or slices of potato; if you trembled with cold from the fever you'd get a hot brick wrapped in a cloth at your feet. For spots and insect bites there was usually a pot with a bálsamo (balsam) plant (I think my Aunt Encarna still has one) and this was rubbed endlessly on the proper place; the spots or bites were probably cured out of boredom.
My Grandmother Isabel used to cure her sore throats and coughs with the slime of large snails, which she put in a glass, adding two spoonfuls of sugar. When our parents thought our thin legs and knobbly knees looked worse than usual, out came the aceite de hígado de bacalao (cod's liver oil).
I once had a grano de sangre (‘blood boil') on my behind: I was in bed face down for eight days while my mother put everything on it the neighbours told her to: hot towels, slices of onion, great chunks of bread rubbed with saffron and san pedro (?) leaves. It was interminable but the idea was for the boil to ‘mature'. On the eighth day my Uncle José ‘Hormigo' came in from the campo and announced that the boil had indeed matured. "Shall I squeeze it?" he asked. The heavens had opened for my mother, who went about preparing cloths and hot water. My uncle began the torture of squeezing out all the evil the wretched thing contained until the blood came out its natural red. A little trapito (rag) was carefully held by some sticky tape and in no time I was outside in the street. My own heaven.
Then there were the practicantes
(‘nurses'). Don José Malagón and Don Miguel Cuenca would always be seen with
their little shiny boxes that contained the dreaded syringes steeped in
alcohol. They went from house to house all too often. The doctors and the practicantes
all reeked of medicine and you could smell them coming a mile away.
The only chemist's was that of Don José Sánchez de Medina (I think that was his name). He was a canary fancier and from him I bought everything my parents ordered me to.
Veterinary medicine was covered by Don Domingo Casas in Estación and Don Teodoro in Jimena.
I remember nothing at all about Tesorillo but in San Pablo we had Don Antonio, the practicante-cum-dentist, who was in competition with the doctors because he practiced medicine with the same dexterity as a fully-fledged Doctor and had a similar cure rate to theirs.
Don Juan Trillo (later to become Jimena's Mayor) arrived soon after the death of Don José Montero, and with Don Juan Marina were the first members of staff of what is today the Health Centre. However, there was neither night duty nor overtime for them. If you fell ill outside their comfortable working hours, you were either on your own or you had to pay up.
National Health care began to creep into effect, I think, in about 1967 for I remember there was talk about Seguridad Social (Social Security), originally called Instituto Nacional de Previsión. The nearest thing to a hospital was the ambulatorio (out patients) in Algeciras, with Don Federico Sierra Piñero as the District Medical Inspector. The nearest proper hospital was in Cadiz.
There was a lot of trouble with Social Security in Jimena in 1966-67 when an inspector from the Instituto Nacional de Previsión in Cadiz turned up and played havoc because he de-registered half the village population, most of whom were on the agrarian version of the scheme: according to the Law rural workers were classed as autónomo ('autonomous' or self-employed) and thus not entitled under the health scheme. In the end, though, and after tiring of Jimena, he threw away his pencils and announced he was not doing any more registering and left town. So nothing really changed after the Mayor asked me to re-register all those whom the inspector had taken off.
Adoptive Son of Jimena and
father to the two chemists of today, Víctor and Héctor, l. and r. in family photo) and Ramón.
© Alberto Bullrich 2010. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No reproduction of this work may be carried out by any reproduction method whatsoever without the author’s written permission.