Origins and Lineage

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Our Maestro, Don Elijio Panti, was born in Guatemala. A h'men, or "one who knows," he was the Shaman of his people and walked in both the physical and spiritual world.

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Born on the island of Cozumel, Mexico, Miss Hortense was a herbal midwife and intuitive genius. She supported women with her knowledge and care for over sixty five years.

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A doctor of Naprapathy, creator of the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy®, co-founder and active educator with The Abdominal Therapy Collective, Inc.

Little by litte, step by step, day by day.

Don Elijio Panti

We Stand on the Shoulders of Giants

Dr. Rosita Arvigo, born in 1941 in Chicago, USA, is the founder of our work and many of its offshoots around the world. Rosita has lead a rich and varied life, having lived both in Mexico and Belize as well as the United States. She had a clinical practice for forty-five years in Belize, as a Herbalist and Doctor of Naprapathy (a specialization similar to Osteopathy, that focuses on the study of bones and ligaments). Two of Rosita’s greatest teachers were Don Elijio Panti and Miss Hortense Robinson.

Don Elijio Panti was born in Guatemala in 1893. He was a h’men, a Doctor/Priest, and Shaman of his people. Miss Hortense was born in 1928 on Cozumel, Mexico, the sacred island sanctuary of Ix Chel, Maya Goddess of healing and guardian of midwives and mothers. Both Don Elijio and Miss Hortense were brought to Belize as children, where they grew up, worked, and became national treasures.

In the 1930’s, working in the Chicle Camps deep in the jungles of Guatemala, Don Elijio met and studied with one of his teachers, The Carib, Don Geronimo Requena, a noted Bush Doctor and Shaman. He later became an apprentice to another elder in his village, Don Manuel Tzib. Don Elijio’s reputation grew as he gained experience, with word spreading across Belize, Central America, and Mexico. More than half of his patients were women who came to him for the abdominal massage that ‘repositioned the uterus.’

When Rosita met Don Elijio, he was already 90 years old with no apprentice, resigned to the fact that his knowledge would be lost. She visited him for an entire year doing what she could to help, asking if he would teach her the medicinal plants of Belize. In 1983, a full year later, Don Elijio came to trust and love Rosita enough to share his life’s work, and accepted her as his apprentice. This apprenticeship This lifetime commitment came with the agreement that she would take care of his people when he was goneShe lovingly carries that promise to this day.

For thirteen years, Rosita helped Don Elijio, walking five miles to his little village clinic, doing daily chores, massaging his aching stiff muscles, making amulets, translating for non-Spanish speaking patients, gathering firewood, sweeping the dirt floors, chopping vines, roots, and barks.
 
In the mid-1980s, Rosita and Don Elijio carved out the Maya Rainforest Medicine Trail, and over the ensuing twenty years, they led tourists, dignitaries, scientists, and thousands of school children through the trail, teaching them the value of the rainforest plants. 
 
One of the trail’s first visitors sent Rosita an article about a search conducted by the New York Botanical Garden for tropical plants that might have anti-AIDS and anti-cancer properties. Rosita wrote to the director, Dr. Michael Balick, and introduced him to the work of Don Elijio and his plant knowledge.
 
Dr. Balick, an ethnobotanist, came to Belize and recognized Don Elijio’s plant knowledge. In order to preserve his ancient medical system, The Belize Ethnobotany Project was born. Nearly three thousand plants were harvested, made into dry specimens, and archived over the next nine years. The information on these plants were sent to the National Cancer Institute in the United States and contributed to both cancer and AIDS research.
 
Rosita and Dr. Balick worked closely together during this time, co-authoring a popular book in 1993, Rainforest Remedies: One Hundred Healing Herbs of Belize
 
In 1992, Rosita founded the Traditional Healers Foundation to provide a protective organization for the twelve traditional healers of Belize who had participated in the Belize Ethnobotany Project from 1987-1996. 
 
Don Elijio passed away in 1996 at the age of 103. His obituary was posted in the New York Times. Rosita tells the full story of her apprenticeship to Don Elijio Panti in her book, Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer,  published by Harper Collins in 1996. 
 

In 1989, Rosita met Miss Hortense Robinson, the most renowned and loved herbal midwife in Belize. Miss Hortense and Rosita were colleagues and companions until Hortense’s death at age 86, in 2010. They regularly traveled together, teaching abdominal therapy. Miss Hortense was a fertility expert and intuitive genius who taught classes side-by-side with Rosita. She presented at professional medical conferences throughout the Americas and England, often to standing ovations. 

Rosita worked in a clinical practice of her own in Belize, as a Doctor of Naprapathy, focusing on healing women and children for over 45 years. She continues to keep the memories of Don Elijio and Miss Hortense alive today by teaching, speaking at conferences, and sharing their wisdom around the world. 

As the saying goes, “we stand on the shoulders of giants.” We have taken many steps to get here, and the journey is far from over. We continue to weave our story. We invite you to join us and become part of our shared story. 

Cultural Acknowledgement

We are profoundly grateful to our teachers, and their teachers before them. They defy categorization, because Belize is truly a melting pot of peoples from various nations and cultures. We also recognize much of this shared wisdom came from dream visions, intuition and Spirit.  

We acknowledge that many of our clients’ successes are due directly to the wisdom of people who are rarely honored by society for their contributions. We have all learned from many teachers from many places and cultures. However, one teacher binds us as a group: Dr. Rosita Arvigo. 

Dr. Arvigo’s teachings are founded upon many years and the knowledge of multiple healers, cultures, and lands. She, and we, recognize these most influential Belizean teachers – Don Elijio Panti, Miss Hortense Robinson, Miss Juana Xix and Mexican midwife Dona Maria Torres.

We promise to continue making efforts of reparation and restoration to the Central American people from whom our good work has sprung.

We recognize that, as a group, we have the ability and duty to speak out against injustice,

We make time to listen and reflect on how we, as practitioners of techniques that are blended from Europe, North America, Central America, and South America, have contributed unwittingly to cultural appropriation, and distancing from the Maya people who are the root of our beloved work.

 It is our intention that this serves as more than a finite statement, but the start for a plan for the way forward.

In order to acknowledge the roots of our work, we tithe to the Ix Chel Tropical Research Foundation in Belize, Central America. By doing so, we honor the pledge Rosita made to Don Elijio to take care of his people. The Ix Chel Tropical Research Foundation is a nonprofit organization that sponsors the Belizean Bush Medicine Camp for children, school garden projects at local Belize primary schools, Ethnobotany in The Classroom programs, Useful Plants of Belize Exhibits, as well as community outreach programs to teach herbalism and bodywork to disenfranchised people around the world.

Take the children as though they were your own. Train them and teach them to help each other.

Don Elijio Panti to Rosita Arvigo

Equity and Equality

We are expanding our concepts of personal, biological, and cultural identity. We welcome all people in their self-expression. Our circle is open to include everyone coming to receive this work.

We ask all educators and decision-making members to commit to the following:

  • Embrace antiracism with all my abilities, specifically as the trauma of cultural racism is expressed in our bodies. I will do my own work to acknowledge the institutional/structural racist, colonialist, and white supremacist culture within which our classes and therapy are delivered.
  • Embrace anti-sexism with all my abilities, specifically as the trauma of cultural sexism is expressed in our bodies. I will do my own work to acknowledge the institutional and structural sexist, colonialist, and patriarchal culture within which our classes and therapies are delivered.
  • Work towards a greater understanding of best practice to provide full access for people living with disabilities.
  • Verbally and explicitly acknowledge in every meeting and class, the native and ancestral peoples upon whose land we may be practicing and teaching, as well as acknowledging the origins of the folk medicine practices that are key components of Abdominal Therapy.
  • Work towards a greater understanding of the gender identity and expression of our clients and students. I understand that the bodies of our clients and students need this work from loving hands.
  • Agree that as a member, instructor, and/or founder of The Abdominal Therapy Collective, I am willing to offer a reduced fee for marginalized/oppressed students.
  • I will be open to feedback from my colleagues and students reflecting further work to be done by our organization and myself for all of the above statements.
  • To further support these directives, I commit to participating in at least one workshop/class on equity and antiracism.
 
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