Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Daily Focus: Nicaragua’s Supernatural Epidemic



Global health experts are focused on Mexico, but regional neighbor Nicaragua is confronting an epidemic of its own. The method for transmission is unknown, but grisi siknis, or “crazy sickness” in the language of the indigenous Miskito­s—a community of 150,000 to 200,000 residing along Central America’s Mosquito Coast—continues to spread throughout the community. Experts are calling it a “cultural-bound syndrome” that is “more mental than physical,” and have puzzled over how to classify the illness, let alone cure it.

In 2009 alone there have been 46 recorded instances, ­each time afflicting a teenage Miskito girl. It is not, however, a new phenomenon. Reports from the 1970s catalogue the illness and note that symptoms include behavior commonly associated with supernatural possession. The BBC, in a recent article on the phenomenon, reported that grisi siknis “turns people into witches and they go crazy.”

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