collective madness among Miskito people
December 14, 2003 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Few days ago I learned about a "collective madness" affecting the Miskito indians in Nicaragua. This would be an excellent topic for the blue, but I could not find enough information, so I need help. [more inside]

The condition is called "grisi siknis" and people who are affected are "wandering naked in the streets, machetes in hand, and appear not to recognize other townspeople."

The only link in English is on a UFO web site (search in page for Miskito). It is a translation of an article from a Mexican newspaper, and my little knowledge of Spanish does not allow me to figure out what was added/omitted during the translation. Here is another article in Spanish (google cache).

I was able to find a little bit more about the condition, it is belongs to "Dissociative Fugue" class:
Fugue is more often a unique Dissociative phenomenon. However, it may occasionally occur in other conditions; i.e. undirected wandering seen in neurological disorders, particularly complex partial seizures (temporal lobe epilepsy). Travel may range from brief trips over relatively short periods to complex, usually unobtrusive wandering over long periods, (i.e. hours or days). There have been instances where the individual has crossed numerous national borders and traveled thousands of miles.

From a somehow different perspective, grisi siknis belongs to Culture-Bound Syndromes. There are many other similar conditions and you might recognize some of them: amok, anorexia, mal de ojo, etc.

There is nothing on Goolge news, just some articles on LexisNexis, under "non-english language news"/"spanish language news" (again, I do not have the language skill).

- does anybody know a reliable source in English? (I hate posting some UFO story on mefi)
- is the translation accurate? is the primary source a credible one?
- does anybody have other information related to grisi siknis or any other Culture-Bound Syndrome?

If enough information is gathered and I did not post the story, then, please, somebody edit it and post it on the blue -- for the next few days I might not have too much free time.

[I know this a little bit different from the other questions, but, hey, it is testing time for AskMe.]
posted by MzB to Society & Culture (3 answers total)
Here's an article from 1994 about the Nicaraguan cocaine trade that mentions "crazy sickness" in Miskito villages, and speculates that it's related to cocaine use.
posted by staggernation at 7:12 AM on December 15, 2003

Those pages on Culture-Bound Syndromes are fascinating and would make a great FPP on their own.
posted by fuzz at 2:02 PM on December 15, 2003

MzB, for what it's worth, the translation looks pretty good to me. I didn't check it word for word, but there were no omissions/additions in what I did see.

El Universal is a big paper in Mexico, if its pagerank is any indication. The story is posted in the "A Strange World" section, though, which seems like the Oddly Enough category. Still generally factual, but weird. The same article is in a Nicaraguan paper here, and part of it is in a Chilean paper here.

This bloke has written a paper on the subject, but you'll have to dig up a copy of Medical Anthropology from 1981 to read it. It's not available electronically, from what I can tell.
posted by whatnotever at 7:49 PM on December 15, 2003

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