Don Elijio Panti 1893-1996
In 1893, Don Elijio was born in San Andreas, Petén, Guatemala to Gertrudes Cooh and Nicanor Panti. His father Nicanor was said to be a practitioner of black magic. Nicanor fled the Petén to British Honduras with his family after murdering someone at a wedding feast. Sleeping in the forest and in abandoned houses they made their way west to live with Gertrudes brother.
Elijio didn’t go to school.
Rather than reading and writing, Elijio learned how to cultivate the fields and at 15 he married Gomercinda Tzib, a 14 year old Maya girl. His father Nicanor was shot by an angry man who accused him of enchanting his daughter. Elijio now had to support his mother and his wife so he signed up to work in the chicle camp.
It was there he met Jeronimo Requena.
Jeronimo soon became his mentor teaching him about the Maya spirits and healing with plants and prayers. He was a powerful spiritual healer. In 1933 the pair were left in charge of the camp and Elijio’s education continued. Primicia ceremonies were held and Jeronimo told the Maya spirits of Elijio’s intentions to continue the work.
Elijio continued the work, building strong connections to the Maya spirits. He became the local h’men (shaman bush doctor). People would travel from far and wide to visit Don Elijio and recieve his healing. He would communicate with the Nine Maya Spirits, pray and provide herbal medicine and bodywork to his people.
The above information was gathered from the book:
Messages from the Gods: A Guide to the Useful Plants of Belize
By Michael J. Balick & Rosita Arvigo
Don Elijio’s last wish
Don Elijio’s dying wish was that a program was to be set up to work with young people.
He wanted Rosita and friends to “train them and to teach them to help each other as if they were your own”.
Rosita and her partner put more into their educational efforts in local schools and then had the idea of creating a summer camp for local children.
They called it the Bush Medicine Camp and it has run for the children of Belize every summer since 1998. In 2015, a program called ‘Ethnobotany in the classroom’ was set up and his held twice a year. Scholarships are given every year to students to help them further their education in various subjects.
Tithes and donations are made to the Bush Medicine Camps through the abdominal therapy training connected to Rosita. As practitioners of Rosita and Don Elijio’s work we never forget where our work comes from and each one of us takes on the responsibility in some small way of fulfilling Don Elijio’s dying wish.
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 non profit 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.