apostema: apostems or fluid-filled swellings.

bubas: common name for syphilis in sixteenth century; a catch-all term that described a wide collection of symptoms that involved swellings and sores on different parts of the body.

calentura: fever.

castas: a generic term for people of mixed race in colonial Spanish America.

chapetón: recently arrived immigrant from Spain.

chapetonada: illness that struck recently arrived Spaniards in sixteenth-century Mexico.

cocolitzle: great plague or illness.

criollo: creole; people of Spanish origin born in Spanish America.

destemplanza: a disequilibrium in the body's four humors.

dolor de costado: "pain in the side." Frequently mentioned disease in colonial period; a group of symptoms common to many diseases, such as pleurisy, emphysema, pneumonia, or tuberculosis.

escorbuto: scurvy.

ex-voto: small votive paintings produced to tell the story of a threatening event from which the subject has been delivered miraculously through the intervention of a divine figure, to whom thanks are reverently offered.

fiebre amarilla: yellow fever.

Florentine Codex: an encyclopedia of Nahua culture and life in precontact Mexico, composed under the auspices of Fray Bernardo de Sahagún during the sixteenth century. Contains images as well as text written in Spanish and Náhuatl.

gente de razon: "civilized" people.

guaiacum: wood from a tree native to the West Indies, used as a medicine, especially for syphilis; sometimes called "palo santo."

limpieza de sangre: "purity of blood"; the absence of Jewish or Muslim ancestors. In order to hold privileges, public offices, or enter the university one had to prove their blood purity.

ihiyotl: animistic force residing in the liver; linked to one's passions.

matlazáhuatl: epidemic illness, usually associated with typhus.

morbo gálico: the French Disease, or syphilis.

Náhuatl: Uto-Aztecan language spoken by native Mexicans who, in preconquest era, inhabited the central Valley of Mexico and points southeast, as far as Guatemala.

neyolmelahualiztli: Nahuas' rite of confession, or "straightening one's heart," a practice that restored internal equilibrium.

ololiuhqui: various hallucinogenic plants, among them Rivea corymbosa.

partera: midwife.

pasmo: respiratory illness.

peste: pestilence.

pintura de castas: colonial-era paintings showing different racial mixes of people.

plethora: in humoral medicine, the condition of too much blood, resulting in an imbalance of the humors. Usually treated with phlebotomy.

Protomedicato: royal board of officials that regulated the practice of medicine in Spain and its colonies in the Americas.

protomédico: chief medical officer.

pulque: fermented drink made from the juice of maguey plant. Lightly alcoholic.

Relaciones Geográficas: Responses to a questionnaire initiated by the Spanish Crown in 1577 requesting information about Spanish held territories in the Americas. They contain valuable information about indigenous lifestyle and conditions in the sixteenth century. For more information, see

sangías: bleedings.

superfluities: buildup of matter in the body, which causes an imbalance in the humors; caused by eating too much, or eating the wrong foods.

tabardillo: typhus; name is in reference to the characteristic rash that covers the body like a "tabard" or sleeveless cloak.

temazcal: Mesoamerican steam bath; used therapeutically in indigenous medicine.

teyolia (or yolia): animate force residing in the heart; responsible for one's knowledge, emotions, and personality; separated from an individual after death.

Tezcatlipoca: the Nahuas' major deity; associated with the night, death, sexual transgressions, and discord in general; carries a "smoking mirror." Together with Tlazolteotl, he had the power to cause immorality, punish immoral people, and remove impurities from them as well.

tícitl (plural, titici): Náhuatl word for healer, or someone skilled in the art of curing.

Tlaloc: god of rains; leading member of the Rain-Moisture-Agriculture Fertility Complex.

tlazolli: filth, garbage, polluting matter; "matter out of place."

Tlazolteotl: "Filth Deity"; goddess of dust and filth, and of persons "tainted" with polluting filth, like adulterers and promiscuous women. Together with Tezcatlipoca, she had the power to cause immorality, punish immoral people, and remove impurities from them as well.

tlazolmiquiztli: illness caused by someone in a state of filth, usually one who has committed sexual transgressions; literally, "illness of filth."

tonalli: an animate force residing in the head, related to the sun and heat; a day in the 260-day calendar; one's personal destiny due to one's day of birth.

vómito prieto (or negro): the "black vomit," or yellow fever.