CHAGAS. Recognizing views, amassing voices, shortening distances…


Recognizing views, amassing voices, shortening distances…


Idea and text: Mariana Sanmartino 

Presentation: Juan Manuel Costa  

Paintings: Néstor Favre-Mossier 

Original Music: Carlos Mastropietro

English translation: Janine Ramsey Willoquet 

Review of text: Joao Carlos Pinto Dias 

Duration: 8:40 minutes 


Description of material:

“CHAGAS. Recognizing views, amassing voices, shortening distances…” is an audiovisual aid that positions and reinterprets Chagas disease from an unconventional perspective by using art to interpret the view of the true protagonists and subjects. This is an overview of the disease from a comprehensive perspective, using video as visual support, showing the creative process during the elaboration of 5 acrylic paintings that represent and illustrate the theme of the text. The piece is not intended to provide complete information on the subject or address all aspects that characterize it, but rather serve as a “trigger” to visualize Chagas disease from alternative perspectives. The material can be used in different situations and contexts such as prompts for class discussions, topic introductions at conferences, or additional stimulation of specific issues in debates. 

Basically, we seek to motivate a collective and constructive reflection aimed at raising awareness and challenging both the specialized and the non-specialist public.

Text in voice off:

  …. it is necessary to analyze and attempt to modify the immense gap between laboratories, conferences and publications, and the populations affected by Chagas disease (Pinto Dias and Borges Dias, 1993)



From a biological or medical point of view, Chagas disease (also known as American Trypanosomiasis) may be defined as a chronic disease caused by a parasite whose scientific name is Trypanosoma cruzi.

This parasite is transmitted to humans and other animals by insects that feed on blood. These insects are present throughout most of the American continent and, depending on the region, are known by different names, such as the kissing bug, vinchuca, barbeiro, chinche picuda, chipo, pito, and chirimacha, among others. These bugs leave their fecal droppings on the skin of their victims when feeding, and these droppings are what contain the parasites that cause infection after entering peoples’ bloodstream.

Other less common forms of transmission of Chagas include blood transfusions, organ transplants from infected donors, transmission during pregnancy or birth from infected mothers, and consumption of food and drink contaminated with the feces of insect vectors.

Chagas disease IS NOT SPREAD through sexual relations, kissing, hugging, sharing a drink, or shaking hands.

In terms of the progression of the disease, after 10 days of being infected with the parasite, the typical subject first goes through an asymptomatic period or a period with light symptoms, such as headache, prolonged fever and malaise. After two or three months, another stage of infection continues, in which even without symptoms, laboratory tests can confirm the infection, even while there are still no organic changes attributable to Chagas. For every 10 people who have the Chagas infection, about 3 develop the chronic disease some 20 to 30 years after being infected. in the chronic stage, lesions will appear with varying complexity, mainly in the heart, but also in the digestive and nervous system.

There is general consensus in the scientific and the public health field that Chagas disease is one of the more serious public health problems in Latin America. However, there are no reliable figures for the true magnitude of the disease and its public burden, even though estimates suggest that there are AT LEAST 10 million people infected. The imprecise statistics are a clear demonstration of the multiple elements that come into play and constitute the framework and definition of the Chagas problem.

Chagas disease has traditionally been relegated to biological and medical approaches, which has created a tremendous gap between the accumulated biomedical knowledge and aspects of the disease involving social factors that characterize this complex problem. When we expand and look beyond the traditional view, more questions than answers are raised surrounding the context of the socioeconomic reality of rural, semi-rural and peri-urban areas of Latin America.

The general picture is even more complex when we consider that in recent decades, due to rising migration, Chagas has ceased to be an exclusively rural problem and has ceased to be limited only to Latin America.

The scope of Chagas disease can only be correctly delineated when one considers the complex web of interacting elements. It then becomes obvious that the answers needed to respond to the problem cannot be solely biological or medical. Both in traditional cases as well as in recent non-endemic scenarios, solutions are needed that actively respond to all stakeholders, considering the particularities of each case, and incorporate all disciplines and fields of knowledge implicit in the topic. We must look together at Chagas disease from an integrated perspective, which not only aims to prevent disease, but which also promotes the health and well being of affected populations.

American Trypanosomiasis is probably as old as man’s presence on the continent, with evidence of Chagas having been found in northern Chilean and southern Peruvian mummies over 9,000 years old. In Spanish colonial times, bedbug bites and their disorders were recorded in the writings of some historians. Even in chronicles of Darwin’s passage through Argentina’s Mendoza Province, he described how his rest was interrupted due to substantial attacks by kissing bugs.


In 1909, the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas published the first scientific report about this disease. No one can deny that, since then, a considerable body of biomedical and public health knowledge has been generated about the disease that bears his name. However, this has not resulted in a proportional decrease in the number of people living with insect vectors or who carry Trypanosoma cruzi in their blood.

Throughout history, other writers, naturalists, doctors, men and women, have also commented on the same insects that Darwin and Chagas spoke of, or on the different aspects of the disease they transmit. Even though there has been significant progress in certain aspects, it is imperative to take stock of the strategies and choices that have already been used, and to formulate a more holistic approach for future steps. It is equally important to evaluate and learn from those paths already taken by the true protagonists of the story: peasants, indigenous populations, migrants in distant lands, and people affected in one way or another by the Chagas disease. All these women, men, and children have voices that have not yet been heard. If we truly want to eliminate the immense gap that separates the populations affected by this scourge, then it is necessary to give equal weight and value to the words and insights of the affected when writing and speaking about Chagas disease.


“We have no choice but to be imaginative, flexible and unprejudiced …”

(Morel, 1999) 


No one should be discriminated for having Chagas disease (Law 26.281, Argentina)


Córdoba – La Plata


CHAGAS – Reconocer miradas, sumar voces, acortar distancias from Juan Manuel Costa on Vimeo.

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