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143 • 5 TheTransformationof EcuadorianNursing I n 1942 the first cohort of Ecuadorian women enrolled in the newly established Escuela Nacional de Enfermeras (ENE, National Nurses School), a boarding school and training facility built adjacent to the Hospital Eugenio Espejo in Quito and operated under the auspices of the Universidad Central.1 The school was funded by both the Ecuadorian government and international institutions, including substantial financial contributions from the Servicio Cooperativo Interamericano, a branch of the recently founded Institute for Inter-American Affairs within the U.S. State Department. The Servicio funded the construction of the building itself and provided technical staff—in the form of U.S. nurses, known as las Americanas—to administer the Escuela for what they expected to be its first five years of operation. The Rockefeller Foundation also contributed. A private philanthropic foundation that previously led campaigns abroad against contagious diseases, the Rockefeller Foundation increasingly was involved in developing medical institutions and medical training. Its contributions to the Escuela included payment of some salaries, technical advice , numerous donations of equipment and supplies, and provision of scholarships to Ecuadorian nurses to undertake advanced training in North America so that they could return to Ecuador to teach at the school. While the Rockefeller Foundation was a private institution, the coordinator of Inter-American Affairs himself—leader of the Institute for Inter-American Affairs—was Nelson A. Rockefeller from 1940 to 1944. In this position he was charged with ensuring the strategic defense of Latin America through work in the information, economic, health, sanitation, agricultural, transportation, and cultural fields. 144 • THE TRANSFORMATION OF ECUADORIAN NURSING In this project the private foundation worked cooperatively with official U.S. government institutions. The founding of the Escuela Nacional de Enfermeras formed one small part of a wide-ranging health and sanitation agreement signed by the U.S. and Ecuadorian governments in 1942 in the context of a comprehensive economic development and trade agreement, something quite new in United States–Ecuador relations.2 This agreement was part of a larger project to develop a common front in Latin America against the Axis nations during World War II. In the Ecuadorian case this included, among other things, a Lend-Lease agreement that allowed the U.S. military to establish a base for their Pacific theater of war operations on Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands and another in coastal Salinas; U.S. monopoly access to Ecuadorian rubber for the war effort; and Ecuadorian access to U.S. manufactured tires for its public transportation system; the breaking off of Ecuadorian diplomatic relations with Germany, Italy, and Japan (following the replacement the previous year of German Sedta by U.S. Panagra as provider of Ecuador’s internal aviation service); provision of equipment and services from the Defenses Services Corporation (fully owned by the U.S. government ) to the Ecuadorian armed forces, including boats, planes, munitions, training, and construction of barracks (the latter especially important to help consolidate army support for the embattled Ecuadorian president); and muchneeded funding and assistance to rebuild Quito and Guayaquil’s potable water systems. All of this occurred, too, in a context of internal political crisis related to the disastrous 1941 boundary war with Peru (in which Ecuador lost almost half its national territory, in the Amazon region) and rapid inflation. For internal political reasons any agreement involving military issues also had to include cooperation in the area of social development, given the economic crisis, political instability, and the fact that there was some sympathy among Ecuadorians for the Axis countries, particularly for the idea of a planned economy. While these international and national political factors help to explain why there was funding and sufficient political will to found an institution such as the Escuela Nacional de Enfermeras, its establishment was also due to the vision of key Ecuadorian figures like pediatrician Dr. Carlos Andrade Marín, who at the time was minister of social welfare.3 Nonetheless, the history and internal life of the Escuela cannot be reduced to either these international processes or the interventions of national medical and political leaders. This chapter focuses on the possibilities this dynamic created for a professionalization project for a group of Ecuadorian women, and the many challenges they faced. By 1952, at the end of the Escuela’s first decade, a clear model had been consolidated of Ecuadorian nurses as both highly trained women with excellent technical skills and single women with a Christian devotion to their vocation who THE TRANSFORMATION OF ECUADORIAN NURSING...


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