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191 in colonial pathologies, Warwick Anderson has shown how an intersection of interests between the Rockefeller Foundation doctors and American officials in the American colony of the Philippines brought about the “medical exoneration of the tropical environment as a directly pathogenic agent.”1 Anderson claims that the medical exoneration was relative to a racial ideal— the optimum health landscape for a white male—but Mexican history is not driven by the same dynamics as U.S. history, and in Mexico there is no binary opposition between whites and blacks. However, as I have shown, Mexico’s development since independence does illustrate another binary that is especially pertinent to Yucatán and its public health policy: the civilized versus the barbarian. From the perspective of this dominant cultural opposition, we can see that the goal of public health policy in Yucatán was to create the optimum health-care landscape for the civilized man. Although different regimes held power in Yucatán over the century we have surveyed, regimes that were animated by very different ideologies, even the most populist of them, operated on behalf of “civilization” and against “barbarism.” The idea that the tropical environment could be subdued by the power and to the benefit of the civilized man justified some of the great successes of the public health programs implemented in Yucatán, from smallpox inoculation campaigns to the cleanup of Mérida’s streets and the purification of its water system. But this public health perspective also identified illness and barbarism—and under this guise it justified a massive effort to change the lifestyles of the Maya villagers and the working class. It sought to segregate Conclusion Outsiders, Disease, and Public Health in Modern Yucatán, Mexico } conclusion 192 human and animal space, terminate old and binding funerary rituals, and crush popular medicine as “superstitious,” although as we have seen, until the coming of germ theory, the medical establishment was often wildly wrong about the cause of and cure for epidemic and tropical diseases. In the last chapter, we saw the introduction of a foreign medical body to Yucatán. Although Yucatán was often in the path of diseases that originated elsewhere, this time the foreign body carried cures rather than illnesses. The goal of the Rockefeller Foundation’s International Health Board in the early twentieth century was to “export U.S.-style public health theory and practice to dozens of countries around the world,” and it served as a model for future international agencies to construct public health and disease eradication programs in Mexico.2 However, underneath the model of “U.S.-style public health” and the successes of disease eradication campaigns in Yucatán lies a more ambiguous story, one in which the Mexican government’s brief participation in grassroots public health programs was aborted in favor of the top-down administration of public health and its restoration to the hands of technical “experts.” The disembedding of international, national, regional, and local public health services from Yucatecan daily life is a notable social fact that crops up again and again in my history of the region’s experiences with epidemic cholera, smallpox, and yellow fever in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The reason for the alienation between the doctors and the people, to put it crudely, was not primarily the greater education and expertise of the former . Of course, that education generated a viewpoint and vocabulary different from the viewpoint and vocabulary of the population, but as the brief transition in health programs between 1918 and 1923 showed, such differences could be bridged. Rather, from the beginning Yucatán’s public health officials and the foreign medical professionals who came to aid the region were involved in elite infighting, first between the church and state during the Reforma, then between Yucatán and Mexico City or Yucatán and Campeche during the midnineteenth century, and finally in the disputes between the hacendados and the revolutionaries in the 1915–25 period. Undoubtedly, the Yucatecan state seized the occasions offered by the incidence of disease epidemics to develop state-building and modernizing projects under the guise of ensuring public safety. In doing so, the governing class often came up against residents’ long-held practices and rituals for treating and preventing illness in chaotic moments of social disorganization, which extended even to funereal practices . Furthermore, it was just at these disease moments that the state was most determined to quell rebellion, civilize indigenous populations, stabilize Outsiders, Disease, and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780826348999
Related ISBN
9780826348982
MARC Record
OCLC
757917119
Pages
310
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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