P. 1
Fevered Measures by John Mckiernan-González

Fevered Measures by John Mckiernan-González

|Views: 987|Likes:
In Fevered Measures, John Mckiernan-González examines public health campaigns along the Texas-Mexico border between 1848 and 1942 and reveals the changing medical and political frameworks U.S. health authorities used when facing the threat of epidemic disease.
In Fevered Measures, John Mckiernan-González examines public health campaigns along the Texas-Mexico border between 1848 and 1942 and reveals the changing medical and political frameworks U.S. health authorities used when facing the threat of epidemic disease.

More info:

Published by: Duke University Press on Jul 18, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





designation was geographically correct, as the Rio Grande border is south
of the (American) South.34 Clearly, the U.S. Marine Hospital Service drew
regional boundaries that refected a diferent logic. The National Archives
did keep records for the diferent Rio Grande border stations in the central
fles for the usphs, but the more historically compelling correspondence ofen
lay buried in the surgeon general’s massive fles regarding specifc diseases
like smallpox, yellow fever, and typhus.35 Some of the conficts in the various
epidemics and quarantines involved Mexican consular representation in the
United States, which placed the legal record in the State Department diplo-
matic archives in College Park, Maryland. State Department specialists in the
National Archives in College Park, because of their initial skepticism, were
always surprised to fnd that “complaints against quarantine” did exist and
had their own decimal fle.36 This project owes these archivists an enormous
debt, for they helped make these once-classifed records available to me and
to the scholarly public.
The reason the State Department regarded memoranda involving small-
pox, typhus, and yellow fever in the Texas-Mexico borderlands as matters of
national security remains a mystery to me, especially given that public health
ofcers gave regular updates on these diseases in the surgeon general’s Public
Health Reports. The records themselves revealed that American citizens as
well as Mexican nationals used Mexican consular advocacy to challenge and
negotiate the actions of American health authorities in the United States.
That this U.S.-based medical and diplomatic record is undocumented — or
hidden in plain sight — speaks to the ways multiple archives push Mexicans in
the United States out of the main currents of American historical experience,
helping them become, in Mae Ngai’s term, “alien citizens.”37 The foreign di-
mension of this public archival record is a reminder of the long-obscured rela-
tionship between Latino communities and U.S. federal authorities. These dip-
lomatic records provide a privileged way to understand how locals, migrants,
and national public health authorities understood the medical dimensions
of national identity, citizenship, belonging, personhood, and public space at
the border.

Simply fnding these records was not enough. The research process also
complicated my initial framework explaining medical encounters at the
border. I began my preliminary research looking for interactions between
American health ofcers and border residents. I started with the telegraphs,
memos, and reports generated by the usphs in El Paso, Laredo, and Browns-

Introduction 9

ville. I sought evidence of unequal treatment and Mexicano awareness of
these inequalities. I ran across memos and news stories about the 1917 El Paso
Typhus Bath Riots, a confict that, up to that point, was not included in any
history of El Paso or Ciudad Juárez.38 The women involved in these riots
defed the usphs demand that they enter the clinic by the bridge, disrobe,
place their clothes in a cyanide mixture, and then place themselves in a kero-
sene and vinegar bath.39 For the next three days, women living in Juarez and
working as domestics and laundresses in El Paso shut down trafc across the
Santa Fe Bridge. This riot confrmed the importance of Mexican resistance
in the history of American public health. The daily presence and potential
anger of working-class Mexican women who crossed the border on a daily
basis limited the sphere of action for American public health ofcers at the
El Paso border.

However, my search for Mexican or American responses to public health
practices at the border also restricted my understanding of the ebb and fow of
a complex and multiethnic social world in formation in the medical encoun-
ters. When I started researching the Laredo Smallpox Riot of 1899, I believed
that it stemmed from Mexican resistance to violent Anglo-American medical
policies enforced by the Texas Rangers.40 I was intrigued when I found that
the (white) (Anglo) Texas Rangers depended on the (African American) Tenth
Cavalry to defend the Rangers from Laredo’s working-class residents. When I
started seeing Spanish surnames among the police ofcers and volunteer in-
spectors who were forcing their way into working-class households in Laredo,
I realized that my American/Mexican binary — my initial narrative tracing
Anglo-American modernity and ethnic Mexican resistance — did little to ex-
plain the variety of responses in the multiethnic world of twentieth-century
Laredo. These unexpected situations in El Paso and Laredo underscored the
ways public health at the border can both contribute to our understanding
of how racial formations move across borders and complicate nation-bound
narratives about state building.41 They inspired me to dig deeper and fnd a
larger story through these public health encounters, which I hope to tell here.

Marked Bodies and Moving Medical Borders, 1848–1942

Medical borders moved to respond to the perceived threat of illness, not
the establishment of political borders. In 1848, the drafers of the Treaty of
Guadalupe Hidalgo included a medical exception to the new political bor-
der they drew between Mexico and the United States. Article III stated that

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->