Hispanic American Historical Review

Depopulation, Fascism, and Eugenics
in 1930s Argentina

Andrés H. Reggiani


n August 1941 Lord Winterton asked the Argentine ambassador to Great
Britain, Tomás Le Breton, whether his country was willing to accept a small
group of German Jewish children with relatives living in Argentina. Earlier
government-to-government negotiations had failed, and the British Foreign
Office hoped that Winterton’s friendship with Le Breton might bring better
results (both men had participated in the 1938 Evian Conference on refugees).
However, Le Breton rejected Winterton’s request on the grounds that “the Jewish children were exactly the people whom the Argentine government did not
want to have in the country as they would eventually grow up and would help to
increase the Jewish population by propagation.” The ambassador nevertheless
left open the possibility of issuing visas for the 20 children if the British government “were prepared to have them sterilized before they went there [Argentina],” a task, Winterton told his friend, that “was quite beyond our powers to
effect.”1 Le Breton was neither a fanatical right-winger nor particularly racist. A
lawyer by training, he was a leading figure of the Radical Party, which won the
first national democratic elections in 1916 with the support of the middle classes
Research for this article was made possible by the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica
y Tecnológica (Argentina). Various drafts were presented at the École des Hautes Études
en Sciences Sociales, the Iberoamerikanisches-Institut, the Lateinamerika-Institut (Freie
Universität–Berlin), the Instituto de Investigaciones Biotecnológicas (CONICET), and
the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella. The author wishes to thank Paul-André Rosental, Luc
Berlivet, Reinhard Liehr, Sandra Carreras, Ricardo Salvatore, Hernán González Bollo,
Gustavo Vallejo, Marisa Miranda, Carolina Biernat, and the anonymous readers of the
Hispanic American Historical Review for their insightful criticism and suggestions.
1. National Archives (Public Record Office), London, FO 371/29210 R97898,
“Refugees, Evacuation of Children to North America,” Memo of Winterton to the Foreign
Office, 5 Aug. 1941. I would like to express my gratitude to Uki Goñi for sharing this source
with me.
Hispanic American Historical Review 90:2
doi 10.1215/00182168-2009-135
Copyright 2010 by Duke University Press

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Hispanic American Historical Review


HAHR / May / Reggiani

and the descendants of immigrants. His attitude in the refugee children affair
illustrates not only the rampant anti-Semitism that pervaded most of the diplomatic corps, but also the enduring appeal of radical eugenics within Argentine
elite circles.
Since Nancy L. Stepan’s pioneering study published almost two decades
ago, scholarly interest in Latin American and Argentine eugenics has flourished,
accompanying growth in the fields of history of medicine and the social and cultural studies of disease.2 Following Stepan’s work, Eduardo Zimmermann published one of the most influential studies of the relationship between eugenics
and social reform in turn-of-the-century Argentina.3 Although it took another
decade for historians to pick up the thread of Stepan’s and Zimmermann’s work,
today scholarly production on Argentine eugenics has made up for this delay
with a rich variety of studies of ideas and institutions, perspectives on gender
issues, and Foucauldian analyses of eugenics as “biopower.”4
A general consensus over the nature of Latin American eugenics has
emerged, which assumes the hegemonic prevalence among social reformers of a
2. Nancy L. Stepan, “The Hour of Eugenics”: Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America
(Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1991); Diego Armus, “Disease in the Historiography of
Modern Latin,” in Disease in the History of Modern Latin America: From Malaria to AIDS, ed.
Diego Armus (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2003), 1–24.
3. Eduardo A. Zimmermann, “Racial Ideas and Social Reform: Argentina, 1890–1916,”
Hispanic American Historical Review 72, no. 1 (1992): 23–46.
4. Yolanda Eraso, “Biotypology, Endocrinology, and Sterilization: The Practice
of Eugenics in the Treatment of Argentine Women in the 1930s,” Bulletin of the History
of Medicine, no. 81 (2007): 793–822; Natalia Milanesio, “Redefining Men’s Sexuality,
Resignifying Male Bodies: The Argentine Law of Anti-Venereal Prophylaxis, 1936,” Gender
& History 17, no. 2 (2005): 463–91; Marisa Miranda and Gustavo Vallejo, eds., Darwinismo
social y eugenesia en el mundo latino (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno, 2005); Pedro Zarini,
“La utopía eugenista en la Argentina (1900–1950),” in El mosaico argentino: Modelos y
representaciones del espacio y de la población, siglos XIX–XX, ed. Hernán Otero (Buenos Aires:
Siglo Veintiuno, 2004), 425–69; Eugenia Scarzanella, “Los intelectuales ítalo-argentinos,
¿un posible liderazgo étnico? La Asociación Argentina de Biotipología, Eugenesia y
Medicina Social (1930–1943),” in De Europa a las Américas: Dirigentes y liderazgos
(1880–1960), ed. Alicia Bernasconi and Carina Frid (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2004), 99–112;
Gustavo Vallejo, “El ojo del poder en el espacio del saber: Los institutos de biotipología,”
Asclepio 56, no.1 (2004): 219–44; Karina Ramacciotti and Adriana Valobra, “ ‘Plasmar la
raza fuerte . . .’ Relaciones de género en la propaganda sanitaria de la Secretaría de Salud
Pública de la Argentina: 1947–1949,” in Generando el peronismo: Estudios de cultura, política y
género (1946–1955), ed. Karina Ramacciotti and Adriana Valobra (Buenos Aires: Proyecto
Editorial, 2004); Marisa Miranda, “La antorcha de cupido: Eugenesia, biotipología y
eugamia en Argentina, 1930–1970,” Asclepio 55, no. 2 (2003): 231–55; Marcela Nari, “La
eugenesia en Argentina, 1890–1940,” Quipu 12, no. 3 (1999): 343–69.

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Hispanic American Historical Review

Depopulation, Fascism, and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina


neo-Lamarckian approach to population improvement, despite the discrediting
of the theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics. Examples of this are
eugenics education and public health campaigns, and laws restricting marriage.
According to this view, eugenics took root and expanded within the cultural
and intellectual frame provided by the Catholic Church, scientific child care or
puericultura, and the biological and statistical classificatory schemes espoused
by Italian fascist demography, notably those developed by Nicola Pende and
Corrado Gini in the 1920s and 1930s. In turn, negative proposals based on
the rediscovery of Mendelian hereditary theory aimed at improving the racial
stock by preventing the reproduction of groups deemed biologically weak; these
remained marginal within the emerging medico-legal complex. To put it in bold
terms, Latin America was immune to the radical eugenics adopted in the Progressive Era United States, Nazi Germany, and social democratic Scandinavia.
While generically congruent with most of the policies of race improvement implemented in the 1930s and 1940s, this explanation neglects significant
facts. The issue of compulsory sterilization is a case in point. This controversial measure was the subject of debate among medical and legal experts in the
early twentieth century and again in the 1930s, when Nazi racial policy forced
experts to address it disingenuously. Few Argentine medical and legal scientists
rejected eugenic sterilization on moral grounds, but those who openly praised
it were not a majority within the profession. As this essay will show, eugenicists either addressed sterilization in depoliticized terms as a highly complex
matter whose actual implications required a detached and dispassionate expert
assessment, or carried it out discreetly on allegedly therapeutic grounds. As the
debates of the Second Pan-American Conference on Eugenics show, the Argentine delegates believed that compulsory sterilization should be considered and
thoroughly studied, though not carried out before conclusive evidence of racial
benefits was gathered. Such evidence could only come from Germany. Records
of the Prussian state archives shed new light on the nature of the rapport
between German and Latin American medical science in the 1930s. Primary
evidence on the activities of the Deustch-Iberoamerikanische-Ärzteakademie
(German-Iberoamerican Medical Academy) reveals significant details regarding
the reception and circulation of Nazi eugenics among Latin American physicians. Experts traveling to Germany to attend summer courses and visit medical
facilities played an instrumental role in separating the debate on compulsory
sterilization from other more atavistic and “unscientific” manifestations of Nazi
racism, thus indirectly contributing to the legitimization of this policy in their
home countries.
By arguing that closer attention should be paid to sterilization to bet-

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7 This essay also builds upon previous analyses of the relationship between eugenics.6 These nuanced approaches to the classic opposition between nature and culture help us make sense of those cases in which eugenicists perceived sterilization as an acceptable measure to eradicate undesirable hereditary traits.Hispanic American Historical Review 286 HAHR / May / Reggiani ter understand the parameters within which Argentine eugenics operated in the 1930s and 1940s. Tracy. and German Politics between National Unification and Nazism.” ed. Nancy P. and Rosemblatt.” so were culture and environment “biologized” through essentialist narratives of race improvement. 6. 1989).” in Greater than the Parts: Holism in Biomedicine. Alexandra Minna Stern. Nancy P. Appelbaum. 263–81. Macpherson. Rather. I propose to acknowledge the intrinsic instability of biomedical discourses of population improvement. 2003). Appelbaum. Rosemblatt have claimed that Latin American eugenics often functioned within incompatible definitions of race. Anne S. It follows Paul Weindling’s characterization of eugenics as a technocratic and authoritarian ideology that “offered the state and the professions unlimited powers to eradicate disease and improve the health of future generations. “Race and Nation in Latin America: An Anthropological View. 1998). biotypology. a process which “presented a novel role for the professional expert. Sarah W. 1920–1950. 1–31. I do not wish to reverse the above-mentioned neoLamarckian consensus. Health. Race. Press. Nancy P. ed. As Sarah W. and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt. Appelbaum. Macpherson. of North Carolina Press. eugenics was closely linked to the attempt to move beyond the divisive arena of party politics through science and medicine. 1870–1945 (New York: Cambridge Univ. 1920–1950. Macpherson. 161–88. “An Evolving Science of Man: The Transformation and Demise of American Constitutional Medicine. especially by one of its most popular versions in Latin America. Tracy has shown.5 Peter Wade has gone further along this path and argued that just as biology and heredity were construed as “cultural artifacts. Press. and technocratic expertise. while remaining anchored to a neo-Lamarckian worldview.”8 More specifically.” As such. the article places itself among recent studies by Kristin Ruggiero. 7. Peter Wade. Paul Weindling. the “slippage” between environmental and hereditarian explanations was made conceptually possible by constitutional medical theory. Christopher Lawrence and George Weisz (New York: Oxford Univ. and Jerry Dávila on the role of science in shaping state policy on social and racial issues by way of public health and elementary education campaigns and legal practices in 5. authoritarian politics. and Karin A.” in Appelbaum. Published by Duke University Press . Anne S. Anne S.” in Race and Nation in Modern Latin America. 8. “Racial Nations. Macpherson. 7. and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt (Chapel Hill: Univ. Race and Nation in Modern Latin America.

physical training.9 Before we proceed it may be useful to summarize the main features that Argentine eugenics shared with similar movements elsewhere in Latin America. calls to adopt a science-based policy to improve the population was part of a broader process by which medical. Jerry Dávila. 2004). Press. Mexico. Argentine. Diploma of Whiteness: Race and Social Policy in Brazil. and Brazil. and eugenics in particular. no. the paths followed by eugenicists in all three countries were remarkably similar. and regulations aimed at surveying specific population groups (Indians. presented important differences. 1920–1960. 10. “From Mestizophilia to Biotypology: Racialization and Science in Mexico. Press. Modernity in the Flesh: Medicine.” in Appelbaum.10 However. Argentine racial thought in general. Macpherson. 11 (2001): 81–114. CA: Stanford Univ. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 287 Argentina. (Durham. NC: Duke Univ. “Sobre el surgimiento del Estado médico-legal en la Argentina (1890–1940).” Estudios Sociales 20.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. professions like medicine set themselves to “colonize” other areas deemed vital for the state. technocracy. Alexandra Minna Stern. Unlike in the other countries with significant 9. and economic experts and social reformers came to view successful social modernization in terms of rational and efficient administration of human resources. women. 2nd ed. Race and Nation in Modern Latin America. Fascism. and eugenics. First. and Rosemblatt. workers) and devising methods to improve their psychophysical makeup — or. Afro-Americans. and Society in Turn-of-theCentury Argentina (Stanford. legal. children. and nutrition. job performance. this process entailed the consolidation of the technical elites and the legitimization of their specific knowledge alone as valid for government purposes. technical agencies. to “revalorize” the nation’s “human capital. For a critical appraisal of the relationship between state bureaucracy and medicallegal expertise in Argentina see Ricardo Salvatore. Second. Kristin Ruggiero. Both trends led to a gradual proliferation of bureaucratic institutions.” Another common feature was the import of European intellectual and scientific paradigms with which to make sense of Latin America’s demographic specificities and ensure that they would not endanger the modernizing plans. Stern and Dávila in particular make strong cases for the interconnection between nationalism. On some specific points. In the 1920s and 1930s. As a result. devising local versions of Nicola Pende’s biotypological file. to use the language of the time. 2006). Brazilian. 1917–1945. peasants. Law. Published by Duke University Press . Eugenicists in all three countries borrowed from Italian fascist demography. 187–210. and Mexican eugenics adopted the latest statistical devices to measure demographic trends and classify individuals according to their psychophysical constitution. education. such as the authoritarian context in which European ideas took root and the technologies devised to identify and measure “abnormal” psychophysical traits. such as child rearing.

together with Uruguay. 1921–25: 32. Demographic Change and Dysgenic Utopias In the 1930s. 121–53.Hispanic American Historical Review 288 HAHR / May / Reggiani Indian and Afro-American communities. one in which the lowest rates of birth corresponded to the urban areas and the prosperous agricultural districts of the center-east (the humid pampa).4.1. more than in any other country of Western Europe and the Americas. Contemporary statistics published by the League of Nations put Argentina’s birthrate at a slightly lower level: 1911–13: 37.2. 1850–1930. These figures gave Argentina. eugenics reflected the elites’ enduring attraction to European models. The net rate of births. with the exception of Uruguay and Spain. “The Population of Latin America. 1936–39: 24.4. 1986). Published by Duke University Press .11 These statistics concealed a more complex demographic reality. while in the suburban and rural districts around the capital 11. 1870–1930. in only a decade (1928–38) the birthrate decreased in Argentina by 9 per thousand. Latin America c. as domestic and international developments converged to feed apocalyptic fears of a looming “desertification” of the prosperous nation. after the United States and Canada. Nicolás Sánchez Albornoz. shrank to 26 per thousand by the end of the 1930s. Leslie Bethell (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. economy. Press.” in The Cambridge History of Latin America. Let us examine in more detail these distinctive features. medicine. home of most of the four million immigrants that settled the country since the 1870s. vol. race science was not connected to the existence of a large nonwhite population and accompanying ethnic tensions. and law who acquired an expertise in population topics — discovered that the country’s population growth was declining more rapidly than any other Latin American or Western nation. the general trend was remarkable for its speed and intensity. Moreover. In Argentina perhaps more than anywhere else in Latin America. This was evident in the open preference for overseas immigration — a decision that resulted in the emergence of large and socially influential foreign communities — and in the conspicuous receptiveness to European nationalistic ideas and authoritarian models of demographic renewal in the 1930s. 4.4. 1926–30: 30. the lowest rate of births in Latin America and the fourth lowest rate in the hemisphere. Argentine demographers — holders of university degrees in statistics. Between 1890 and 1936. ed. which had been 44 per thousand at the turn of the century. Despite the problems that made the collection of vital statistics in Argentina somewhat unreliable. 1931–35: 26. the birthrate in the city of Buenos Aires diminished from 44 to 17 per thousand.

152–89. all groups experienced a reduction of family size.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 289 (Buenos Aires Province) the rate fell from 42 to 21 per thousand. Between 1936 and 1947 the average size of a middle-income household declined from 3. Lobato (Buenos Aires: Biblos / Mar del Plata: Universidad Nacional del Mar del Plata. Despite the steady increase of the marriage rate. Although there were significant differences between social classes. While in 1914 Argentine women had an average of 5. Statisticians and economists in particular relied on Robert R. Kuczynski’s methodological innovations to calculate the net rate of reproduction.9 to 3. Published by Duke University Press . working-class families experienced an even steeper decrease from 4.12 These findings acquired an even more troubling dimension once experts began circulating gloomy forecasts of impending depopulation based on new statistical methods to measure’s women’s fertility.4 and 1. Tucumán). On contraception see Marcela Nari.2. these demographic changes were connected to the more widespread use of contraceptive devices and the participation of women in the job market — both of which called into question traditional gender roles and family structures. in the city of Buenos Aires these figures were 3. and soon thereafter adopted by the League of 12. In Rosario. which in Buenos Aires was higher than in the rest of the country. similar contrasts were found in the rates of infant mortality of each region. the number of illegitimate births also went up from 25 to 28 percent. Isabella Cosse. an indicator of social progress. Argentina’s abrupt and short demographic transition was not preceded by a demographic explosion. First presented in 1931 at the International Congress for the Study of Population in Rome. As in most of Western Europe. three decades later the number had fallen to 3.5. 1890–1940. where the gap between the fall of the birthrate and the reduction of mortality allowed for a significant increase of the population. Santiago del Estero. la disminución de la natalidad y el debate médico.2 members. 2007). As developed by the German demographer.” in Política. the second largest town and immigrant center. largely inhabited by an ethnically mixed population of Indian and Spanish ancestry. There. Fascism. the rates of births oscillated between 37 and 44 per thousand. San Juan. “Las prácticas anticonceptivas.5 respectively.5 children. Salta. Estigmas de nacimiento: Peronismo y orden familiar (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica. the number of births for every one thousand inhabitants shrank in the same period from 40 to 17. Mirta Z. ed. but at a much faster pace. Unlike most European countries.3 to 3. 1996). médicos y enfermedades: Lecturas de historia de la salud en la Argentina. Altogether different was the situation in the poorer rural provinces of the northwest (Jujuy. this index estimated the female population that would live long enough to reach the age of conception.

”15 This was the language often spoken in pronatalist milieus. if the birthrate of the provinces fell to the level of the capital. By the end of the decade his warnings became increasingly infused with a moralistic rhetoric that lamented the “decline of the white race. predicting that the city would enter a phase of negative growth in 10 years if trends continued. especially statisticians and medical doctors. serving as head of the Dirección General de Estadística de la Nación (Bureau of Statistics) in 1915–21 and 1923–25. . se agranda el desierto. and global reproduction rate (number of girls born to each woman of childbearing age). in 20 years the overall population of the country would start to decrease. 259 (1940): 9–23. Toward the end of the decade he applied Kuczynski’s index to the vital statistics gathered by the Buenos Aires city census of 1936. 1926–1943. Bunge became the country’s most authoritative voice in statistics and demographic topics.”14 While there was nothing inherently “eugenic” in Bunge’s analyses. The net rate of reproduction was more precise than other statistical methods. “Esplendor y decadencia de la raza blanca. He was also an economist of some repute and an influential sociological commentator. Raúl Prebisch. and it became the dominant voice among population experts. no. Salvatore (Rosario: Beatriz Viterbo. and the demographic decline of the white population. he only takes into account the personal advantages that come 13. With Bunge. In 1926. . 2007).Hispanic American Historical Review 290 HAHR / May / Reggiani Nations.” vindicated the “patriotism of superior men. González Bollo. Bunge introduced the net reproduction rate at the moment when the country’s natural population was slowing down and overseas immigration plummeted to its lowest historical level. such as the rate of births (annual number of births per thousand people).” Revista de Economía Argentina 22. stated that “when the individual limits his family he follows his selfish interest. his work furnished the empirical evidence that lent credibility to the doomsday scenarios that became fertile soil for eugenics.13 Kuczynski’s measurements were introduced in Argentina by Alejandro Bunge (1880–1943). . Worse. the global fertility rate (number of children born to each woman aged 15–50). “Recepción argentina de una obsesión demográfica occidental: Baja la natalidad. Bunge. Alejandro E. ed.” in Los lugares del saber: Contextos locales y redes transnacionales en la formación del conocimiento moderno. declina la población. Published by Duke University Press . 15. 14. a growing number of elderly people. 235–63. Trained in the German empire as an engineer. the head of the Bureau of Statistics. the falling birthrate “moved from the editorials and letters to the editor of major newspapers to theater stages and well-attended conferences.” and praised the “abnegation of the Christian spirit. Kuczynski’s measurement placed in a transnational perspective a phenomenon that was becoming the rule in most of the urban societies of the West: low female fertility. Ricardo D.

19. Hernán Otero (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno. 3 (1996): 725–51. 57 (1934): 668–69. 1919–1945. 471–506. See for example Bunge. On French pronatalism see Andrés H. Argentine economic conditions. Sánchez Albornoz. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 291 from having a small family. “Recepción argentina de una obsesión demográfica occidental. ed. Anotaciones demográficas: A propósito de la teoría de los movimientos de población. Similar contrasts appear when one compares Argentina with the United States. “El descenso de la inmigración y la natalidad en Argentina: El descenso de la natalidad en Francia. He favored encouraging the factors of internal growth through an expansionist policy aimed at consolidating large rural households through the redistribution of land and other financial incentives. “Procreating France: The Politics of Demography. Reggiani. no.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation.17 His emphasis on the quantitative improvement of the population was akin to the positions of the International Union for the Study of Population. Bunge professed a special admiration for the Alliance Nationale contre la Dépopulation.” French Historical Studies 19. cited in González Bollo. 17. siglos XIX–XX.” Revista de Ciencias Económicas 12. military and economic grandeur. 14.” 254.19 In the first half of the 1930s in Argentina. On Bunge’s pronatalist ideas see Carolina Biernat. were no longer as attractive as they had been before World War I. According to the 1910 census. 18. “Inmigración.” in El mosaico argentino: Modelos y representaciones del espacio y la población. ignoring his duties to the nation.” 136. natalidad y urbanización: El natalismo argentino y sus contradicciones frente a las preguntas del desarrollo económico (1914–1955). Raúl Prebisch. immigration contributed 44 percent of the country’s annual overall population growth and roughly 80 percent of its domestic growth. Thus. chief editor of the statistics journal Metron. to its civil. Fascism. given its historic dependence on overseas manpower reserves.18 The world crisis had far deeper implications for Argentina than for any other nation in the hemisphere. Argentina’s share of newcomers was far higher. of whose advisory board Bunge was a member. who continued to make Argentina’s demographic growth dependent on overseas immigration. while the 1914 census showed twice that figure for the South American country. Between 1880 and 1930. Published by Duke University Press . Compared to other countries of the Southern Cone. 2004). the number of 16. while Brazil received roughly the same number of immigrants as Argentina. headed by Corrado Gini. “The Population of Latin America. in Brazil foreigners made up only 15 percent of the total growth — a third of Argentina’s share. no. he observed.”16 Bunge deemed unrealistic the expectations held by many of his compatriots. which by the mid-1930s had emerged as the most active pronatalist group in France. in particular with regard to access to land. As a public intellectual.7 percent of the population living in the United States had been born abroad.

363. This was an unsettling finding. and David G. 21. Fernando Devoto.000) of total arrivals. The number of arrivals fluctuated between 56.000 newcomers. thereafter. As a result of these measures the nationalities of the former Austro-Hungarian. In 1927 the fascist dictatorship passed a law invalidating all passports held by Italians. Between 1921 and 1927. and Italian Modernity (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Historia de la inmigración en Argentina (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana. Reproduction. The overwhelming majority of the respondents — a broad sample of civil servants. were losing ground to “exotic” nationalities. In the early 1920s the United States and the British Commonwealth enforced a quota system to restrict the entry of groups from southern and eastern Europe. Social Bodies: Science. The effects of the quota system were aggravated by the ban on emigration adopted by Mussolini’s regime. special taxes for the unmarried. Horn.333 (1931) and 24.043 (1912). The opinion polls carried out by the Museo Social Argentino in 1919 and 1939 reflected the extent to which this concern was widely shared.20 The depression was not the only factor at play. academics. the immigration flow from Europe.Hispanic American Historical Review 292 HAHR / May / Reggiani foreign-born residents who returned to their home countries exceeded those who stayed by an annual average of six thousand. 2003). Although Italians and Spaniards remained dominant. By the end of the 1930s. which together had made up 70 percent of all overseas migrants before 1914.” These initiatives were followed by a campaign of internal colonization and a prohibition against settling in large cities. as well as initiatives to encourage a higher birthrate — loans for young households. Russian. which in the decades before World War I had brought an annual average of 117. new ones were to be granted “with utmost severity and frugality. and hiring priorities for heads of large families.21 Soon warnings grew louder that Italian and Spanish nationals.240) to 16 percent (25. immigrants from these regions increased fivefold. shrank to less than half of that figure. 1996). Press. considering that in the 1920s roughly one million had ended up staying in Argentina. from 3 percent (3.345 (1933). never again to attain or even come closer to its peak of 323. and scientists covering almost the entire ideological spectrum — agreed that priority should be given to Latin and Catholic groups 20. the highest and lowest marks for the decade. Dictating Demography: The Problem of Population in Fascist Italy (New York: Cambridge Univ. Published by Duke University Press . and Ottoman empires sought alternative destinies in the countries of the Southern Cone. On fascist population policy see Carl Ipsen. their share shrank year after year. 1994). Press.

Similar views dominated the debates at the conference on population.” Boletín del Museo Social Argentino (hereafter BMSA) 8. 219–220 (1940): 337–92.” BMSA 28. la modernización y sus límites (1880–1916). and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 293 with significant presence in the country.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation.” in Nueva Historia Argentina. The explosive combination of literary “nativism” and nationalist mobilization became evident during the infamous Semana Trágica — the xenophobic and anti-leftist manhunt unleashed in January 1919 by the aristocratic paramilitary group Liga Patriótica. El progreso.” in Bethell. to agricultural laborers.22 Domestic xenophobia also played a role. 2000). no. Manuel Gálvez. further measures were adopted to discourage the arrival of “undesirable” aliens. Ortiz (1938–42). held in Buenos Aires in 1940. and BMSA 29. 329–63.23 Politically. Charles Hale. 23. Roca. 85–90 (1919): 1–186. anti-immigrant sentiment was a familiar feature of Argentine political culture after the turn of the century. This was clearly manifested in the decade prior to the Centenario through the “anti-positivist and idealist” rebellion of journalists and literary writers (Lucio V. Mansilla. 1870–1930. Museo Social Argentino. especially Italians and Spaniards. xenophobia was connected to the conflict between anarchism and the government led by General Julio A. “Primer Congreso Nacional de la Población. 4. Fascism. Mirta Z. Four years later. notably under the administrations of Marcelo T. vol. Roberto Payró. “El pensamiento finisecular (1880–1916). On the “antimodern reaction” see Oscar Terán. 1910). both of which granted the executive broad powers to deny entry to or expel from the country any foreigner accused of subverting public order. 1870–1930. c. to asocial 22. 5. Published by Duke University Press . It reached a first climactic point with the passing of the Residence and Social Defense laws (1902. Although the relatively liberal 1876 Immigration and Colonization Law was never repealed. Lobato (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana. 223–224 (1941): 2–288. and among them. In the years that followed. no. Radical president Hipólito Yrigoyen enforced two decrees that made a photo-carrying passport and certificates of good behavior and sound mental health mandatory requirements for obtaining a visa. no. either by granting discretionary powers to consuls and immigration officers or by increasing the intricate web of bureaucratic procedures. ed. The Cambridge History of Latin America. “La inmigración después de la guerra. Sociobiological arguments reinforced literary and cultural xenophobia and contributed to legitimize it by way of scientific explanations that showed the inborn proclivity of foreigners. “Political and Social Ideas in Latin America. vol. de Alvear (1922–28) and Roberto M. and Leopoldo Lugones) who blamed foreigners for the loss of traditions and the erosion of spiritual values. 367–441. Miguel Cané.

Hispanic American Historical Review 294 HAHR / May / Reggiani behavior. Hale. After the turn of the century. In February 1919. Argentine medical and legal experts drew on Cesare Lombroso’s anthropological and deterministic theories of criminal behavior. as the Argentine military drew up 24. This “self-deprecation” of the Spaniards in America as “mestizo-ized. the Radical Carlos F. borrowing from pessimistic European theories of race and social evolution. 1. as well as by José Ingenieros’s mixed brand of Spencerian social Darwinism and economic determinism. when the fires of the Semana Trágica had barely been put out.” 28–38. Ramos Mejía. Melo submitted to the House of Representatives a bill calling for the adoption of stiffer measures to discourage the arrival of “social waste” and “leftovers from the war. Herbert Spencer. 1999). which earned an international reputation for its influential journals and scientific societies as well as novel techniques of anthropometric measurement.25 The dislocations brought about by World War I and the Russian Revolution intensified the racial anxieties and fears of biological degeneration associated with immigration and nationalist politics. On the reception of Lombroso’s ideas see Eugenia Scarzanella. criminalidad y racismo en Argentina. and mulato-ized Europeans” was best represented in Argentina by Carlos Octavio Bunge and José M. tireless proselytizer of the temperance cause and founder of the short-lived Sociedad Argentina de Eugenesia. his ideas were more enthusiastically received in Argentina than in his own homeland. After World War I. “Political and Social Ideas in Latin America. chap. “Racial Ideas and Social Reform. 1890–1940 (Buenos Aires: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes. Published by Duke University Press . two of the authors most influenced by Le Bon’s crowd psychology. indian-ized. which allowed for substituting considerations of social defense for the principle of free will as criteria for punishment. Zimmermann. As Lombroso acknowledged. Ernst Haeckel. Delfino’s preoccupations with the menaces posed by unchecked immigration were compounded by the disturbing findings he made while researching the records of the Dirección General de Sanidad (Army Health Service). Ni gringos ni indios: Inmigración. This was evident in the intellectual migration of prominent Italian legal experts to South America and the emergence of an “Argentine school” of criminology. Arthur de Gobineau. 25. such as those espoused by Hippolyte Taine.24 The criminalization of immigration was accompanied by sociological arguments that blamed the political instability and social anarchy of the former Spanish colonies on the inferiority of the Latin races. and Gustave Le Bon.” 396–414.” The fear that Argentina would be flooded by the “war cripples and scum that Europe and Asia dump every year on our soil” was the theme of an article published in the influential journal La Semana Médica by Víctor Delfino.

gradually transformed itself into a coalition of conservatives and dissident Radicals. which called for the armed forces of Latin America to become an “effective ally of the government in the goal of improving the race. Published by Duke University Press . 1930. “El problema de la raza. Eventually. the War Ministry began compiling health and mortality statistics of the male population of draft age. pp. this negative view has been challenged by another one that stresses the singularity of the period as one of experimentation and quests for novel solutions to the problems posed by the world crisis. This became evident in the address by the Chilean delegate to the First Pan-American Conference on Eugenics and Homiculture (Havana. Víctor Delfino. 3 (1933): 9. These data revealed that more than 30 percent of the 1896 class examined in 1917 was unfit for combat duties. 18 Sep. however.” Anales de Biotipología. The long decade of crisis (1930–43) surely epitomized the growing appeal among the elites and 26. Eugenesia y Medicina Social (hereafter Anales). “El Ejército Nacional como centro de investigación eugenésica. “Ejército y eugenesia.26 By the 1930s. 27. as well as a precedent for the social and economic policies later implemented by Juan Perón’s regime (1946–55).” La Semana Médica. Fascism. In the illiberal mood that characterized the political and intellectual culture of the 1930s and 1940s. 674–76. the connection between national defense and physical fitness acquired clear eugenic undertones. Uriburu put an end to 14 years of democratic government under the Radical Party. Uriburu’s project of establishing a corporatist state failed. combined with the negative demographic trends. 1927). 29 (1932). eugenics lost its progressive traits to become a state project with deeply authoritarian undertones. the governments of Justo and Ortiz would eventually go down into the history books as the década infame or Infamous Decade. 1924. See Manuel Bianchi’s intervention in I Conferencia Panamericana de Eugenesia y Homicultura de las Repúblicas Americanas (Havana: Gobierno de la República de Cuba. Italian Biotypology and the Quest for a “Latin” Eugenics On September 6. gave new political relevance to the link between biology and nationalistic worldviews.” La Prensa Médica Argentina. no. Justo (1932–38). Recently. Jorge Orgaz.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. 1928). Eugenio Galli. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 295 plans for hypothetical conflicts with Brazil and Chile. 109–17. Based alternatively on the proscription of the Yrigoyen wing of the Radical Party and the systematic recourse to electoral fraud. no. a military coup led by pro-fascist General José F. which in 1932 passed to the more moderate General Agustín P.” as well as for the increasing visibility of military authors in medical and eugenic forums. and the military regime.27 The world depression.

Octavio López. 1890–1939 (Stanford. The most important instrument for popularizing eugenics was the association’s journal Anales de Biotipología. a group of physicians with links to the Justo government. Eugenesia y Medicina Social (hereafter Anales). Delfino among them. Press. which also included reports on foreign medical institutions and sanitary legislation. David Rock. the editorial and advisory boards were a veritable “Who’s Who” of Argentine medicine. 2001). ed. 193–247. 2002). 1999).Hispanic American Historical Review 296 HAHR / May / Reggiani the middle classes of European indigenous forms of authoritarian nationalism.” Estudios Sociales 7. Mirta Z. Prolegómenos del peronismo: Los cambios en el Estado Nacional. of California Press. Authoritarian Argentina: The Nationalist Movement. The creation of the ABEMS was a significant turning point in the history of eugenics in Argentina. and Gonzalo Bosch..29 In late 1932. In 1934 the School of Biotypology was created to train middle-level technicians in psychophysical profiling and advising on school performance and job (re)training and placement.28 It was also the period when state agencies expanded significantly and the first import-substitution policies were designed. Published by Duke University Press . Las Derechas: The Extreme Right in Argentina. Los tres peronismos: Estado y poder económico. Brazil and Chile. Sandra McGee Deutsch. set up the Asociación Argentina de Biotipología. 1943–1946 (Buenos Aires: FISyP. were a regular feature in its pages. Its History and Its Impact (Berkeley: Univ. 12 (1997): 41–58. 29. The following year an Institute of Biotypology was set up as a provider of free. no. often published in the original languages. Alejandro Cattaruzza. whose name commanded enormous respect in Argentina and resonated abroad. 7. 2003). 1946–55/1973–76/1989–99 (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno. Articles by foreign authors. As recent work on Brazil and Mexico has shown. biotypology furnished the basic conceptual tools and methodological frame within 28. Anales was conceived from the outset as an effort to bring together local and international networks of eugenics experts. See for example. vol. Lobato. “El Estado en los treinta y el avance desigual de los derechos y la ciudadanía. Headed alternatively by Arturo Rossi. 87–124. 25–54. It was presided over by the dean of the Universidad de Buenos Aires and former head of the Academia Nacional de Medicina. Euge­ nesia y Medicina Social (hereafter ABEMS) to popularize eugenics among the public and lobby the state to emulate the path followed by other nations. 1993). avance de estado e incertidumbre política (1930–1943) (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana. Mariano Castex. weekly counseling in almost all medical specialties. Nueva historia argentina. Ricardo Sidicaro. CA: Stanford Univ. Crisis económica. Daniel Campione. and when concern about improving the nation’s human resources laid down the basis for demographic and sanitary planning that accorded technocratic experts a leading role as social engineers.

anthropometric. Drawing upon anthropology. that became the dominant current within the established eugenics movement in Argentina. by virtue of interrelated physiological.”30 Biotypology offered medical and scientific professionals two major advantages. In the 1920s.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. The new emphasis on endocrinology was accompanied by an endless multiplication of taxonomical categories of constitutional types. transcended “the superficial and inflexible logic of racial differentiation. Pende acquired an international reputation after the fascists came to power. and statistics. psychology. He made the endocrine system the center of a new explanatory model that he called “constitutional hormonology. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 297 which Latin American eugenics has operated since the 1930s. and “normotype” (in between the two) — to a panoply of variegated and often cryptic labels. it provided a conceptual repertoire of ostensibly transparent measurements that seemed more neutral than the biased categories of nineteenth-century evolutionism and Victorian anthropology. and to a lesser extent in Brazil and Mexico. and cognitive variables. Of all the national varieties of holistic medicine that flourished in Europe and the Americas during the 1920s and 1930s. 31. it allowed scientists to work within the paradigms of Mendelism while at the same time avoiding the pitfalls of biological determinism.” 200. Stern. to account for deviations from the harmonious and proportional Pende drew up taxonomies of “deficient” (hypotonic) and “excessive” (hypertonic) female Published by Duke University Press .” He believed that hormones held the key to understanding the interrelations between internal bodily functions and their outer manifestation.” which. the science of biotypes promised to reconcile two opposite evolutionary theories without sacrificing scientific rigor. he revised Italian constitutional theory as it was originally formulated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Achille De Giovanni and Giacinto Viola. In Argentina. Fascism. Making a proper medical diagnosis and determining the most adequate treatment depended on finding the “endocrine formula” that regulated the individual’s life. biotypology differed from earlier classificatory schemes in that it sought to categorize individuals not in terms of “race” — considered to be unscientific — but as “biotypes.31 30. physiology. “longuineal” (tall and slim). biotypology was intimately associated with the work of Italian endocrinologist Nicola Pende (1880–1970). “From Mestizophilia to Biotypology. itself a revision of earlier versions of Italian constitutional medicine. Second. In sum. it was Pende’s brand. from De Giovanni’s original one based on the structure of the human torso — “brevilineal” (short and fat). which privileged heredity without relinquishing external factors. For example. As a special branch of constitutional medicine.

alla sociologia (Milan: Francesco Vallardi. The hypotonic woman comprised the “asthenic. Published by Duke University Press . Pende reframed the old constitutional theory as an applied sociobiology for remaking society along scientific lines. Twelve years later another institute of this type was inaugurated in Rome. which was defined as the “type of girl who wants to be slim at all costs. 32. alla clinica. Nicola Pende. Brazil. 2006).” 806–7. Francesco Cassata. he conceived an ambitious project for the medical. Pende and his followers considered most Argentine women to fit the “microsplanchnic” type. all working harmoniously toward a single purpose: the “vital unity of the State and the individual. social adaptation. The regime acknowledged this coincidence of views when in 1925 Pende was appointed dean of the recently created Università Adriatica Benito Mussolini (today’s University of Bari).35 types based on the combination of biological and behavioral traits. Molti. 33. 34. The hypertonic tonic referred to “physiological gigantism. sani et forti: L’eugenetica in Italia (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri.” in Miranda and Vallejo. 1939). school performance) and workers.” likened the society with the body and social classes with cells. alla politica biologica.” “infantile. Bonifica umana razionale e biologia politica (Bologna: Cappelli. the worker.Hispanic American Historical Review 298 HAHR / May / Reggiani More importantly. 38. Gustavo Vallejo. based on the concept of “cellular altruism.32 This scheme rested on an organicist view which. Pende’s notions of biosocial vigor and demographic optimization fit well with Mussolini’s plans for national cohesion and societal fortification. took concrete steps to put Pende’s ideas into practice by inaugurating the Istituto Biotipologico Ortogenetico in Genoa. Trattato di biotipologia umana individuale e sociale con applicazioni alla medicina preventiva. The following year. Darwinismo social y eugenesia en el mundo latino.”33 To give the “science of orthogenesis” (as he also referred to biotypology) a practical use.” and “intersexual” types. “Biotypology. 1933).34 These institutions sought to classify individuals according to their biotypical constitution with the aim of identifying the actual or potential problems that could hinder the achievement of their full capacities. a subcategory of the asthenic group. Endocrinology. The much-publicized centerpiece of this system was the biotypological orthogenetic file (cartella biotipologica ortogenetica) adopted later by eugenicists in Argentina. Nicola Pende. 196. and sociological screening of what he considered to be the four essential biological components of the fascist state: the child. and the race. Pietro Fedele. Italy’s education minister. 35. especially in the years immediately following its creation. 233–72.” that is the exaggerated development of female features.” For a discussion of these categories and their use see Eraso. “Las formas del organicismo social en la eugenesia latina. and Sterilization. the woman. The Genoa institute gave Pende the possibility of putting into practice a small part of his “biological totalitarian” scheme. Most of its work. and Mexico. anthropological. focused on children (health.

The Italian scholar contrasted the demographic realities that separated Buenos Aires from the northwestern provinces with a similar situation in the Italian Peninsula. This was the argument developed by Gino Arias. former dean of Florence’s School of Law. Los orígenes del fascismo argentino (Buenos Aires: Edhasa. “El problema de la natalidad: Su aspecto mundial.” 105–7.” Anuario IEHS (1989): 337–39. Personal connections were a crucial factor for broadening his audience in Argentina. which under the directorship of the medical doctor Alberto Marotta sponsored the visit of Italian personalities. divided between the backward southern regions. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 299 Italy’s ascendancy as a model of population management in Argentina benefitted from the cultural ties bolstered by mass-scale immigration: in the 1930s Italians made up over 16. mainly by bringing to Italian science the international radiance of earlier days. In November 1930.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. Scarzanella. One of the most important of these initiatives was the Instituto Argentino de Cultura Itálica (IACI) established in 1924. A plethora of institutions set up to promote political. social. In addition. in a conference given at the Círculo de Cultura Católica de Buenos Aires. “Una emigración muy particular: 1938. Lore Terracini. many of them physicians. los universitarios italianos en la Argentina. Fascism. Published by Duke University Press .” Anales. two months after the coup. “Los intelectuales ítalo-argentinos. with a low rate of births.36 Italy’s demographic situation appeared comparable to Argentina’s own problems. A second venue of Italian scientific influence.6 percent (2 million) of the total population (12 million). Mussolini’s regime created a wide range of party-controlled organizations to win over the hearts and minds of Italian expatriates. 37. See Leticia Prislei. During his 36. these and other institutions were subjected to increasing pressure to conform to fascist goals. and prosperous northern districts. 2008). 88 (1939): 7–9. Gino Arias. economic. especially after World War I. and cultural goals among Italian immigrants illustrates the vitality and diversity of an associational life second to none.37 Pende contributed a great deal to Mussolini’s cultural diplomacy. su importancia en la Argentina. Throughout the 1920s. Experts stressed the similarities in the slowdown of population growth of both countries as well as a shared political climate favorable to state interventionism. he traveled to Argentina following a joint invitation of the IACI and the Buenos Aires Medical School. was Lombroso’s criminal anthropology (see above). no. especially in medico-legal milieus. with a high birthrate. Formal cultural exchanges. regional disparities seemed to follow a pattern that begged comparisons. Although in Italy the decline of the birthrate was less steep than in Argentina. also played an important role in the diffusion of Italian medical science.

39 Under Rossi the ABEMS often acted as a means of informal propaganda for the fascist dictatorship. no. setting up the Agrupación Argentina Amigos de 38. On his efforts to popularize Pende’s ideas see Arturo Rossi. 5 (1933): 12–15. adopted Rossi’s biotypological school file. See Giuseppe Frandini. Published by Duke University Press . 4 (1933): 12–14. 60 (1936): 3–4. No one worked harder to promote Pende’s ideas in Argentina than Rossi. 201–2. 39. Rossi was a direct witness of the close cooperation between Pende and the fascist regime. The same issue reproduced an article by the director of the Institute of Tropical Medicine of the University of Modena. In Rossi’s view. It was implemented on an experimental basis in only a few schools. no. Diploma of Whiteness. no. Pende acquainted himself with a group of physicians interested in bio­ typology and eugenics: Donatto Boccia. Two years later. The cover of Anales of 15 Sept.40 In October 1935.” Anales. set up the Comité Argentino Pro-Italia to gather support against the sanctions imposed by the League of Nations. Rossi renewed his efforts to rally public opinion to the fascist cause. “La ficha biotipológica escolar.” 188–89. 1935 carried a photo of Italian troops in Somalia near the Ethiopian border. and his former student in Genoa Arturo Rossi. 8 (1933): 12–14. Arturo Rossi. “Las colonias italianas de Africa Oriental desde el punto de vista sanitario e higiénico. no. After 1935 the articles on medical topics and commentaries on fascist public health and demographic policy were accompanied by the more or less open endorsement of Italian military actions in East Africa. Rossi and the “Lombrosian” legal scholar and director of the influential Revista de Ciencias Políticas. no. no. 36. The following year they visited Pende as members of an official mission sent by the Uriburu government to study Europe’s health systems.38 Having first met his Italian mentor when specializing in diabetes at the University of Genoa. 40. now that the military coup had created more favorable conditions for emulating some of Mussolini’s policies. On the implementation of similar classificatory surveys and technologies in Brazil and Mexico see Dávila. Octavio López.Hispanic American Historical Review 300 HAHR / May / Reggiani visit. no. and Stern. 52 (1935): 2. “From Mestizophilia to Biotypology. which the Argentine government had endorsed. All three took an active role in setting up the ABEMS a year later. “Curso sintético de medicina constitucional y biotipología. 1 (1933): 14. no. Rodolfo Rivarola.” Anales. ruled by the pro-fascist governor Manuel Fresco. no. 151. 2 (1933): 12–15. 1 (1933): 11–13. when the tightening of the ties between Mussolini and Hitler intensified the action of antifascist groups.” Anales. 3 (1933): 12–18. Pende provided a working model of sociobiological engineering that could be transplanted to Argentina. He was given an opportunity to put these theories into practice after the Dirección General de Escuelas (School Board) of Buenos Aires Province.

to understand the moral needs of his fellow men. fell apart as a result of the interna41.41 He also helped Pende’s efforts to set up an organization of “Latin” nations to buttress the international prestige of the fascist regime. “El Ateneo y el Primer Congreso Internacional de Cultura Latina en América. 38 (1935): 11–14. 94–97. He hailed “people of Latin blood” as better suited to “conquer the soul of the sick person” than those with a “phlegmatic and rationalistic mentality and a cold heart. and modernity. to coincide with the celebration of the Día de la Raza (Columbus Day). the “analytic and patient mind of the Nordic races” produced “bacteriologists who want to explain everything by way of the microbe.”43 The idea took shape between 1933 and 1935 as Rossi and the ABEMS began planning a meeting to take place in Buenos Aires on October 12. Prislei. Fascism. Eugenesia y Medicina Social.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. Los orígenes del fascismo argentino. The ABEMS established contacts with medical organizations in Brazil. he claimed that Latins were “gifted with intuition” and the “ability to embrace the entire field of thought in a powerful creative unity. 42. were endowed with an “ethnic virtue” that allowed the physician. Nicola Pende.” Anales.44 The project. This ambitious project entailed forging an international front based on the notion of a common spiritual tradition of “Latinity” (latinità) — expressed in shared ethnic makeup. 44. 43. “El genio médico latino en el pensamiento médico contemporáneo. 61. no. as he wrote to Mussolini.”42 Pende’s intellectual speculations prepared the ground for the organization of an international conference on Latin culture. In a speech on “The Latin Medical Genius” given at a conference organized by the Presse Médicale Latine in Paris in 1935. and religion (Catholicism) — and the prestige of Italian culture and science. and Uruguay and secured the participation of 29 countries as well as the commitment of the Argentine government to sponsor the event. the Renaissance.” 103. using his participation in international forums and trips abroad to gather support for this project. 26 (1934): 2. 1936. Cited in Scarzanella. however.” The former. a realizarse en Buenos Aires por la Asociación Argentina de Biotipología.” Anales. Published by Duke University Press . Chile. which. no. Pende sought to place himself at the center of the Duce’s cultural diplomacy. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 301 Italia and attracting support from a broad sample of the country’s intellectual spectrum. linguistic roots. just as it did the artist and the politician. he presented biotypology as the continuation of the intellectual and scientific traditions of classical antiquity. Citing Leonardo da Vinci. he claimed. “Los intelectuales ítalo-argentinos. “should serve to acknowledge the preponderance that from now on Rome will exert in the cultural leadership of the Latin nations. 63.” In sharp contrast to them.

This situation was most evident in the distribution of national delegates to the three international eugenics conferences held in London (1912) and New York (1921.S.. Il fascismo razionale: Corrado Gini fra scienza e politica (Roma: Carocci. ambivalence toward interracial breeding. 2006). The ABEMS was also active in Corrado Gini’s efforts to build an international bloc of Latin eugenics. and while his ideas were not free from current racial prejudices — he rejected breeding between whites and blacks — his arguments were based on cultural as much as on biological considerations. with its emphasis on heredity. However. and preference for radical measures. unlike Pende’s “spiritual racism. By the 1930s he became one of the most outspoken critics of Anglo-Saxon eugenics. 77 percent belonged to U. a position which was also upheld by the Vatican’s expert on eugenics and head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. where the fascist regime used his ideas to justify segregation. Social Bodies. the Società Italiana per gli Studi di Genetica ed Eugenica. he shared with Pende the conviction that eugenics should establish a partnership with the church in order to promote a family-based. and Horn. British. Within this group the United States dominated. he was president of the Istituto Centrale di Statistica. German. it was further tainted in 1938 by his endorsement of the anti-Semitic “Manifesto degli Scienziati Razzisti” (Manifesto on Race). Gini was a leading authority in the field of statistical demography. and Scandinavian authors. Of the papers published in the proceedings. Dictating Demography. Succinct discussions in English can be found in Ipsen. Catholic sexual morality that encouraged a higher birthrate. A neo-Lamarckian. For a detailed analysis on Gini’s links with fascism see Francesco Cassata. He strongly opposed sterilization. contributing 87 percent of all 45. Published by Duke University Press . Pende’s reputation had been somewhat compromised by the racial policies implemented in the African colonies.” Gini’s “reform eugenics” (eugenetica rinnovatrice) proclaimed ethnic mixture as a reinvigorating process that contributed to a nation’s renewal. 1932). and the Comitato Italiano per lo Studio dei Problemi della Populazione. the Franciscan physician Agostino Gemelli. another project that converged with the foreign agenda of Italian fascism.Hispanic American Historical Review 302 HAHR / May / Reggiani tional tensions produced by the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (September 1935) and the outbreak the Spanish Civil War (July 1936). both of which split the yet-to-be-accomplished community of Latin nations. Gini’s statistical-biometrical approach to demography and Pende’s biotypological constitutionalism shared a concern for women’s fertility.45 Gini believed that the hegemonic influence of Anglo-Saxon and Nordic race science had led astray the International Federation of Eugenics Organizations (hereafter IFEO). not its decline.

62 (1936): 5–6. only representatives from France. and Switzerland. “Valeur comparée de l’accroissement quantitatif et qualitatif d’une population (Résultats d’une enquête faite avec 500 couples). See Kehl. Renato Kehl. and the commitment to restraint in applying principles. with the exception of Brazil. Brazil. and Peruvian delegates made plans for an inaugural meeting in Paris. Fascism. Mexican. Netherlands. no. “Congreso Internacional Latino de Eugenesia y Congreso Panamericano del Niño. held in Mexico City in October 1935. Cuba.” in 1er Congrès latin d’eugénique.” Anales. Two months later. ed. Italy. which made evident the coincidences between international eugenics networks and Nazi racism. His views appeared later in an article published in Anales in which he stressed the two main themes that singled out the Latin approach to eugenics: consideration for the ethnic diversity of the countries represented in the federation. no.” with special attention to the Latin American setting.47 The International Latin Federation of Eugenics held its first and only meeting in Paris in August 1937. “Vecchi problemi e nouvi indirizzi nel campo dell’eugenesia. 1937). held in Berlin in August 1935. The initial plans for what became the International Latin Federation of Eugenics societies were laid down at the Seventh Pan-American Conference on the Child. 48. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 303 the papers. Two population conferences held in the summer and fall of 1931 foreshadowed the coming split between those nations that favored birth control and those that opposed compulsory interventionist measures. Norway. and Romania participated actively in the debates. Although Argentina. 73–78. “Latin” countries like France. the pronatalists met at the International Conference for the Study of Population in Rome. Fédération internationale latine des sociétés d’eugénique (Paris: Masson et Cie. France. Italy. Published by Duke University Press . In contrast. and Mexico were among its founding members.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation.. Gini laid out the principles of his “reform eugenics. Italy. Gini’s decision to leave the IFEO was precipitated by the radicalization of positions at the next meeting of the IUSSP.48 46. The first position dominated the Congress of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (hereafter IUSSP) convened in London in July. a group of Argentine.46 In a letter sent to the delegates gathered in Mexico. Corrado Gini. was the only non-European participant. followed by Britain. and Spain contributed fewer than 20 percent of all the papers given at the three meetings. president of the Comissão Central Brasileira de Eugenia. Germany.” Anales. 56 (1935): 23. the federation turned out not to be the most adequate forum for addressing Latin America’s demographic problems. Brazil. 47. and Denmark. Having received the mandate from all the participants and the eugenics societies of Belgium.

Nazi Racial Policy. Monaco. The Second Pan-American Conference on Homiculture and Eugenics took place when almost all of Latin America. and the United States (Illinois. Kentucky).51 Compulsory sterilization was the most divisive issue at the Buenos Aires conference. Finland. eugenics see Raquel Alvarez Peláez and Armando García González. 51. Mexico. Norway. Peru. Turkey. Switzerland (Vaud).52 The closest position. The timing of the Buenos Aires conference was significant. and the Ambiguities of Expert Knowledge Latin America’s underrepresentation in the International Latin Federation of Eugenics was offset by the region’s efforts to put into place its own eugenics forums. La reforma del matrimonio civil por las leyes eugenésicas (Buenos Aires: Imprenta de la Universidad. Initially it seemed as if the Cuban Domingo Ramos. Croatia. and the creation of a Pan-American eugenics archive and code. and the United States (31 states). Denmark. “Eugenesia e imperialismo: las relaciones Cuba-Estados Unidos Published by Duke University Press . Bulgaria. Austria. By the time the delegates convened in Argentina’s capital.50 Only compulsory sterilization had failed so far to make inroads in Latin America. A useful comparative list of the different laws. and Sweden passed laws requiring either a prenuptial medical exam (for the man only or for both spouses) or an affidavit stating that the bearer was not affected by any of the diseases listed as hindering marriage. On Ramos’s relationship with U. the mandatory prenuptial exam was effective in 27 states. 1938). Colombia. or (when there was nothing of the above required) punishing severely those who got married knowing that they were affected by a contagious or “hereditary” disease. Sweden.S. Brazil. 7 Latin American countries and 11 others elsewhere had adopted laws to invalidate marriage whenever one of the spouses was diagnosed with a transmissible disease. Island. Germany. the prenuptial exam. the most outspoken supporter of negative eugenics fashioned on the U. China. Finland. Denmark. penalties. Bolivia. and other considerations can be found in Enrique Díaz de Guijarro. diseases. Sweden. slid down the authoritarian path. but still a minority 49. 50. Mexico (Cohahuila). 52. Cuba.Hispanic American Historical Review 304 HAHR / May / Reggiani Sterilization. Peru. badly hit by the depression. compulsory sterilization. 5 of them in Latin America. In different forms.49 Likewise. Panama. interracial breeding. Germany. Estonia. the western hemisphere had held two regional conferences — in Havana (1927) and Buenos Aires (1934) — to discuss immigration selection. By the mid-1930s. Denmark. this measure had passed or was about to pass into law in only 9 countries. Panama. Chile. would be alone in his defense of sterilization. Spain. model. for by the mid-1930s eugenic legislation had already been passed and enforced or was soon to be adopted in several countries. Fourteen states of the United States as well as Brazil. Canada (2 provinces). Norway. Cuba.S. Poland.

when much about the workings of heredity was still unknown or in dispute. scientists should refrain from making hasty decisions. Gregorio Aráoz Alfaro. Ibid. stating that under the present conditions. When I speak of [eugenic sterilization] it is not Europe. 258. such as the prenuptial exam. A broadly conceived plan of voluntary sterilization. .” which is not so? How shall we proceed. yet if we accept such view in a sanitary conference. . I would dare say. Fascism. 54. 193–230. 252. .” in Miranda and Vallejo. instead. .. .53 The head of the Argentine delegation.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. (1921–1940). poor us! There would not even be compulsory vaccination. was the one adopted by the Chilean Waldemar Coutts in favor of voluntary sterilization. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 305 one. Eugenic laws of compulsory sterilization which are too general. should be accepted. .” he stated. Published by Duke University Press . 1934). yet only if it is carried out under the monitoring of honorable persons that authorize each request. Ramos assured them. “Given the present constitution of society. will end up creating a mediocre humanity. 255. the Argentine delegates moved subtly away from their original stance as they raised primarily the same pragmatic considerations used against other compulsory measures. Darwinismo social y eugenesia en el mundo latino. 256. but by way of measures that ensure the integrity and the conservation of the species. when the hereditary criminal bears criminal children. Suspecting that his co-delegates’ reservations vis-à-vis sterilization stemmed from its association with Nazi racism. yet it must not do so through mutilating (sterilization) or murderous laws (abortion). 53. some say that it is a mutilating measure.54 Near the end of the debate. but America [the United States] that I have in mind. agreed with Coutts. or when the feebleminded and the hereditary psychopath produce like offspring? How are they to be avoided if not through sterilization? It has been argued that this system runs against principles of individual freedom. is sterilization of tuberculous patients not carried out with the purpose of protecting them? Are not mothers sterilized due to the so-called “tuberculous heredity. the State must encourage the artificial selection of its members. Actas de la segunda Conferencia Panamericana de Eugenesia y Homicultura de las Repúblicas Americanas (Buenos Aires: Frascoli & Bindi. yet I dare ask. without being based on strict scientific procedures.

the line between “therapeutic” and “eugenic” sterilization often became blurred by the doctors’ own values and personal perceptions of a patient’s psychobiological condition. but I would rather have others do the experiments. we shall have to wait until the quality of the offspring thus obtained can be assessed. took advantage of the prenatal consultations to discourage what they considered to be dysgenic women from having children. After rejecting the amalgamation of therapeutic and eugenic sterilization made by his Cuban colleague. director of the prestigious Instituto de Maternidad. even among those who harbored strong doubts. Beruti acknowledged that “we. 256. sterilization on allegedly therapeutic grounds was becoming a fairly extended practice among Argentine gynecologists in the 1930s — less among those with strong Catholic convictions. they “managed to place this practice in a secular.. . in fact. they used endocrinological methods to terminate pregnancies where their concern for risks to maternal health often thinly disguised eugenic considerations. 259. .Hispanic American Historical Review 306 HAHR / May / Reggiani Underlying these justifications surfaced less explicit views that betrayed a deep interest in negative eugenics. especially in Europe. This ambivalence was well expressed by Aráoz Alfaro and his co-delegate Josué Beruti. head of the Eliseo Cantón maternity clinic (Buenos Aires). together with his co-delegate at the conference Alberto Peralta Ramos. Equipped with biotypological taxonomies. Ramos has said that there are other experiments which have not been objected to. more flexible. 56.55 Adopting a similar line of reasoning. and more permissive domain. I do not shut myself off to experimentation. Ibid. At the same time. do not have experience in this matter. and I believe that the most convenient and appropriate thing to do is to wait for the result of the experiments that others are carrying out. I do not oppose in any way that we continue studying this matter in order to gain further experience. Aráoz Alfaro stated. yet in order to ascertain that they were carried out properly.” thus exploiting the ambiguity created by the legal ban on definitive sterilization and by the willingness of jurisprudence to trust such decisions to 55. Emphasis added. As Eraso puts it. . Ibid.. First. Published by Duke University Press . As Yolanda Eraso has recently argued.”56 Aráoz Alfaro’s and Beruti’s statements obscured two facts. in the absence of a sterilization law. or at least in a way that it did not openly infringe it. where the investigations under way are so interesting. Dr. Gynecologists and obstetricians acted within the legal framework. eugenics-minded medical specialists like Beruti.

the only others in Europe to have legally enforced compulsory sterilization on eugenic grounds.” It not only defined as “hereditary” some diseases that many physicians claimed were not. Sweden. 1996).58 The U. the gradual and decentralized character of sterilization policy in the United States.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. Press. eds. making it mandatory for both spouses. Norway. 1996). and it was carried out as an absolute state imperative to create a racially homogeneous society through the physical elimination of “alien” groups and citizens affected with “hereditary” diseases. discretion. where the superintendent of the U. Even so. it also made certain categories so elastic as to render them meaningless. In June 1935 the law was amended to enable the Hereditary Health Courts to sanction abortions for women who had been categorized as “hereditarily ill. Eugenics and the Welfare State: Sterilization Policy in Denmark. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 307 “the knowledge. which most Argentine physicians probably first heard of through Delfino’s reports in La Semana Médica. it was compulsory. Aráoz Alfaro’s and Beruti’s comments on the “very interesting experiments done by others in Europe” referred obliquely to Germany. The July 1933 law substituted compulsory for voluntary sterilization and extended the range of sicknesses regarded as “hereditarily determined. Published by Duke University Press .S. Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wippermann.” who in theory could perform a therapeutic sterilization on the same grounds that legally authorized him to carry out a therapeutic abortion. 58. presented a detailed report. While politically split and 57. and Finland (East Lansing: Michigan State Univ. “Biotypology. The Racial State: Germany 1933– 1945 (New York: Cambridge Univ. 59. did not make a visible impact until the Buenos Aires conference.” 813. and Sterilization. By the time the delegates addressed eugenic sterilization. for at that time very few experts knew about the Scandinavian countries. Several aspects of Nazi eugenics set it apart from other national experiences: it was implemented on a national scale. well-established cultural and scientific networks facilitated the reception of Nazi racial policy. Harry Laughlin. Fascism. For a critical view on Scandinavian eugenics see Gunnar Broberg and Nils RollHansen. the intricate legal aspects that prevented these laws from being actually enforced in some states.. Press.59 As with fascist biotypology. case. and the idiosyncratic “anti-Americanism” of Argentina’s elites hindered serious consideration of the U.” In October the regime modified the Weimar Republic’s soft version of the prenuptial exam.S. and prudence of the specialist.S. Endocrinology. model.57 Second. Eraso. Eugenics Record Office. the Nazi Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases (Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses) had been in effect for almost a year.

no. Cultural Imperialism and Exact Sciences: German Expansion Overseas. Schwalbe (Berlin). Ricardo Levene. 1900–1930 (New York: Peter Lang. In 1936 the German ambassador. Irina Podgorny. and Carlos Waldorp (both from Buenos Aires). Francisco Arrillaga. and the appointment of German academics to the science departments of the University of La Plata.” Todo Es Historia. 2004). sponsored the German-Argentine Committee for Intellectual Cooperation. historians Carlos Ibarguren.62 These local initiatives grew after the Nazis came to power. La Medicina Germano Hispano-Americana: Revista mensual de medicina.61 In 1922 he set up the Instituto Cultural ArgentinoGermano and appointed Aráoz Alfaro as director. Argentina’s quarter of a million German-speaking citizens were among the most prosperous and influential in the country. while German products. Castex. Josué Beruti. 10 (July 1927). He was one of the very few Argentines to have completed medical studies at a German university (Freiburg) and a fierce critic of the Francophile elite. Macht und Kultur (Münster: Lit-Verlag. On the influence of German science in Argentina see Sandra Carreras and Günther Maihold. 413 (2001): 32–38. Preußen und Lateinamerika: Im Spannungsfeld von Kommerz. 61.Hispanic American Historical Review 308 HAHR / May / Reggiani less numerous than their Italian and Spanish counterparts. were known for quality and reliability. 1923). This demographic component was strengthened by a web of German-owned economic interests. Beruti’s proselytism was followed by similar undertakings. no. cirugía y especialidades 1. no. Ger­ many’s share of Nobel Prizes. made up of cultural and scientific personalities such as Aráoz Alfaro. and pharmaceutical sectors. “Los científicos alemanes y la política argentina. Edmund von Thermann. especially in the natural sciences. the import of German pedagogues to train Argentine high school teachers. eds. The journal was edited by J.. anti-Semitic propa60. and Roberto Levillier.60 In the 1920s Beruti became one of the most vocal spokespersons for German culture and science. and the United States were trying to exclude Germany from international scientific forums. 1 (Sept. France. such as the journal La Medicina GermanoHispanoamericana. published by a group of physicians for the purpose of making German medical research and health policy known to Spanish-speaking readers at a time when Britain. the future winner of the Nobel Prize for medicine and chair of the Asociación para el Progreso de la Ciencia. earned admiration and respect throughout the world for German science and higher education. 1985). 1920). and Bernardo Houssay. chemical. Lewis Pyenson. especially precision objects such as surgical and optical instruments. especially in the banking. Published by Duke University Press . as well as by more than 150 German schools. Beligerancia científica: La medicina alemana (Buenos Aires: Preusche y Eggeling. Medicine played an important role in this process as well. 4. 62.

63 Similar efforts were made in Germany’s capital to foster cultural-scientific cooperation. who went by the pen name of Hugo Wast. L. 64.64 In 1935 its new director. eds. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 309 gandist and director of the National Library Gustavo Martínez Zuviría. Reinhard Liehr. Mühlens (Hamburg). Los lugares del saber. 1870–1940. Walther Benthin. and Günter Vollmer. For a discussion of French and German medicine as cultural diplomacy. Castex. von Bergmann (Berlin). Ein Institut und sein General: Wilhelm Faupel und das Ibero-Amerikanische Institut in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus (Frankfurt: Vervuert. 66. the gynecologist called on his fellow physicians to become “scientific warriors for Germandom” (wissenschaftliche Kämpfer für das Deutschtum) and lead an “all-out offensive” to popularize German science abroad. for. came under the control of the Nazis.” he stated. Ronald C. Ramos.V. Günther Maihold. 5 Nov.65 The role that medicine was to play in buttressing German interests abroad was evoked in unambiguous terms by the head of the Königsberg maternity clinic. Press. Geheimes Staatsarchiv preußischen Kulturbesitz. created in 1929 by conservative milieus. see Andrés Reggiani. as he assured his audience. 65. Repositur 218A (hereafter GStA PK 218A).” Berlin.”66 Between 1936 and 1939. 1992). and Waldorp. Fascism. “In South America. and his influence makes itself felt in the highest levels of government. At the foundational meeting of the DIAA held in Berlin in late 1935. 2003). 1–2 (1937). “the physician is involved in politics more often than the jurist. The “Nazi Menace” in Argentina. Revista Médica Germano Ibero-Americana: Organo oficial de la Academia Médica Germano Ibero-Americana. and Houssay. and particularly in medicine.” This was something not to be overlooked.” in Salvatore. and Juan P. and the Germans G. General Wilhelm Faupel. established the Deutsch-Iberoamerikanische Ärzteakademie (German-Iberoamerican Medical Academy. Brauer (Wiesbaden). Newton. auf Einladung der Deutch-Iberoamerikanishen Ärzteakademie.. P. diplomacia cultural y circuitos académicos transnacionales. “Vortrag Professor Benthin in den Räumen des Deutschen Wirtschaftsverbandes für Süd. the number of Latin American physicians travel63. After 1933 the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut. Nocht (Hamburg). no. “the struggle for supremacy in Latin American will be fought in the field of scientific education. together with an all-Argentine advisory board made up of Aráoz Alfaro. and B. It was directed by the Germans Serge Breuer and Klaus Sohering. The editorial board comprised the Argentines Arrillaga. 158–87. 1931–1947 (Stanford.und Mittelamerika e.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. Castex. CA: Stanford Univ. 1935. fascist ideologue and dean of the Buenos Aires Law School. Published by Duke University Press .” From its inception the DIAA became a tool of Nazi cultural diplomacy. “Rastacueros y expertos: Modernización. hereafter DIAA) with the goal of “promoting medical cooperation between Germany and the Iberoamerican nations.

spas. Knoll-AG Chemische Fabrik. Peralta Ramos. from the prohibition against Jewish doctors treating non-Jewish patients to technical aspects of the sterilization program. The DIAA was particularly active in organizing official missions of Argentine governmental. it helped guest physicians to visit institutions at which patients were being subjected to compulsory sterilization. Candidates were selected by a committee affiliated with the Instituto Cultural Argentino-Germano made up. 1937. two urologists who traveled to the Reich in that year with a large delegation of Argentine physicians. C. Velasco Suárez. correspondence between the DIAA. The most important of them was the one headed by Miguel Sixto Mosqueira. among others. the most popular of which were summer courses offered in various specialized fields and visits to university hospitals. letter of Edmundo Murray to the Hauptgesundheitsamt (Ministry of Public Health). 28 Jan. Castex. a physician commissioned by Governor Fresco to carry out a study of German hospitals. when commenting on the “services for 67. and Houssay. GStA PK 218A. Brazilians. Beruti. None of them had sympathies for the Nazis. The DIAA also provided contacts between German pharmaceutical firms and manufacturers of medical equipment and prospective Latin American customers. Mosqueira to Manuel Fresco. a privilege that Latin Americans had rarely enjoyed in more traditional academic settings. 68. Argentines. One such place. and Mexicans became the groups most heavily represented. Memorandum of Miguel S. was visited in 1938 by Alberto García and Ignacio Garacotche. 69. Likewise. In 1936–38 he worked as assistant doctor in the maternity clinic of La Charité Hospital (Berlin) under Gerhard Wagner. making up almost three-fourths of the approximately one thousand physicians who visited Germany through the activities organized by the DIAA. Chileans. of Aráoz Alfaro. 22 June 1936.Hispanic American Historical Review 310 HAHR / May / Reggiani ing to Germany skyrocketed. Published by Duke University Press . the Würzburg maternity clinic. in 1937 he participated in the activities organized by the DIAA.67 The classes carried a small nominal fee and were offered in Spanish or Portuguese. On the sterilization program see GStA PK 218A. This scientific migration took various forms. 17 Dec. however. educational. it acted as an institutional reference for foreigners seeking information on German medical studies and health policy and supplied letters of reference and arranged appointments for guest physicians wishing to visit medical facilities in the Reich. and the Reichärztekammer (Reich Chamber of Physicians). GStA PK 218A. and medical representatives to study different aspects of German medicine and public health. and pharmaceutical laboratories.69 Most important of all. Murray was a gynecologist at the Hospital Alvarez in Buenos Aires. 1937.68 The DIAA also provided information upon request on a wide variety of topics. and 15 Feb.

of course. 1933. no.” Revista Argentina de Urología.70 This same attitude was clear in the travel notes of José de Filippi. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 311 the compulsory sterilization of women” they praised the “rigorous organization” and “strict surveillance” which ensured that no error tarnished the “higher biological meaning” which inspired that measure. and a “social conception of disease” that allowed “for the reinsertion of the individual as a producer. 308. Published. “without committing any opinion on the matter. 71. José de Filippi.”71 It was.” Revista de la Franco. In 1934 he was sent on an official mission to Berlin. as the editors stated it. The controversy triggered in early 1935 by the publication in the Anales of a speech by Nazi Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick illustrates well the ideology underlying technocratic discourses of expert detachment. “Dos aspectos de la medicina actual en Alemania. In the next three years he worked at La Charité and Frankfurt’s city hospital. Translated by Justus Brinckman. and Vienna to update his knowledge of the latest techniques of lung surgery.” the document was an anti-Semitic pamphlet conceived to refute the international criticism aroused by the laws of April 7 and June 30. and “Aspectos de la medicina actual en Alemania.” Revista Médica del Hospital Español. 22 (1939): 78–79. 1939). such as a general preference for “conservative and fairly simple treatments” to save costs and time.” Noticioso Médico Mundial. Importancia de la anatomía patológica y estado actual de los conocimientos tisiológicos en Alemania (Buenos Aires: Comisión Nacional de Cultura. 273. “La cirugía general y la urología a través de Europa: Impresiones de viaje. for de Filippi was quick to assure that in a system in which students worked “under the surveillance of highly trained professionals” the reduction of the academic curricula did not affect the quality of the education. Alberto García. no.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. a rhetorical question. 9 (1938–39): 267. 22 (1939). 8 (1939): 145–69. . Yet what concerns us here is to know whether or not the population would be negatively affected as a consequence of being treated by physicians trained in fewer years. in 1938 he returned to Germany to participate in the DIAA’s activities. no. Back in Argentina he drew up a report in which he praised various aspects of German medicine. Fascism. . they decided to shorten the number of years required to obtain the degree. 16 June 1938. de Filippi observed that “the authorities were thus forced to increase the number of physicians. president of the Deutsch-Argentinische Ärztevereinigung (German-Argentine Medical Asso70. Published by Duke University Press . See also GStA PK 218A. For other similar views see Luis Irigoyen. no. . See also his articles “Algunos aspectos de la vida científica en Alemania. Among other measures. Alberto García and Ignacio Garacotche.” La Nación. which excluded Jewish citizens from the civil service.” Commenting on the lack of professionals created by the prohibition against Jewish physicians treating non-Jewish patients. Heidelberg. “La urología a través de Europa: Alemania.

Otmar von Verschuer.” Anales. 31 (1934): 12–14. Anales de Biotipología. no. David Efron. ciation) and the ABEMS’s expert on German affairs. and Eugenics. according to the plan for the cleansing of the German race. Published by Duke University Press . Eugenesia y Medicina Social 31 (1934): 12. wrote a long note to the Anales attacking the pseudoscientific claims of Nazi racism. Franz Boas. Shortly afterwards. head of Columbia University’s Department of Anthropology and a leading figure of the international campaign against fascism.” The second image featured the head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology. looking at X-rays of “offspring of tuberculous parents. the text was accompanied by two large photographs: the first showed a man dressed in a white apron examining passport-size photos with the caption “A selection detail identifying the Aryan prototype. accused the Anales of spreading ideas that poisoned “readers 72.”72 Scholars reacted immediately.Hispanic American Historical Review 312 HAHR / May / Reggiani Figure 1. Human Genetics. “La legislacion racista del Tercer Reich: Un documento de actualidad. an Argentine experimental psychologist working with Boas at Columbia. Selection of “Aryan prototypes” at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.

75. he observed. 96 (1941): 9. 38 (1935): 3. the virus of anti-Semitism. 8 Aug. vol. “Herencia. constitución. 11.” Citing Hitler’s admonition to prevent the unfit from procreating. he had no qualms in praising Nazi Germany for being “the only nation in the world” where the theory and practice of eugenics worked toward the integral perfection of the race by way of the “coercive selection” of spouses and the “elimination of the unfit. Fascism. under the misleading label of scientific vulgarization. was even more explicit in his endorsement of Nazi eugenics. the “healthy and hard-working taxpayer” would be relieved from the asphyxiating financial burden imposed on him by the upkeep of “thousands of morons. Tratado teórico-práctico de Biotipología y Ortogénesis.” Anales. 74. 1 (Buenos Aires: Ideas.” Rossi refrained from lending the journal’s pages to further opinions.” he portrayed “Israelites” as “executioners of Christ” damned by God and “quintessential racists who never mixed their blood with other racial types. eugenesia y ortogénesis. 438–40. he welcomed the law as an overdue response to the “alarming” increase of “feebleminded. Arturo Rossi.”74 He rejected the union of white Europeans and black Africans on the grounds that the biological and social inferiority of the latter would only produce “sickly types” like the mulatto. one of the several Argentine physicians working with internist Gustav von Bergmann at La Charité.” Rossi’s racial prejudices surfaced in less ambiguous terms in his work on constitutional theory. no.76 73.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation.” Anales. “Arios y no arios.”75 Hector Stocker. In a commentary published in La Semana Médica he hailed the sterilization law as “the fulfillment of the old medical ideal of preventing before curing. no.” not “judgments formulated with singular passion. Although he rejected sterilization as alien to the character and traditions of the Latin people.” their typical feature being a “prominent and curved nose. 1935.” He was confident that the numerous physicians holding seats in Congress would realize the benefits that the “wise legislative step” taken by the German government would bring to their country. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 313 with a false medicine of foreign import” and instilled “in the minds of teachers and students. idiots. In his digressions on the “psychic temperaments of the white European race. Héctor Stocker.”73 Annoyed by the “passionate impressions” that the Nazi document had aroused “in the minds of Aryans and non-Aryans. Arturo Rossi. 76. 1944). Published by Duke University Press .” Thanks to the law. and morons. “La ley alemana de esterilización. stating that the topic demanded “serious and thorough investigations.” La Semana Médica. pp.

” The Argentine gynecologists were particularly impressed by the institutional status given to maternal and child policy through initiatives such as the Opera Nazionale per la Protezione della Maternità e Infanzia. and insane movement of suffragettes and manly women. 78. Josué Beruti and Alberto Peralta Ramos. 33 (1934): 2.” Citing a report of the Alliance Nationale contre la Dépopulation. “Eugenesia y maternidad. What also appealed to them was the capacity of these measures to limit women’s work outside the home and constrain them to their domestic and maternal duties. attacking “pseudo-feminism” as an “antiphysiological.” Revista de Pediología 2 (1941): 15. it was not out of line with the general approval of other aspects of fascist population policy. Josué Beruti. . no.”77 Even a moderate voice such as Aráoz Alfaro acknowledged the alleged superiority of the dictatorships in addressing these issues. more than the laws. more than the Opera [Nazionale per la Protezione della] Maternità e Infanzia. . deformed. Beruti and Peralta Ramos often quoted Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels in praise of the measures adopted by the Italian and German dictatorships to affirm the “indestructibility of the unity of mother and the child. 36 (1935): 2. In welcoming these goals. he stated that When we compare the success of the so-called “totalitarian” countries with the relative failure of like measures in France we are forced to acknowledge that the main reasons for their achievements lie elsewhere. “El complejo problema de la baja natalidad.” Anales. no. the real nation and the heart-felt duty toward the fatherland. the warrior-like and burning patriotism that their leaders have awakened in most of the population. he extolled the “efficient political persecution of professo77. the sentiment of hot-headed nationalism.Hispanic American Historical Review 314 HAHR / May / Reggiani Although Stocker’s position was rather exceptional in its unqualified endorsement of sterilization. In Italy. Beruti gave way to an unrestrained misogyny. . whose excellent work I have just praised. At the Second Pan-American Conference on Eugenics.” Anales. “Maternidad y educación femenina. Published by Duke University Press . [Those reasons are of a] moral nature. Speaking on the declining birthrate before a Catholic audience after the outbreak of World War II. we have not yet fully understood the true implications of Mussolini’s admonition.”78 Aráoz Alfaro did not hesitate to call for harsher meaures when it came to dealing with the “irresponsible and criminal behavior” of physicians who agreed to perform “mortal abortions. Gregorio Aráoz Alfaro. which has taken deep roots in the majority of the Italian people: “the easy life is over. what is at work is the new imperialistic spirit.

Bunge. 311 (1944): 130–34. The bureau was placed under the jurisdiction of the Departamento Nacional de Higiene and was charged with compiling demographic and health statistics. Local population surveys conducted in Buenos Aires and Santa Fé confirmed the rising tendency of the birthrate as well as the decline of mortality. which in some cases could lead to their commitment to a medical institution.80 By the early 1940s. a second law created the Dirección de Maternidad e Infancia (Bureau of the Mother and the Child). 1936. Four days later. Fascism. no. organizing and monitoring all maternal and childcare facilities and services (maternity wards. Resignifying Male Bodies. Unlike the previous law. this one made explicit references to eugenics. which made the medical exam before marriage obligatory for men. Those infected with a venereal disease were denied permission to marry and compelled to undergo treatment. Published by Duke University Press . so argued the medical-legal expert Luis Jiménez de Asúa in his extensive commentary on the background and implications of the law. no. Although eugenics was not explicitly mentioned. popularizing eugenics through education and propaganda.” Revista de Economía Argentina 26.2).and postnatal care of the mother and the child. Bunge.79 By the late 1930s eugenicists had accomplished some moderate triumphs. For a discussion of the gender implications of these two laws see Milanesio. crèches. 309 (1944): 74–75. “Tasas demográficas argentinas.8) was higher than the estimates made in 1939 (2. which showed that the actual increase of women’s fertility (2. “La composición numérica de la población argentina. and fighting illegal practice of obstetrics and healing.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. This was most evident in the fourth school census (April 1943).” 16. prenuptial and prenatal consultations. “El complejo problema de la baja natalidad. On December 17.81 79. the eugenics implications of the law were obvious.” Revista de Economía Argentina 26.” 81. The law was conceived partly as a means to deal with prostitution. 80. and bring under stricter medical surveillance the pre. and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 315 nal abortionists” in Austria after the annexation to Germany (Anschluss) and demanded the enforcement of an “analogous campaign” in Argentina. Congress passed the Law for the Prophylaxis of Venereal Diseases. overseeing the implementation of the maternal insurance law ( passed in 1934). the decline of infant mortality throughout the country began to offset the negative trends of the previous decade. it made preventive treatment obligatory for all firms employing over 50 workers and introduced harsh punishments for those who willfully spread the disease. control the spread of transmissible diseases. foster homes). “Redefining Men’s Sexuality. Aráoz Alfaro. In the second half of the decade the Justo and Ortiz governments laid the institutional foundations for a maternalist policy through a set of measures designed to raise the birthrate. milk depots. wet nursing.

“Sugestivos aspectos muestra el informe de la Comisión de Denatalidad. 10 (1945): 13. the language and metaphors of eugenics continued to surface intermittently. the newly created Comisión de Denatalidad. Shortly after the philo-fascist coup of June 1943. . In 1947 his ministry published a report which. 34. pessimistic views continued to hold out in government and expert milieus. a technical agency staffed by Catholic experts attached to the Ministry of Interior. explains the regime’s decision to rely on the domestic factors of population growth once it became clear that the end of the war in Europe would not lead to the resumption of immigration at the levels of the golden years. something not entirely unexpected in a nationalist regime controlled by military factions that had been sympathetic to fascism and had ambitious plans of social and economic transformation.”82 Conclusion The defeat of the fascist dictatorships and the revelations of the crimes committed in the name of the German race certainly reduced the appeal of eugenics after 1945. On Peronist immigration policy see Carolina Biernat ¿Buenos o útiles? La política inmigratoria del peronismo (Buenos Aires: Biblos.000 to 15. 83. without sacrifices and preoccupations (and) the lack of true spiritual values. which became essential for Perón’s industrializing plans.” To overcome the present situation. The ABEMS did not survive the double pressures of the war and the social and political changes brought about by Peronism.904. Calls for implementing a selective policy of immigration that favored nationals from Latin countries became intertwined with discourses of racial pessimism and ambivalent attitudes toward negative eugenics. 2007). Published by Duke University Press . released a document that placed the blame for the low birthrate on the “desire for an easy life. under the innocuous title of “Notes on 82.” Mundo Médico. The results of the fourth national census (1947) discredited the pessimistic diagnoses of the earlier decade.000. no.Hispanic American Historical Review 316 HAHR / May / Reggiani Interestingly enough. . showing that in the previous three decades the country had doubled its population from 7. from 30 percent to 15 percent of the total population. and instill the necessary spiritual strength so that all can fulfill their duty toward the family. This growth entailed a dramatic reduction of the share of overseas immigration. the bureaucrats called to “awaken the consciences . This manpower reserve. Perón’s minister of public health (1946–54).83 A case in point was the alleged social Darwinism of Ramón Carrillo. and the migration of one million provincianos to Argentina’s industrial belt.894. However. the society and the state.

and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina 317 Hygiene.” Archivos de la Secretaría de Salud Pública (Buenos Aires: Secretaría de Salud Pública. and with reducing infant mortality and contagious diseases to the levels of advanced societies.” American Historical Review 103. Darwinismo social y eugenesia en el mundo latino. The timing of the document.”87 This line 84. “El magno problema: La desnatalidad. “Race Culture: Recent Perspectives on the History of Eugenics. Recently Carrillo became the subject of a controversy over his alleged sympathies for the Nazis. telling others that he was “black.Hispanic American Historical Review Depopulation. . not fair-skinned. 2007. “Notas de higiene. using language that seemed at odds with the regime’s anti-elitist outlook. that the white race owes the superior level which it has achieved worldwide. 86. and 21 Nov. Borio in La Nación. no. with no consequences whatsoever for its people or humanity. . Fascism. 311–47. while the fertility of the amorphous mass increases to the point of keeping for 20 centuries the population of a country like China in a state of speaking bipeds [bípedos parlantes]. and Karina Ramacciotti. 5 (1947): 1–5. These facts do not fit well with the passage cited above. For reactions against the “witch hunt” methods of his detractors. .” then Europe and America would all but become another Asiatic humanity.86 Frank Dikötter has suggested that eugenics may be better understood less as a clear set of scientific principles than as a “modern way of talking about social problems in biologizing terms.” in Miranda and Vallejo. no. This minority is the first one that refused to reproduce itself. as members of the middle class. He served in a government publicly identified with the cause of the poor.” La Nación. Should the white race persist in the suicide of its “elites.” Archivos de la Secretaría de Salud Pública. was especially relevant for it coincided with the Nuremberg trials against the physicians involved in the Nazi euthanasia program. 2 (1998): 467–78. 85. from fulfilling the heroic destiny that civilization has put in their hands. most of whom were likely to be dark-skinned. Carrillo lamented the proliferation of human beings of an inferior social value and the suicide of men of a higher intellectual and moral hierarchy who have refrained. 2007. 1 Sept. 26 Aug. “Las huellas eugénicas en la política sanitaria argentina. 1947).” offered a detailed account of the sterilizations practiced in the United States and Germany. “Poblar y purificar: El otro Ramón Carrillo. Frank Dikötter. presented without any comment on the subject or reference to context. Ramón Carrillo.84 In the same publication. see the letters of Ginés González García and Pedro M. but they do not necessarily contradict it either.85 Carrillo is said to often have laughed at himself. . The “revisionist” view can be found in Rodolfo Barros. A useful discussion can be also found Published by Duke University Press . It is to this minority of chosen men . . 87.” that is.

the hitherto private realms of family and maternity became a concern of the state and a new area colonized by medical experts. no. unconventional reproductive behavior.” The Historical Journal 51. whether by emphasizing hereditary traits or external factors. Published by Duke University Press . For a recent update see Marius Turda. 4 (2008): 1115–24.Hispanic American Historical Review 318 HAHR / May / Reggiani of reasoning allows us to acknowledge the instability and fluidity of biological discourses about social change. eugenics provided a convenient framework for making sense of the crisis of traditional society. Faced with the prospect of a declining white population due to the falling birthrate of families of European descent and the closing of overseas immigration. 3 (1993): 687–700. “New Perspectives on Race and Eugenics. no. In a country where modernization brought economic growth and urbanization as well as labor unrest. “The Rise and Fall of the Eugenics Empire: Recent Perspectives on the Impact of Biomedical Thought in Modern Society. As a result. and society. From a more general perspective. in Robert A.” The Historical Journal 36. and new family structures. politics. Nye. Argentine eugenicists turned to the European dictatorships in their search for alternative means for demographic renewal. the history of eugenics in Argentina further sheds light on the role of science in state-formation processes and the ways in which medical professionals shaped the relationship between knowledge.