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'The Hour of Eugenics' in Veracruz, Mexico: Radical Politics, Public Health, and Latin America's Only Sterilization Law

Publication Abstract

Stern, Alexandra Minna. 2011. "'The Hour of Eugenics' in Veracruz, Mexico: Radical Politics, Public Health, and Latin America's Only Sterilization Law." Hispanic American Historical Review, 91(3): 431-443.

In 1932, the Mexican state of Veracruz passed Latin America's only eugenic sterilization law. Building on the foundational scholarship of Nancy Leys Stepan, this article critically examines Veracruz's eugenics movement, exploring how it intersected with public health, antivice campaigns, and radical agrarian and labor politics. I pay particular attention to Governor Adalberto Tejeda, who, during his second term in office (1928 – 1932) incorporated a zealous version of Latin eugenics into state laws and policies. This article suggests that Veracruz's experiment with eugenics, especially the state's sterilization statute, was intimately connected to concerns about prostitution, sexual health, and working-class vigor. This article highlights an unexplored dimension of society and medicine in Latin America and raises questions about the orientation and limits of preventive eugenics in Mexico, and about the homologies among eugenics movements in the Americas and across the globe in the twentieth century.

10.1215/00182168-1300191

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