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Marriage of Convenience

Marriage of Convenience: Rockefeller International Health and Revolutionary Mexico

Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 446
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  • Book Info
    Marriage of Convenience
    Book Description:

    In January 1921, after a decade of bloody warfare, Mexico's new government found an unlikely partner in its struggle to fulfill the Revolution's promises to the populace. An ambitious philanthropy, born of the wealth of America's most notorious capitalist, made its way into Mexico by offering money and expertise to counter a looming public health crisis. Why did the Rockefeller Foundation and Revolutionary Mexico get together, and how did their relationship last for 30-plus years amidst binational tensions, domestic turmoil, and institutional soul-searching? Transcending standard hagiographic accounts as well as simplistic arguments of cultural imperialism, Marriage of Convenience offers a nuanced analysis of the interaction between the foundation's International Health Division and the Departamento de Salubridad Pública as they jointly promoted public health through campaigns against yellow fever and hookworm disease, organized cooperative rural health units, and educated public health professionals in North American universities and Mexican training stations. Drawing from a wealth of archival sources in both Mexico and the United States, Birn uncovers the complex give-and-take of this early experience of international health cooperation. Birn's historical insights have continuing relevance for the rapidly evolving world of global health today. Anne-Emanuelle Birn is Canada Research Chair in International Health at the University of Toronto.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-664-6
    Subjects: Health Sciences, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. IX-XII)
  4. Introduction: The Fever of International Health
    (pp. 1-14)

    In January 1929, just a few months after he returned to Mexico from his doctoral studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, Rockefeller Foundation (RF) fellow Miguel Bustamante penned a heartfelt letter to his former dean, William Howell. Peppering his progress report with words of gratitude, Bustamante wrote of his new appointment as chief of the Port of Veracruz sanitary unit, Mexico’s first attempt at “cooperative and systematic work for the improvement of the Public Health conditions in our Cities.” He relayed the “real effort” his country was expending and hoped that he...

  5. Chapter One A Match Made in Heaven?
    (pp. 15-60)

    Public health, foreign capital, social revolution, modern state-building: perhaps nowhere did these forces so vividly coalesce, captivate, and challenge one another than in the interactions between the Rockefeller Foundation and Mexico. For the RF, public health represented an appealing sphere of action for its domestic and international philanthropic investments, one that—consistent with its motto—could widely benefit mankind. For Mexico, public health offered a concrete, feasible area through which the state could enlarge its authority by meeting revolutionary expectations for improved social conditions, build a sense of citizenship—particularly among rural populations—and tether science and scientific professionals to...

  6. Chapter Two Hooked on Hookworm
    (pp. 61-116)

    Because the RF’s first public health campaign in Mexico had been funded and organized on a scale both to satisfy the RF’s larger yellow fever eradication ambitions and to woo its hard-to-get Mexican counterpart, it was the campaign that followed yellow fever that would better define the terms of the relationship. At the most pragmatic level, the IHB’s stock campaign against hookworm disease offered a compromise collaboration. It would both keep the RF in Mexico at a lower expense and extend the reach of the DSP, albeit for an ailment that was not a high epidemiologic priority. The claims on...

  7. Chapter Three Going Local
    (pp. 117-174)

    In March 1930, Dr. Francisco de P. Miranda, the DSP’s director of the Office of International Exchange, published a speech he had recently given to the visiting “Committee of Cultural Relations between the U.S. and Latin America.”¹ Commending the “pioneering American spirit” that had led the group to “learn the truth about Mexico,” he noted that Mexico—in the midst of reconstruction—had much to learn from the public health field in the U.S.

    But this address, appearing on the front page of theBoletín de la Oficina Sanitaria Panamericana(Bulletin of the Pan American Sanitary Bureau), was no sycophantic...

  8. Chapter Four You Say You Want an Institution
    (pp. 175-233)

    All simple relationships are like one another, but each complicated relationship is complicated in its own way.¹ In the early 1930s, just when the DSP-IHD collaboration had settled into a comfortable pattern of give and take, Mexico began an intense period of political activism. With the waning of most regional conflict, the various parties to the Mexican Revolution vigorously reiterated their claims on the state. Peasants and industrial workers, in particular, demanded their rights, as embodied in the 1917 Constitution. Lázaro Cárdenas’s election to the presidency in 1934 did not signify an end to the turbulence, instead launching an era...

  9. Chapter Five Ingredients of a Relationship
    (pp. 234-266)

    In the autumn of 1932 the Rockefeller family invited Mexican painter Diego Rivera to create a mural for the new Rockefeller Center—a distinctive urban complex of shops, offices, theaters, restaurants, and public art on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Beginning work the following spring, Rivera offered a prescient depiction of the potential directions for modern life entitledMan at the Crossroads Looking with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future. With a robot-like worker controlling a giant turbine at the center, the mural displayed the wonders of science. In front of the...

  10. Epilogue: International Health’s Convenient Marriage
    (pp. 267-286)

    International health cooperation was an invention of the twentieth century. Not bound by colonial strictures, proselytizing mandates, or military objectives—and enabled by advancements in medicine and public health, international relations, and worldwide scholarly exchange—cooperation between specialized health agencies and willing countries offered a new form of voluntary international interaction. Part diplomacy, part development aid, part propaganda, part cultural imperialism, part economic opportunism, part humanitarianism, part scientific competition, the new international health went beyond the narrow self-interest of imperial powers or the focused agreements on nomenclature or standardization that were forged in the late nineteenth century. Unlike the health-related...

  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 287-288)
  12. Appendix: Rockefeller Foundation Public Health Fellowships Awarded to Mexico, 1920–49
    (pp. 289-294)
  13. Abbreviations
    (pp. 295-296)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 297-366)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 367-412)
  16. Index
    (pp. 413-434)