Criminal Types

Date: 1892
Owner: Benjamin Lara
Source Type: Images

 

These 1892 photographs are from the book Estudios de antropologia criminal, by Mexican criminologists Francisco Martinez Baca and Manuel Vergara. This series of portraits are from a collection of one hundred inmate mug shots used in their study of what factors determined whether Mexicans would be criminals. The first five photos are men charged with assault, numbers six through seventeen are rapists, and the last three are robbers. Although influenced by Italian criminology, Martinez and Vergara sought to elucidate the specific traits of Mexican malefactors because they believed that the differences in racial composition, climate, and culture meant that the data collected for European criminals would not apply to Mexicans. In order to make their study eminently scientific, they included three sets of data for Mexican criminal types: photographs (like those in this source), cranial measurements, and biographical information. This study of offenders' backgrounds pointed to such social influences as poor education and alcoholism, but even drinking problems were considered to stem from physical abnormalities.

Based on a rather scanty set of data (one hundred pictures and twenty-six skulls), Martinez and Vergara found that Mexican criminals did indeed have unique physiognomic features. In general, criminals deviated from "normal" Mexicans in terms of skull shape, facial features (rapists, for example, had thick lips), and disposition. Despite this supposedly empirical evidence, such claims about criminal types simply reasserted elitist notions within Mexican society, such as the fear that miscegenation caused moral and physical degeneration. Since lower class mestizos could often pass as full-blooded Spaniards, Martinez and Vergara warned that the honest portion of the population be wary that such moral degenerates may be lurking unnoticed amidst "normal" society.

Reference:

Buffington, Robert. Criminal and Citizen in Modern Mexico. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.

CITATION: Martinez Baca, Francisco and Manuel Vergara. Estudios de antropologia criminal. Puebla: Imprenta, litografia y Encuadernacion de Benjamin Lara, 1892.

DIGITAL ID: 12940