Eugenics Campaign Posters

Date: 1937
Owner: The Municipal Government of Sao Bernardo, Sao Paulo
Source Type: Images


These four posters from Brazil's 1937 eugenics campaign address many of the issues with which Latin American eugenicists, doctors, modernizers, social reformers, and sanitation officials were most concerned. The first poster promotes puericulture, the effort to create healthy children, often by regulating maternal care, to ensure that they would grow into strong adults capable of improving the nation and its genetic pool. The second attacks male alcoholism, a condition that--through the Lamarckian idea of inheritance--could cause degeneration of the nation's germ plasm as well as a plethora of other social problems.

The last two posters both involve the "hard" eugenic measure of pre-nuptial examination, tests that many eugenicists hoped to make mandatory to promote physical, moral, and genetic improvement. Although very difficult to enforce, the test usually involved examining couples getting married for signs of sexually transmitted diseases, alcoholism, and--in its more extreme manifestations--mental retardation and illness. The test was a convenient way to implement "hard" eugenics in Catholic countries because it avoided direct birth control methods. The last poster, which traces syphilis from southern Europe to Brazil, speaks to fears that lower class immigrants were disease vectors who harmed the overall health of the nation. Such propaganda helped legitimize stricter immigration policies and the exclusion of less desirable immigrants.

References: Schwarcz, Lilia Moritz. The Spectacle of the Races: Scientists, Institutions, and the Race Question in Brazil, 1870-1930. New York: Hill and Wang, 1999.

Stepan, Nancy Leys. "The Hour of Eugenics": Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.

CITATION: Eugenics Campaign Posters from 1937, created by The Municipal Government of Sao Bernardo, Sao Paulo.