Eugenics (1900-1960)

Race, like gender or class, is a socially contingent construct that means different things to different societies at different times. Yet in the early part of the twentieth century, countries throughout the world turned to science in order to rationalize and legitimize their particular understanding of ethnic and racial difference. Eugenics, the science of using heredity to improve racial characteristics, became prevalent in many of the most scientifically advanced countries, including the U.S., Britain, and France in the early twentieth century. The term was coined by Sir Francis Galton, a British scientist inspired by Darwinian concepts of natural selection who feared that the integration of undesirable parts of the population threatened to degenerate the human race as a whole. Eugenics soon spread to Latin America, where it would prove very influential on social policy, legislation, and state practices concerning citizenship, immigration, criminology, public hygiene, and racial identity.

The movement of scientific ideas from one region to another, however, is rarely straightforward; Latin American eugenics developed its own unique characteristics that reflected local circumstances while also retaining specific ties to European science. For example, eugenicists in Latin America thought that external factors could affect the genetic pool, a "soft" style of Eugenics different than European Mendelian eugenics that touted strict biological inheritance. Nevertheless, as seen in the source "Table of Whitening," Latin American eugenicists often worked within international circles and self-consciously tried to emulate and impress eugenicists from Europe and the U.S.

Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil all instituted various eugenic policies between 1900 and 1940 yet, according to Nancy Leys Stepan, the forms eugenics took varied greatly between each of these countries. In post-revolutionary Mexico, officials touted the population as an integrated "cosmic race," yet policies continued to exclude Indians from the benefits of citizenship. As seen in the source "Inmigracion peligrosa," Argentine eugenicists worked to exclude parts of the population that were perceived to be pernicious, especially working class immigrants from southern Europe, while self-consciously working to become less "Latin" and more racially akin to Anglo-Saxons. Mexico, Argentina, and many other Latin American countries (see the source "Manicomio Pacheco") hoped that eugenics could lead to racial, and thus national, unity, which was widely considered to be a precondition of modernity. Brazil, on the other hand, was caught between trying to disprove European theories that racial mixing had made Brazilians a "degenerate" race while also ensuring that the racial elite did not lose their status. Consequently, Brazil often vacillated between policies.

One overarching characteristic of eugenics throughout Latin America was its close association with public hygiene. In effect, preventative sanitation expanded to include human heredity. Alcohol, venereal diseases, and drugs were considered to be "racial poisons" that degenerated the gene pool of the general population, thus weakening both individuals and the state. Not surprisingly, scientists tended to blame these phenomena on the same sectors of the population that were considered inferior in older racial and ethnic rhetoric. Thus blacks, Indians, poor immigrants, and mestizos remained the scapegoats for social ills while eugenics provided the scientific justification for traditional prejudices.

Similarly, women were more often the targets of eugenic measures than men. Eugenics was the science of population improvement, and since the primary social function of women was considered to be reproductive, their bodies became sites at which elites sought to influence a nation's genetic composition. Poor Puerto Rican women thus became subject to birth control legislation by both U.S. imperialists and middle class Puerto Rican feminists while Argentina promoted high birth rates among whites by making prenatal care mandatory. The upside to these eugenic policies was the improvement in women's and children's health but, according to Nancy Leys Stepan, their wellbeing was simply a tool of national improvement (Stepan 1991).

In the Latin American eugenics movement, the state tried to manipulate both race and gender to conform to elite notions of national progress. Although eugenics projects made real contributions to sanitation and health institutions, they also perpetuated the legacy of racism well into the twentieth century.

Questions for further exploration:

1. Like many other scientific endeavors in turn-of-the-century Latin America, the eugenics movement was meant to promote (and exemplify) modernity. Why was eugenics considered by many to be a necessary step towards "civilizing" Latin America?

2. Brazil was the first Latin American country to develop eugenics organizations as well as the consistent leader in Latin American eugenics from 1910-1940. What factors made it such a prominent science in Brazil?

3. Consider the sources "Floor Plan for the El Paso Disinfection Plant" and "Inmigracion peligrosa." What similarities and differences existed between the immigration policies of the U.S. and Argentina in the early twentieth century? How did these policies affect the practice of eugenics and ideas of race in each country?

4. In what ways did women assert their agency in the eugenics movement? See the sources for examples and ideas.

5. It is widely held that eugenics fell out of practice after World War II, when Nazi Germany took the science far beyond the moral limits acceptable by the international community (including almost all eugenicists). Considering the "soft," preventative elements of most Latin American eugenic measures, did Latin American eugenics disappear? If so, what replaced it? If not, what shapes did it take on in the second half of the twentieth century?

Further Reading:

 

Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico.Berkeley, University of California Press, 2002.

Miller, Marilyn Grace. Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race: The Cult of Mestizaje in Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.

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

Stepan, Nancy Leys. "The Hour of Eugenics": Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991. 

---. "Eugenesia, genetica y salud publica: el movimiento eugenesico brasileno y mundial." Quipu. 2: 3 (1985): 351-384.

Stern, Alexandra Minna. "Buildings, Boundaries, and Blood: Medicalization and Nation Building on the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1910-1930." Hispanic American Historical Review, 79: 1 (February 1999): 41-81.

Vasconcelos, Jose. The Cosmic Race. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

 

Birth Control in Puerto Rico

Date: 1960
Owner: Getty Images
Source Type: Images

 

This 1960 photograph shows women in Puerto Rico teaching birth control methods to other women. Birth control measures were first introduced to Puerto Rico in the 1920s by U.S. colonial elites who considered overpopulation to be the root of many of Puerto Rico's social problems, including poverty, disease, prostitution, and general delinquency. In the 1920s and 30s, however, birth control legislation in Puerto Rico received much of its support from Puerto Rican liberals, especially middle class feminists, who worked with overpopulationists and considered a form of "soft" eugenics as a means of improving the health of families and women, while also improving society as a whole by promoting the "right" sort of families (whites in the middle and upper classes). Many of these women also promoted more stringent eugenic measures, including forced sterilization of those people deemed unfit to reproduce.

Though condemned today as a racist science, eugenics in the 1930s was an alternative to the tenets of imperial tropical medicine, which constructed race as a byproduct of one's environment, and thus unchangeable. Eugenicists in Puerto Rico refocused the debate from race to class, with the idea that the poorest parts of the population could be improved by educating them in such things as birth control, which would ease the burden on families and prevent the social ills caused by overpopulation. Whereas tropical medicine conflated race, place, and disease, "soft" eugenics offered a progressive program that aimed to treat social and physical ills at the same time.

By the late 1930s, however, Puerto Rican eugenics became closer to the "hard" eugenics favored by the U.S., and was guided largely by U.S. efforts to protect their interests against the social threat posed by the lower classes. Contraceptives were thus distributed exclusively to the lowest classes, and sterilization of certain groups was made legal in 1939 (poverty, under this law, was considered a legitimate reason to sterilize).

Reference: Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico.Berkeley, University of California Press, 2002.

CITATION: Walker, Hank. "Teaching Birth Contol Methods." 01 Oct 1960. Getty Images, Image #50662147.

DIGITAL ID: 12985

 

Disinfection Plant

Date: 1917
Owner: National Archives, College Park, MD
Source Type: Images

 

This is the floor plan of the El Paso Disinfection Plant, a facility built in 1910 but greatly expanded in 1916. In 1917, the plant became a mandatory stop for all emigrants entering the U.S. from Ciudad Juarez, an edict that prompted the "bath riots" by Mexican women on the International Bridge over the Rio Grande. The riots soon subsided and Mexicans were forced to undergo washings and examinations at the hands of U.S. technicians. The processing stages included: washing all clothes and baggage, stripping them naked, delousing, physical examinations, and smallpox vaccination. Once this regimen was complete, they were given a certificate affirming their cleanliness, but were still subject to exclusion based on perceived physical and mental deficiencies. On average, this facility inspected about 2,830 people everyday, a figure that dwarfs Ellis Island's 350 daily exams.

According to historian of medicine Alexandra Minna Stern, this disinfection plant reflected the merging of sanitarianism and eugenics, two distinct sciences that combined to homogenize Mexicans into a distinct and identifiable race. Both of these sciences were rooted in studies of the blood: sanitation was concerned with the infectious diseases blood could carry while eugenics focused on which inheritable traits (desirable or otherwise) that one might have in their genes. The disinfection plant and its examinations were thus a form of "bio-power" that, in the process of cleaning Mexicans, also racialized them, transforming them from diseased aliens into desirable low wage laborers. The fact that the racial category "Mexican" was an option on the 1930 U.S. census typifies the conflation of "Mexicans" in the early twentieth century U.S.

Reference: Stern, Alexandra Minna. "Buildings, Boundaries, and Blood: Medicalization and Nation Building on the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1910-1930." In Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 79, no. 1 (Feb., 1999), 41-81.

CITATION: Architectural blueprint for the El Paso Disinfection Plant, 1917. Photo included in letter from C.C. Pierce to the Surgeon General, 16 Feb 1917, NACP, USPHS, AG 90, CF 1897-1923, file 1248. In: Stern, Alexandra Minna. "Buildings, Boundaries, and Blood: Medicalization and Nation Building on the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1910-1930." In Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 79, no. 1 (Feb., 1999), 41-81.

DIGITAL ID: 12983

 

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.  

DIGITAL ID: 12124

 

Inmigracion Peligrosa

Date: 1909
Owner: Unknown Owner
Source Type: Images

 

In this 1909 Argentine cartoon, two immigration officers discuss how immigrants should be selected carefully, "like in North America" (see the source on El Paso's Sanitary Building for more on U.S eugenic immigration policies). They thus "check if he is insane and if he knows how to read and write." In the earliest decades of the twentieth century, Argentina made a concerted effort to attract immigrants from northern Europe because Nordic races were considered to be the most "fit" and civilized on earth. Progress-minded Argentines hoped such eugenic policies would increase the amount of "whiteness" in the national germ plasm in order to make the nation homogenously white, a step considered necessary to modernity. Efforts were thus made to keep out immigrants who would degenerate further the already unfavorably mixed population, such as south European laborers. Although the new science of eugenics legitimized such practices, immigration policies reflected (and reinforced) old fears about miscegenation and racial purity.

As with many elements of Latin American eugenics, immigration policies took the form of hygiene projects. "Moral hygiene" was considered necessary to protect Argentina from pernicious external influences like anarchists, socialists, alcoholics, criminals, prostitutes, and other sexual, moral, or physical "degenerates." Not only would such people disrupt the nation's path to modernity, but they would also spread their unwanted genetic traits throughout the country. By the late 1920s, however, it was apparent that undesirable immigrants were far more common than north European ones, thus Argentina began to take more direct steps towards ensuring national whiteness. "Hard" eugenic policies, especially prenuptial certificates and anti-abortion campaigns, were meant to make sure the "right" type of Argentines reproduced themselves.

CITATION: "Inmigracion peligrosa," In Rodriguez, Julia. Civilizing Argentina: Science, Medicine, and the Modern State. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. From Caras y caretas, 12 June 1909.

DIGITAL ID: 13021

 

Manicomio Pacheco

Date: 1897
Owner: Phototypie Riche et Co., Paris
Source Type: Images

 

The Manicomio Pacheco, photographed here in 1897, was Bolivia's first mental hospital and a site at which Bolivian psychiatrists attempted to formulate eugenic policies that would improve the country emotionally as well as socially. Built in 1888, the manicomio (asylum) was meant primarily to isolate the insane from the rest of the population; 59% of patients received no treatment whatsoever for their conditions while others were subjected to such "cures" as insulin, camphor, and electroshock therapy. The manicomio's director in the early 1940s, Emilio Fernandez, promoted mental hygiene measures at a national level, including fighting poverty, that would ensure mothers and children would be free from mental illness. He thought that improving the environment and mental health of women and children through state intervention would improve the Bolivian race as a whole, a form of "preventative" eugenics typical in the rest of Latin America until the late 1920s.

Nevertheless, Fernandez favored some "harder" eugenic measures, including state prevention of marriages among those deemed too young or old because such unions were considered likely to produce insane children. Other Bolivian doctors favored far harsher measures, including the sterilization of criminals, the insane, and alcoholics, and even selective euthanasia for the least able-minded residents of the manicomio. The work of all of these would be eugenicists was geared largely against women, blaming mental illness and various social problems on maternal immorality and neglect. Fernandez and others considered traditional gender roles, especially domestic motherhood, necessary to the mental and emotional health of individual children and the Bolivian nation.

Reference: Zulawski, Ann. Unequal Cures: Public Health and Political Change in Bolivia, 1900-1950. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.

CITATION: The Manicomio Pacheco, circa 1897.  Argandona, Francisco, ed. Sucre, Capital de Bolivia, 1897. Paris: Phototypie Riche et Co., 1897. In: Zulawski, Ann. Unequal Cures: Public Health and Political Change in Bolivia, 1900-1950. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007, pp. 161.

DIGITAL ID: 12987

 

Mexican Maternity Clinic

Date: 1929
Owner: Rockefeller Archive Center
Source Type: Images

 

This photograph from 1929 shows Mexican women and their young children waiting to be examined at a government-run clinic. Beginning in the late 1920s, many Latin American countries institutionalized measures to enforce eugenics policies that sought to regulate maternity. The social role of women was seen primarily as reproductive, thus regulations were proposed to ensure that the women were producing the "right" sort of babies: healthy, not prone to alcoholism, and--preferably--white. Most work in this vein took the form of "soft" eugenics, such as the clinic pictured here, that attempted to ensure mothers were disease and vice free because by the logic of Lamarckian eugenics, such external influences could degenerate the national germ plasm. There were, however, some instances of "hard" eugenics, as when governments required women to receive prenuptial certificates that deigned whether they were fit to marry and reproduce.

Yet even medical clinics and the regulation of infant and mother health were inextricably linked to the eugenics project. According to Nancy Leys Stepan, the wellbeing of individual mothers was only important as a means of improving the national germ plasm. Thus clinics such as this served not only to help mothers produce healthy babies, but to regulate pregnancies and ensure that mothers did not receive abortions, which were fairly common among educated whites. As this was the racial group that most Latin American governments wanted to cultivate, it was important to make sure that whites reproduced in sufficient quantities to be the determining factor of the national gene pool. The eugenic goals of the national elite made maternal practices into a political issue, and thus the ability of women to control their own sexuality and reproduction was considered inconsequential compared with their obligations to reproduce for the national good.

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

CITATION: Mothers and children attending Infant Hygiene Clinic at Veracruz health unit, 1929. Image courtesy of the Rockefeller Archive Center.

DIGITAL ID: 12986

 

Sir Francis Galton

Date: c. 1850-60s
Owner: Wikimedia
Source Type: Images

 

The British scientist Sir Francis Galton, 1822-1911 is considered to be the founder of eugenics and his 1869 book Hereditary Genius is the seminal text of that field. Inspired by Darwinism, Galton set out to prove that human ability was determined wholly by inherited traits, not external influences like one's upbringing (Galton himself was related to Darwin, which he considered as evidence supporting this theory). Furthermore, he feared that modern society was setting itself up for "degeneration" by passing measures that supported the sustenance of the less fit, those who would not have survived in more natural settings, and thus contradicting the principle of survival of the fittest. Before the 1890s, popular morality prevented Galton's ideas from entering the mainstream, but the increased political and social pressure exerted by hitherto subaltern classes helped fuel fears of degeneracy. This process was abetted by the works of August Weismann, a German biologist who promoted the idea that traits are inherited directly through the "germ plasm," and Gregor Mendel, whose work on inheritance was rediscovered in this period.

Latin American reformers were very quick to co-opt the language of eugenics in order to promote the interrelated social and racial changes that they considered necessary to the modernization process. Thus the idea of the germ plasm became nationalized and various Latin American countries promoted eugenic measures to prevent undesirable (and supposedly inheritable) elements from entering the national germ plasm, including alcoholism, disease, idiocy, and non-whiteness. Nevertheless, most Latin American eugenicists practiced a Lamarckian form of Eugenics, as opposed to the harder Mendelian version, which allowed that traits could be improved (and corrupted) by outside influences. Thus eugenic reforms often took the shape of public sanitation, education against alcoholism, and prevention of diseases, all of which could degenerate the national germ plasm. Nevertheless, eugenics sometimes took on "hard" aspect in Latin America, including such measures as racial whitening, mandatory prenuptial inspections, and even forced sterilizations.

Reference: Stepan, Nancy Leys. "The Hour of Eugenics": Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.
 
CITATION: Sir Francis Galton, probably taken in the 1850s or early 1860s (labeled as "middle life" in source), from Karl Pearson's The Life, Letters, and Labors of Francis Galton.  Courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Francis_Galton_1850s.jpg (December 22, 2008).

DIGITAL ID: 12984

 

Source References

Publications

Abel, Christopher. Health, Hygiene, and Sanitation in Latin America c. 1870 to 1950. London: University of London, Institute of Latin American Studies, Research Papers, 42 1996.

Briggs, Charles L. and Clara Mantini-Briggs. Stories in the time of cholera: racial profiling during a medical nightmare. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico.Berekely, University of California Press, 2002.

Carrara, Sergio. Tributo a Venus: a luta contra a sifilis no Brasil, da passagem do secullo anos anos 40. Rio de Janeiro: Fiocruz, 1996.

Critchlow, Donald T. "Birth Control, population control and family planning: an overview." Journal of Health Policy. 7: 1 (1995): 1-21.

Glick, T.F. and Miguel Angel Puig-Smaper, and R. Ruiz. The Reception of Darwinism in the Iberian World: Spain, Spanish America and Brazil. New York: Springer Press, 2001.

Guy, Donna J. Sex and Danger in Buenos Aires: Prostitution, Family, and Nation in Argentina. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Howe, Glenford D. "Military-civilian intercourse, prostitution, and venereal disease among black West Indian soldiers during World War I." Journal of Caribbean History. 31: 1 (1997): 88-102.

Kiple, Kenneth. "Cholera and race in the Caribbean." Journal of Latin American Studies. 17: 1 (May 1985): 157-177.

Lavrin, Asuncion. Women, Feminism, and Social Change: in Argentina, Chile, & Uruguay, 1890-1940. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

MacLachlan, Colin M. and Jaime E. Rodriguez. The Forging of the Cosmic Race: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980. 

Mass, Bonnie. "A Historical Sketch in the American Population Control Movement." International Journal of the Health Services. 3: 4 (1973): 731-736.

Miller, Marilyn Grace. Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race: The Cult of Mestizaje in Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004. 

Obregon, Diana. "Medicos, prostitucion y enfermedades venereas en Colombia: 1886-1951." Historia, Ciencia, Saude-- Manguinhos. 9 (supl. 2002): 161-186.

Ramirez de Arellano, Annette. "The Politics of Public Health in Puerto Rico: 1926-1940." Revista de Salud Publica de Puerto Rico. 3 (1981): 35-58.

Ruggiero, Kristin. "Honor, Maternity and the Discipling of Women: Infanticide in Late-19th Century Buenos Aires." Hispanic American Historical Review. 72 (1992): 353-374.

Sansone, Livio. Blackness Without Ethnicity: Constructing Race in Brazil. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. 

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

Stepan, Nancy Leys. "Eugenesia, genetica y salud publica: el movimiento eugenesico braileno y mundial." Quipu. 2:3 (1985): 351-384.

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

Stepan, Nancy Leys. Picturing Tropical Nature. Ithaca: Cornell University Pres, 2001.

Stern, Alexandra Minna. "Buildings, Boundaries, and Blood: Medicalization and Nation Building on the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1910-1930." Hispanic American Historical Review. 79: (February 1999): 41-81.

Stern, Alexandra. "Buildings, Boundaries, and Blood: Medicalization and Nation- Building on the US-Mexican Border, 1910-1930." Hispanic American Historical Review. 79:1 (February 1999): 41-81. 

Stern, Alexandra. "Mestizophilia, Biotypology and Eugenics in Post-Revolutionary Mexico: Towards a History of Science and the State, 1920-1960." Working Papers Series No. 4. Mexican Studies Program, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Chicago

Vasconcelos, Jose. The Cosmic Race. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Warren, Jonathan W. Racial Revolutions: Antiracism and Indian Resurgence in Brazil. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.

Zulawski, Ann. "Hygiene and 'the Indian problem': ethnicity and medicine in Bolivia, 1910-1920." Latin American Research Review. 35: 2 (2000): 107-129.

Zulawski, Ann. Unequal Cures: Public Health and Political Change in Bolivia, 1900-1950. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.

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Table of Whitening

Date: 1913
Owner: Butler and Tanner
Source Type: Images

 

This table from a 1905 guide book for Brazil shows how Brazil hoped to "whiten" its population in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Whitening would occur by having blacks, Indians, and mixed race peoples interbreed with whites and, as each generation became whiter, Brazil would eventually replace all of its darker-skinned peoples with whites. Note how, on the bottom of this table, the projected percentage of blacks in the population was zero; this chart, produced less than thirty years after Brazil abolished slavery, is a clear example that racism remained extremely prevalent. The fact that experts were postulating scientific solutions to the perceived problem of a multiracial society reflected the positivism that was prevalent among many learned Latin Americans at the turn of the century.

Dr. Jaoa Batista Lacerda, the director of Brazil's National Museum, argued that Brazil could become a racially white nation by the early twenty-first century. Thus, despite its tropical locale, Brazil would have the racial characteristics considered necessary for attaining European levels of civilization. Whitening was the dream of the elite class that considered racial homogeneity to be a key step towards modern nationhood. Such racist attitudes received legitimacy in 1934 when measures of racial "improvement" were included in Brazil's new constitution. It is worth noting that Lacerda was criticized by Brazilians because he presented an embarrassingly "black" picture of Brazil and his timeline of 100 years to whiteness was seen as unnecessarily long.

Reference: Stepan, Nancy Leys. Picturing Tropical Nature. Ithaca: Cornell University Pres, 2001.
   

CITATION: Oakenfull, J.C. Brazil (1913). Frome, England: Butler and Tanner, Selwood Press, 1914. pp. 67.

DIGITAL ID: 12997