In my essay, “Leche and lagar­tijas: injecting the local into eighteenth-century Spanish American medical dis­course,” I explorehow European and indigenous medical cul­tures that came into contact in Spain’s sixteenth- and seventeenth-century global empire con­tinued their inter­ac­tions well into the late colonial period through an ongoing nego­ti­ation of the local and the global. My argument involves two examples: debates about the med­i­cinal uses of New World lizards that played out in Mexico City’s emergent peri­odical press (lagar­tijas), and criollo anx­i­eties about the use of indigenous or mixed-race wet nurses expressed in news­paper articles and letters pub­lished in Mexico and Peru (leche). Both involve processes in which a care­fully cal­i­brated amount of New World material is intro­duced into a trans­planted imperial body; the lizard cure and reliance on casta wet nurses function as a far­makon, that is, both remedy and poison.

Further Dis­cussion

My essay draws on the history of advances in inoc­u­lation that were employed by the Pro­tomed­icato and viceregal admin­is­trators in an effort to combat smallpox in indigenous and criollo com­mu­nities — what might be con­sidered early public health cam­paigns, as Martha Few has studied in For all of Humanity: Mesoamerican and Colonial Med­icine in Enlight­enment Guatemala. I’d love to discuss par­allels with the current moment in which anx­i­eties about racial and ethnic “Others” and ques­tions about the cul­tural con­struction and reception of sci­en­tific knowledge are deeply impli­cated in debates between vaxers and anti-vaxers. 

Intel­lectual Provocation

I do not con­sider myself a scholar (but rather a student) of gender, so I’m grateful for the oppor­tunity to con­tribute to a col­lection of essays on gen­dered per­spec­tives on health and healing in the early modern Iberian world and to work with Sarah Owens and Mar­garet Boyle. I also think it’s important to under­stand the con­ti­nu­ities between the Iberian early modern world and the eigh­teenth century — con­ti­nu­ities which are often over­looked but which suggest ways of bridging colo­niality and modernity.