Leche and Lagartijas — Stolley
By Karen Stolley | Published on November 10, 2021
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.
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.
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.