Hygiene Campaigns as Cultural Politics in Colombia, 1930–46

Friday, January 8, 2016: 2:50 PM
International Ballroom B (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Catalina Muņoz, Universidad de los Andes
From 1930 to 1946 the Liberal Party that ruled Colombia gained strong popular support with a reformist discourse.  They came to power proposing a more democratic, secular, and nationalistic social order that would respond to the challenges—and fears—of increasing social agitation.  These Liberal governments used cultural programs as part of their agenda, seeking both the diffusion of high culture to elevate the masses and the definition and diffusion of a national popular culture that would unite the citizenry.  This paper explores the inclusion of hygiene as part of the Liberal program of cultural uplift and social engineering by means of which a population that was seen as problematic and backwards could be redeemed and transformed into the clean, healthy, diligent population needed to modernize the nation.  I examine the hygiene programs implemented by the Ministry of Education as part of its cultural agenda, in particular campaigns of domestic hygiene and programs to provide “healthy” recreation to the masses.  My research evidences that hygiene was a matter that went well beyond public health: it was a matter of morals, of culture, and of national politics.  If the population was healthy and free of vices, it would be fit to lead economic progress and to actively participate in the democratic system.  Furthermore, by appealing to hygiene the Liberal regimes were able to claim for themselves an image of modernizing governments that would rationally transform the population for the nation’s progress.