NYMC Faculty Publications

Title

Diego Rivera, The History of Medicine in Mexico: People's Demand for Better Health, Mural in 1953 Still Current

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

June 2019

Department

Microbiology and Immunology

Abstract

Although public health and social medicine have a long history in Latin America going back to Co lonial times, their relevance has ebbed and flowed as a result of the development of a variety of social and political movements. The Mexican Revolution accelerated implementation of public health po licies in Mexico and resulted in the creation of the Mexican Institute of Social Security to serve the health and social security needs of the country's population. Construction of the Hospital La Raza and its embellishment by the mural paintings of Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros correspon ded to the heyday of public health ideas in Mexico. This is clearly reflected in Rivera's mural painting from 1953, The History of Medicine in Mexico: People's Demand for Better Health. The left side of the painting, representing the history of modern medicine in Mexico, exemplifies the tensions between individuals and social groups demanding the fruits of modern medicine and public health, and en trenched bureaucracy and private interests resisting their demands. Rivera's artistry illustrates this tension by depicting urban social groups and a family with a pregnant mother and children reques ting medical attention on one side of the main panel, facing condescending physicians, bureaucrats and upper society gentlemen and ladies on the other side. The importance of social movements to the development of public health policies illustrated by Rivera in 1953 continues to be relevant in Latin America today where increasing millions still lack the benefits of health care and social security.

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