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Hygiene And The Underclass In Nineteenth Century Rio De Janeiro

985 words - 4 pages


By the middle of the 19th Century, important urban and social reforms were underway in Latin America, which focused on improving hygiene in the cities. In this essay I will discuss the many reforms that were made to improve hygiene in the Rio de Janeiro and how most were unsuccessful, who’s fault the hygiene issues really were, how domestic servants color made them the guilty ones of carrying diseases, and how their lives became to be after they were to forgo examinations monthly.
Beginning in 1850, disease was underway again in Rio de Janeiro after being absent since 1686. In just three years, 6,500 people died of Yellow Fever. The fever disappeared for some time only to return again ...view middle of the document...

Cortiços could be concealed from public view and from inspectors behind the disguising fronts of more substantial buildings…” As the slum population increased cortiços did too. ‘…The number of cortiços proliferated: 502 in 1867, 642 two years later, 1,331 by 1888.” The large population increase only made hygiene matters worse. People were literally living in filth. Diseases were worsening and it seemed as though the more cortiços that were developing, the more diseases were spreading. Candido Barata Ribeiro, one of the first governors in 1893 decided to put an end to the cortiços. He and 300 men began demolition within the cortiços.
While disease was an issue in the streets it was becoming an issue in the houses. Wet-nurses who worked and sometimes lived in the houses of their masters, took care of the babies and young children. A doctor wrote in 1879, “I have seen wet-nurses who nurse children of important and wealthy families… in cortiços.” During this time there were 410 deaths for every 1,000 births and the ones responsible for these deaths were wet-nurses, because they would pass on the disease to the baby when they nursed them. The wet nurses were the direct link between house and street. They lived in the disease-infected streets and brought the diseases into the homes of their masters. This forced doctors to start examinations of all wet-nurses if they wanted to continue their job. They inspected all women carefully, examining every inch of their bodies. If doctors found one minor detail wrong they would refuse to let wet-nurses to continue to nurse and if anyone resisted the inspection they too would not be allowed to nurse.
Disease lurked in Rio de Janeiro for nearly a century, practically wiping out a large portion of their population. Reforms were repeatedly put in place, only to fail a few years later...

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