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“Dictating the Suitable Way of Life”: Mental Hygiene for Children and Workers in Socialist Mexico, 1934–1940


  • Andrés Ríos Molina


After the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), an ambitious project of national reconstruction began in which education and health were two priorities in the consolidation of a new nation. In this context of social, cultural, and political transformation, mental hygiene was a field that made it possible to articulate the professional practice of psychiatrists with the project of the nation promoted by postrevolutionary governments. In Mexico, the mental hygiene movement was headed by the same doctors who professionalized the practice of psychiatry and made it a specialized field of knowledge. The first generation of psychiatrists managed to integrate mental hygiene into health and education policies during the socialist administration of president Lázaro Cárdenas; a phenomenon that made evident the articulation between mental hygiene, social medicine, and nationalist discourse. Discussion will focus on proposals made from the perspective of mental hygiene as a function of two social sectors regarded as priorities by the Cárdenas government: children and workers.