Medicine on the Margins of Colonial Mexico

Medicine on the Margins
of Colonial Mexico

Galenic Pharmacy
in Home-Made Remedies

Paula De Vos

25 September 2024 – 5 PM (CEST)

In my study of Galenic pharmacy, I have argued that this tradition developed over a series of stages, one of which involved its transport to the Americas under the Spanish Empire.  Its presence in the thoroughly Hispanized cities of central Mexico, I have argued, conformed closely to the Galenic tradition.

But what about medical practice outside the urban centers of New Spain?  How did Galenic pharmacy fare in the largely indigenous rural areas of the Mexico’s altiplano region and beyond?

As the Spanish colonial establishment spread beyond the urban environment, setting up encomiendas, hospitals, mines, presidios, and missions outside the colonial core region, how did the Galenic tradition interact with the Nahua and other indigenous medical traditions and pharmaceutical practices already in place?

In this paper, I explore a series of texts of “rustic medicine” containing recipes for home-made pharmaceutical remedies that could be prepared in places “where there is no pharmacy.”

These texts were authored largely by religious friars from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth century and incorporated both indigenous and Galenic ideas, materials, and practices.

Though indigenous materia medica constituted a significant part of the tradition, nevertheless, the majority of medicines were Galenic, transplanted from Afro-Eurasia and subsequently appropriated within this rustic tradition and still utilized in modern curanderismo (healing practices).

About the Speaker ...

Paula S. De Vos is Professor of History at San Diego State University. Her research interests lie in colonial Mexico and the Spanish Empire as well as early modern history of science and medicine. She is the author of Compound Remedies: Galenic Pharmacy from the Ancient Mediterranean to New Spain (Pittsburgh, 2020), which recently won the Edward Kremers Award from the American Institute for the History of Pharmacy. She has also received fellowship support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Health, and the American Council of Learned Societies. She co-edited Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires (Stanford, 2009) and currently serves as co-editor-in-chief of the Journal History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals.

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