“Cuba, US, and Public Health: A History of Strained Relations”
As tensions between the United States and Cuba begin fitfully to subside, a better understanding of the sources of the strained relationship between the two countries can help illuminate potential stumbling blocks to further progress. One often-overlooked point of contention over the past 150 years has been public health. U.S. concern over disease on the island was an important cause of the Spanish-American War, and efforts to fight disease were a much-resented aspect of the U.S. domination of Cuba afterwards. The consequent development of Cuban capabilities in medicine and health, in turn, played a crucial role in Cuban foreign policy after the Revolution, not least as a means of discrediting the U.S. government.
Mariola Espinosa, Associate Professor, History, is a historian of medicine and public health in the Caribbean. Her 2009 book,“Epidemic Invasions: Yellow Fever and the Limits of Cuban Independence, 1878-1930”, was awarded the 2007 Jack D. Pressman-Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Development Award of the American Association for the History of Medicine. In 2010 she was recognized as the 2010 Virginia and Derrick Sherman Emerging Scholar. She is currently working on a book project that looks into medical understandings of fever in the British, French, Spanish, and U.S. Caribbean empires.