Curing the Ills of Central America: The United Fruit Company's Medical Department and Corporate Amer

How to Cite

Aliano, D. (2006). Curing the Ills of Central America: The United Fruit Company’s Medical Department and Corporate Amer. Estudios Interdisciplinarios De América Latina Y El Caribe, 17(2). Retrieved from


In a 1929 issue of Unifruitco, the monthly employee magazine of the United Fruit Company (UFCo), an essay contest was announced asking employees to write what in their opinion was the most valuable/important topic in a recently published book detailing the company's wide range of activities in the tropics. The two winning essays, published in a subsequent issue, both argued that sanitation and tropical medicine were the most important aspects of the great transnational company's operations. One of the prize-winners, a Mr. R.E. McDermott, the Scranton Branch Manager for the Fruit Dispatch Company, asserted that sanitation was nothing less than the key to the United Fruit Company's "advancement of civilization in the American Tropics."[1] The United Fruit Company Medical Department's healthcare and sanitation initiatives, along with the civilizing ideology that stood behind them, are concrete manifestations of UFCo's more general cultural agenda in Central America. The role of medicine and sanitation in bringing civilization to the tropics was a recurring theme in works published by the United Fruit Company throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Company doctors identified themselves as agents of science and rational modernity and believed that their mission was not simply to cure the body but also the mind and, by extension, society. Beyond improved healthcare, the Medical Department understood its work as an integral part of the Company's mission of infusing its laborers in Central America with a capitalist American work ethic and making them productive and efficient laborers.

Copyright © 2012-2013 Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe.
ISSN 0792-7061
Editores:  Ori Preuss; Nahuel Ribke
Instituto Sverdlin de Historia y Cultura de América Latina, Escuela de Historia
Universidad de Tel Aviv, Ramat Aviv,
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