The Dark History of ‘Gasoline Baths’ at the Border
An alarming US border policy forced fumigations on migrants at the US-Mexico border.
In 1917, American health officials launched a campaign to use noxious, often toxic chemicals to delouse immigrants seeking to enter at the US-Mexico border. The same practice had caused a fire in an El Paso jail the year before and killed 27 people.
17-year-old Juárez maid Carmelita Torres refused to go through it, sparking a protest of thousands of Mexicans at the El Paso border. Although they briefly shut down the border, the campaign would continue for decades — and go on to inspire Nazi scientists.
For more reading, check out the links below:
David Dorado Romo’s book, Ringside Seat to a Revolution: cincopuntos.com
The Bracero History Archive: braceroarchive.org
John Mckiernan-González’s book, Fevered Measures: Public Health and Race at the Texas -Mexico Border, 1848-1942: dukeupress.edu
Alexandra Minna Stern’s book, Eugenic Nation: ucpress.edu
This is the second episode of our Missing Chapter series, where Vox producer Ranjani Chakraborty revisits underreported and often overlooked moments from the past to give context to the present. Join her as she covers the histories that are often left out of our textbooks. Our first season tackles stories of racial injustice, political conflicts, even the hidden history of US medical experimentation.
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