IntroductIon
Laredo’s political culture troubled Gregorio Guiteras. The United States Ma-
rine Hospital Service had detailed him to coordinate the yellow fever quar-
antine in Laredo, Texas, in 1903. The distinguished Cuban American doctor
probably expected the credentials he earned by ending yellow fever in Cuba
to translate into professional respect in Laredo. But the people there publicly
ignored his medical authority throughout the yellow fever epidemic. Accord-
ing to Guiteras, locals “seldom called in a physician, fearful that they might be
quarantined or sent to a hospital.”1 Even more frustrating to Dr. Guiteras was
that Laredo’s political and military authorities reported that “the very class of
cases I wished to remove to a hospital would absolutely refuse to go, and that
there was no authority to force them to do so.”2 In Havana, Guiteras sent in
armed American soldiers alongside Cuban and American medical person-
nel to move people with yellow fever symptoms directly to American field
hospitals.3 Laredo authorities confounded Guiteras’s desire to exercise uncon-
strained sovereign authority over other people in the name of public health.
People at the border learned to negotiate the desire to exercise uncon-
strained medical authority to enforce national boundaries. In 1917, Miguel
Barrera complained to the local Mexican consul that the United States Public
Health Service (usphs) doctor at the immigration station in Camargo, Texas,
treated him like a medically suspect foreign national. “In spite of having my
residence in Sam Fordyce [Texas], the doctor refused to hear my arguments
and vaccinated me.” As he explained, “When a boy I was vaccinated at the age
usually done in Mexico, said vaccination having taken; but to be vaccinated
at the age when the danger of infection may be said to have passed is in my
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