Risk Of Offensive/Incorrect Content: Racial degeneration, mental hygiene, and the beginning of Peruvian psychiatry, 1922–1934.

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Between 1922 and 1934, three pamphlets and a series of articles on mental hygiene were published in important newspapers in Lima, Peru. Their authors were Hermilio Valdizán and Honorio Delgado, two members of the first generation of psychiatrists in the country. These mass publications aimed to educate the population on what mental illness was, as well as its causes and symptoms. In addition, they sought to promote the figure of the psychiatrist as a specialist in "madness” whose recommendations should be heeded in family life. To that end, these publications contained true cases, related in melodramatic language, in order to reach a broader audience. Beyond their educative intention, these publications used ideas that Peruvian elites held about racial differentiation, because they were aimed at White and mestizo readers and had the express intention of preventing racial "degeneration.” The analysis of this primary source material is complemented with other texts by Valdizán that sought to comprehend the manifestations of insanity among Native Peruvians, for which he used degeneration theory to explain the degree of "backwardness” observed among the races that were considered inferior. This article seeks to analyze the viewpoints held on racial differences by the most significant members of Peru's first generation of psychiatrists, in which degeneration theory was key in explaining the differences between human groups and in justifying the superiority of Whites and Western culture in the Peruvian state's mestizo identity initiative. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)