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Title Page, Manuel Zeno Gandía’s Higiene de la Infancia al Alcance de las Madres de Familia

The nineteenth-century novel, born in an atmosphere of scientific positivism, saw writing as a fundamentally scientific task. The model writer, as Émile Zola famously suggests in his essay ‘The Experimental Novel’, was in fact a physiologist, capable of analysing the maladies of the social body. Pedagogical and analytical, the naturalist novel aimed at reforming the sick social body, removing any impurities that might lead to social inefficiencies. It should then be no surprise that many of the famous writers of nineteenth-century Latin American naturalist novels were, in fact, physicians. Manuel Zeno Gandía, Puerto Rico’s most accomplished nineteenth-century novelist and a physician and surgeon by training, was one such case. After studying medicine in Spain, Zeno Gandía returned to Puerto Rico and, over the next two decades, wrote a series of four novels in which he diagnosed the social maladies afflicting the island. The series, entitled Crónicas de un mundo enfermo (Chronicles of a Sick World) remains a paradigmatic example of the scientific claims of the naturalist novel. However, while writing his novels, Zeno Gandía continued to practise as a physician and would in fact write some manuals aimed at improving the health of the household. Central among these is the manual Higiene de la Infancia al Alcance de las Madres de Familia (Infant Hygiene for Mothers of Families), in which the writer instructs mothers on how to prevent their children from contracting undesirable diseases. Throughout the pamphlet, the reader finds prescriptive details on how to raise a healthy child and how to design a healthy diet, as well as on how to improve breast-feeding and how to interpret an infant’s noises as well as his laughter.

Text: Carlos Fonseca

Title Page
Manuel Zeno Gandía
Higiene de la Infancia al Alcance de las Madres de Familia (1891)