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date: 25 March 2023

Food Science, Race, and the Nation in Colombiafree

Food Science, Race, and the Nation in Colombiafree

  • Stefan Pohl-ValeroStefan Pohl-ValeroHistory of Science, Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá


At the beginning of the 19th century, Colombian physicians thought of food as an essential factor in shaping human character and corporeality. Framed in a neo-Hippocratic system, health and racial differences were related not only to climate but also to the connection between food qualities and humoral fluids. For example, it was believed that the tendency to eat cold and moist food, as well as greasy substances, was one of the reasons why people in warm regions of Colombia were choleric, phlegmatic, and indolent. By midcentury, it was further argued that each regional type—a local racialized categorization based on geographic determinism—had certain diet habits and physiological characteristics that explained its character (sober, obedient, lazy, industrious, etc.), and that made this type “naturally” suitable for different kinds of work. During this period, the working population’s diet was not perceived to be a social problem requiring regulation, at least not by the government. In the midst of liberal reforms, the political elites were more focused on the economic and genetic integration (“whitening”) of highland Indians, and to a lesser extent blacks, than on producing a supposed “better race” through nourishment.

But by the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, however, a new cultural framework that crossed the boundaries of thermodynamics, political economy, experimental physiology, and eugenics had begun to emerge in Colombia, converging in the social problem of nutrition. Centered on the analogy of the human body as a heat engine that transforms energy, local scientists began to conduct surveys of the eating habits of the “working classes,” analyses of the chemical and caloric composition of their foods, and studies on the metabolic characteristics of different regional populations. The results of these investigations were used to push the government to “restore the energies” of an impoverished population that was consistently thought to be weak and racially inferior, but capable of physiological and hereditable improvement. The cry of conservative elites for political and moral “regeneration” at the turn of the century also had a biological component—the optimization of the human motor. In the 1920s and 1930s, several campaigns and institutions were created for this social engineering, aimed at producing a modern, healthy, and industrious citizen. These campaigns gained special political force after the Liberal Party returned to power in 1930.


  • History of Northern and Andean Spanish America
  • Social History
  • Science, Technology, and Health

End of the Colonial Period

Throughout the 19th century, scientific theories on the relationship between diet and the functioning of the human body acquired a growing importance in the Colombian republican elites’ projects concerning modern citizens and nation-state construction. One fundamental model that these elites had in order to conceptualize the new nation and its possibilities for progress and civilization came from political projects of the “enlightened Criollos.” At the end of the colonial period, this social group had laid the groundwork for a geographic model of civilization and national identity, based in the Andean highlands, that outlined a process of economic integration among subordinate racial groups. The ambivalence of the enlightened colonial project to “Hispanicize” the indigenous population—while simultaneously maintaining some distance from them—acquired a new political language and nuances in the modern nation-state project. In both contexts, food science figured in the double motive of economic integration and racial differentiation.

Beginning with the enlightened absolutism of the Spanish monarch Charles III, colonies in the Americas began to undergo profound changes in their administration, education, and cultural life. In the universities, new insights on modern science were introduced, and socialization and print media were promoted for the purposes of discussing and disseminating useful knowledge that would work in favor of agricultural, commercial, and industrial prosperity. Additionally, natural resources and the health of the Latin American population were understood as central elements for increasing the crown’s economic and political power.1 The botanical expeditions financed by Charles III in Peru, Mexico (then New Spain), and Colombia (then New Granada), as well as the sanitation reforms that took place in the principal colonial cities, were a clear example of this latter component.2

In the midst of this new attitude on how to govern nature and the local population, several descendants of Spaniards who had been born in New Granada and who had appropriated enlightened European science for their political projects began to argue that an adequate diet could play an important role in the regulation of the corporeal functions and moral dispositions of the different New Granada populations according to the climate in which they lived. These Criollos had constructed a geographic discourse that emphasized the idea that the elevated Andean regions, such as those that they inhabited, offered ideal conditions for physical, moral, and intellectual activity that Europeans considered exclusive to its geography, while the lowlands represented barbarism and were an obstacle to civilization.3 These climatic discourses allowed the enlightened criollos to present themselves to the privileged local residents from the Iberian Peninsula as legitimate agents of civilization and progress in internal colonial areas, as well as to reaffirm their perceived ethnic superiority over the rest of the local population (indigenous, mestizos, and black people).4

Food science framed by humoral physiology became a part of this environmental paradigm for the construction of identities and differences in populations.5 The humoral physiology developed in the Hippocratic corpus and in the writings of Galen in classical times was a central reference point for European medicine until the 18th century, and it provided an interpretive framework that helped Europeans to make sense of the New World and its environment.6 According to this theory, the health of people depended on a delicate balance between the microcosm of the body and the macrocosm of the outside environment. The external nature consisted of four elements that had certain qualities: earth (dry), water (wet), fire (warm), and air (cold). In turn, the body was composed of four humors that combined the qualities of the elements: blood (hot and humid), yellow bile (hot and dry), phlegm (cold and wet), and black bile (cold and dry). The increase or decrease of one of these humors outside the bounds of the normal state of a person was believed to be the cause of his or her illness. Such humoral imbalance could have multiple causes related to the seasons, air, or climate, or to the age, sex, or habits of the afflicted (diet, exercise, etc.). It was also understood that each person had a predominant humor, which indicated a particular constitution: sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic. According to one’s constitution, a person would be prone to certain diseases.

During the Middle Ages, the notion of constitution was associated with different physical and moral traits, some positive and some negative. Food, which in turn had the qualities of the dry, wet, hot, and cold, served as a major therapeutic to restore humoral balance and to regulate some aspects of a person’s character. Learned colonists applied these ideas to the project of colonial expansion in the New World. They began to think that the human body was mutable, and that the effects of climate and food could transform a Spanish body into an Indian one, or vice versa. If the climate was a shared factor, adequate food (from European origin) was then the key to maintaining a racial distance between colonists and Indians. As mentioned by Rebecca Earle, during the colonial expansion race “was in part a question of digestion.”7

In the overall framework of this humoral and racial physiology, diet was understood by enlightened Criollos at the end of the colonial period as an external agent that had some of the greatest effects on a person’s physical and moral constitution. As the learned Criollo Francisco José de Caldas noted, the characteristics of different foods renewed a person’s blood, tissue, and temperament, and could ignite or extinguish the “fire of passions.” Some of these foods weakened and debilitated the body while others invigorated it; therefore, when used sparingly, they could moderate “the terrible forces of lust,” and when used in excess, they were corruptive.8 With their own bodies in mind, these enlightened Criollos proposed educational reforms that would serve to “create robust men and correct the defects of their climate, in order to make them virtuous and learned men.”9 Adequate dietetics was fundamental for achieving this goal. For example, for intellectual activity in the cold Andean climates, it was recommended to avoid the consumption of “crude and heavy foods,” as they “slow blood circulation, make nervous fluids sluggish, and reduce sufficient vibration and flexibility from sensory fibers, so that the imagination, the entire soul, and thought shall be brilliant and easy.”10 In the hot lowlands of New Granada, where it was thought that the climate was less favorable for intellectual activity, heavy and fatty foods were recommended for counteracting the “volatile nature of the fluids” and the “laxness of fibers.”11

The power of food to cancel out the effects of heat and humidity in people’s mental and physical capacities had its limits. In the “foothills of the Andes,” an enlightened criollo from Popayán asserted that everything seemed to indicate that “it would never be possible for a poet, an orator, a musician, a painter, or any other daring genius capable of honoring their country to make it out of those regions of fire.”12 It was also recommended that women who inhabited hot regions not breastfeed their children, since it produced a milk that was “less succulent and dense,” greatly influencing the children’s constitution. Meanwhile, learned Criollos continued to circulate the idea from the early modern period that moral characteristics could be transmitted via this bodily fluid, outlawing the use of wet nurses of other races.13

In addition to attempting to regulate the physical and moral characteristics of their own bodies, the Criollos made reference to the diet of other racial groups. In general, indigenous people of the Andes—who were considered the least barbaric of the New Granada region—were portrayed as a population that had suffered a process of moral and physical degeneration during colonial expansion, due to dietary, climatic, and political causes. With regard to the “lower population”14—which was characterized as the mixture of white, indigenous, and black people—of Andean cities such as Santafé and Popayán, they were described as weak and dull, due to their diet based on potatoes and chicha, an indigenous drink made with fermented corn.15 Thus, the dietetic discourses served to explain a supposed racial inferiority within these groups, but it simultaneously allowed the elite to generate a process of Hispanicization to elevate them from their “lethargy” and “stupidity” and make them into effective subjects for economic advancement.16

Although these discourses showed that the bodies and diets of different populations were beginning to be perceived as objects of political intervention for the moral and material progression of society,17 it was not until the end of the 19th century that specific nutritional research and food policies were considered. Beyond prohibiting the immoderate consumption of chicha and regulating diets in hospitals,18 later colonial authorities appeared to interpret people’s diets as a private matter, according to which the Greek maxim “know yourself” stood for having a personal knowledge of dietetics that permitted the maintenance of one’s health and self-regulation based on outside conditions. Nevertheless, the learned Criollos’ ideas about climate, diet, and Andean civilization would inform the nation-state projects of the republican elite throughout the 19th century.

Beginnings of the Republic

In the 1820s, Colombia finally entered the scene of independent republics. Enlightened criollos such as Caldas were put to death by the Spanish troops who had regained control of the New Granada territory after the independent uprisings of 1810. By 1819, republican troops were in control of the majority of New Granada territory, and in 1821 they wrote the constitution that declared the birth of Gran Colombia, whose territory comprised present-day Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, and Venezuela. This union lasted only a few years, and in 1830 Ecuador and Venezuela separated from New Granada.19

In spite of the new regime’s weakness and increasing political instability, the government turned a great deal of attention toward scientific education and, beginning in 1826, created medical schools at the new republican universities.20 The enlightened Criollo communities began to be regarded as symbolic heroes in the pantheon of the fathers of independence, and were looked upon as precursors of a national science that would become a source of patriotic pride and a political instrument for the country’s organization.21

Thus, Caldas’s proposal that human geography was the “basis of all political deliberation,” as well as the geographic model of civilization in the Andean highlands and barbarity in the lowlands, were central examples in the discussions on national construction throughout the 19th century.22 As part of these discourses, food physiology became one of the resources that accounted for regional differences in the republican project and gave legitimacy to a hierarchical social order. Until the second half of the 19th century, the teachings of Hippocrates and Galen continued as a way of conceptualizing the human body’s function and its relationship to climate and diet.23 The hygiene treatises published in Colombia during this period, in which dietetics was taught, stated that food was an important factor “for the customs of the inhabitants of different regions and the fate of the empires.”24

The influential doctor and hygiene professor José María Merizalde claimed in 1828 that most “sober and temperate” populations were those that did not eat meat and committed the fewest crimes. As he explained, “all uncivilized peoples are cruel and their customs do not persuade them to be this way: this cruelty comes from their diet; they go to war as if going hunting and treat men like they treat bears.”25 This relationship between cruelty and meat consumption was useful for Merizalde—who had participated in the wars of independence as a military doctor—to construct a framework for interpreting the incipient republic’s political stability and progress in terms of regional dietary habits. In effect, he claimed that it was precisely their diet that had shaped the “mild-mannered personality” of the inhabitants of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, although this was not the case in the plains of Casanare:

in which the diet of almost every inhabitant is meat that they consume in greater quantities than cassava and cassava bread. For this reason the plains have generated a cruel and bellicose nature, quite different from the people of Cundinamarca, whose soldiers have been more humane during war, and very tranquil in times of peace … Consequently, it can be inferred that the inhabitants of Cundinamarca are healthier, more humane, and have greater longevity.26

It was also proposed that the diet of different regions influenced the humoral constitutions of the inhabitants and their attitude toward work and discipline. It was claimed, for example, that the tendency to eat humid and cold foods, as well as fatty substances, was one of the reasons—in addition to the heat and humidity—that the people living on the banks of the Magdalena River (largely considered zambos, or of mixed race) were “choleric, phlegmatic, indolent, lazy, and content with very little to sustain them.”27

These dietetic–political discourses attempted to rationalize a national project whose territory was perceived by the elites as profoundly fragmented regionally and ethnically diverse. Although the political language of the era advocated for a nation made up of common citizens with equal rights and obligations, the food habits and their moral and organic effects continued to function as markers of regional distinction and, implicitly, of racial hierarchization.28

Liberal Period in the Mid-19th Century

Following the centralist failure of Gran Colombia, liberal politicians began to think about a federalist model that could better manage diverse regional interests and thus achieve political stability. In the 1850s and 1860s, this administrative reorganization was strengthened, and nine sovereign states with wide margins of economic and political autonomy were created following the Rionegro Constitution of 1863.29 In the center of the federalist project was the most ambitious scientific undertaking of the 19th century in Colombia: the Chorographic Commission.30 Beginning in 1850 and for more than ten years, its members traversed much of the country’s territory with the intention of providing the knowledge necessary to modernize government administration, encourage foreign immigration, and promote a specific conception of Colombian nationality.31 Using maps, statistical tables, itineraries, images, and travel accounts, they constructed a representation of the territory and its inhabitants that highlighted its regional diversity while maintaining an altitudinal hierarchy of civilization.

Within the racial taxonomies that were utilized, the notion of “regional types” was incorporated in an effort to “attach one population to a particular territory and to a determined physical environment” and generalize its moral and physical features.32 The country’s poor Andean population, the farmer “type” from the highlands, was portrayed as one of the most favorable for the nation’s progress, in large part for their “temperate” constitution and due to their light and plant-based diet. Manuel Ancízar, for example, one of the commission members and an important liberal political leader of the period, replicated the dietetic-political discourse of the aforementioned hygienists in the following terms:

In this peasant [an “old and strapping Indian” from the Vélez region], I saw the small Granadan farmer from the highlands personified … Temperate above all others, since he is sustained by vegetables and chicha, spending only half of his daily earnings at most: obedient, hardworking, and honest, he is certain to meet his few needs with several domestic industry products, and is neither greedy of others, because there is no need for it, nor envious of the luxury of the wealthy, as he does not suffer from hunger or nakedness, he does not view with anger the abundance of goods in others’ hands.33

In the midst of the liberal reforms of this period—such as the elimination of indigenous protections, the abolition of slavery and of tariff barriers, or the elimination of tithing—which were intended to encourage economic liberalism and integrate the indigenous and black populations into a market economy, the elites felt that the Andean farmer “type” would further improve their attitudes toward civilization and progress via miscegenation.34 This miscegenation (whitening) was understood as the “absorption of the indigenous race by the Europeans,” which ultimately would generate a population that was “homogeneous, vigorous, and well-defined, whose nature will be intermediary between the impulsiveness of the Spaniard and the patience and calm of the Muisca Indian: a population happily adaptable to the work of agriculture and mining.”35

Additionally, beginning in the 1860s, the idea that the indigenous people of the Andes (the Muiscas) were “temperate by nature” was seen as related to anatomical and physiological characteristics that were understood to be inherent to their race, partially displacing a humoral conception of the functioning of the human body. For example, the doctor Antonio Vargas pointed out in 1865 that, based on clinical observations, the indigenous people from Cundinamarca had a natural capacity for the manual labor of cultivating the highlands due to their wider chest, which allowed greater respiratory capacity and more dynamic digestion, compensating for their frugal and non-nutritious diet. These anatomical and physiological characteristics helped compensate for the effects of the lack of oxygen present in the air of the elevated regions. Under these same conditions, the white people, with a lesser respiratory capacity and a greater need for nutritious and abundant food, were predisposed, argued Vargas, to a sedentary and intellectual life. Black Colombians, on the other hand, constituted the “working race” of the hot lowlands.36

In addition to racially and geographically organizing the labor capacities of the different populations,37 Vargas’s words reflected that these same capacities were being related to the quantity of oxygen and nutrients present in the internal functions of the human body.38 In later decades, this new physiological point of view would add layers of meaning to the notion of race and the model of Andean civilization, which the liberal political leader José María Samper synthesized in the same period as Vargas as “at the top, civilization—toward the middle, neglect—at the bottom, violence and the horrors of slavery.”39

Nevertheless, in these discourses on food, there was no consideration of a plan of action to improve the corporal function of the “working races.” Although the regime supported several charitable institutions created to aid the most impoverished with food and shelter (governed by the Catholic ideal of charity),40 the “frugal and non-nutritious” diet of the poor population appeared to represent a positive quality that favored moral attitudes toward labor and obedience. Public health, which until then had been fundamentally concerned with managing epidemics,41 did not identify that type of diet as a social problem requiring calculation, comparison, and regulation. The relationship among climate, bodies, and food operated essentially on a discursive level that served to naturalize, in anatomic and physiological terms, a hierarchical organization of society that came from the colonial period.

It was only in the political context of the so-called conservative Regeneration from the end of the century that a series of institutional, scientific, and economic factors were blended that enabled the quantification of diet and corporeal functions in terms of energy, which, in turn, rendered them open to comparative studies and political intervention. The Criollo elites had carried out a process of economic integration during the 19th century with the goal of converting the indigenous and black populations into effective participants in a market economy and an efficient workforce, while keeping them at the margins of political life.42 With the dawn of the 20th century, this project was becoming one of energy optimization for the workers’ bodies (now understood as heat engines for transforming energy), framed in a local process of emergent industrialization and with growing concern for increasing the productivity of the country.43

Conservative Regeneration

At the end of the 19th century, Colombia underwent a political transformation characterized by a conservative, centralized, and interventionist administration. In 1878, Rafael Núñez, one of the principal leaders of this process, announced in the republic’s senate the famous phrase “regeneration or catastrophe,” shaping a new political language to refer to the organization of the state and the conditions of the nation.44 The administrative regeneración, considered highly necessary due to alleged excesses by the radical liberals of previous decades, had to be accompanied by a moral and corporeal regeneration of Colombia’s poor population, whose regional diversity had to be homogenized via a national unity based in Catholicism and Hispanicism.45 Additionally, the central government became more and more interested in expert knowledge in order to tackle the social issues generated by the country’s slow modernization.

Medicine was central to this “scientification” of social issues in the attempt to diagnose and propose treatments for the social pathologies that practitioners were identifying.46 This profession, in turn, saw an increase in its political power and social influence. In 1873, the Society for Medicine and the Natural Sciences was created, becoming a government advisory panel on health-related topics in 1890 named the National Academy of Medicine. In 1886, the National Board of Public Hygiene was established, representing one of the first steps in a long process toward institutionalization and centralization of public health in Colombia.47

In the midst of these political transformations and pursuits of “regeneration,” the local discourses surrounding the relationship among food, race, and nation acquired new meaning. In the framework for a new conception of the human body’s function, Colombian hygienists began to stress the idea that a diet high in protein and calories was an essential element for national progress and the racial regeneration of the population; as such, public policies should be responsible for regulating the production, distribution, and consumption of food. For example, Dr. Carlos Michelsen set forth a theory of the relationship between food and civilization at the end of the 19th century that was diametrically opposed to the ideas held by hygienists and politicians of the mid-19th century. On the basis of international dietary statistics, this doctor from the National Board of Public Hygiene claimed that “the grandeur, power, strength, and morals of well-run countries develop in direct proportion to their consumption of meat,” and that Bogotá consumed less than a quarter of the meat necessary for “a population to be healthy, strong, hard-working, and prosperous.”48 From a thermodynamic point of view that “the work that an individual expends is proportional to the amount of protein used in the diet,”49 several hygienists drew a connection between diet and the “future of the race” and related the physical and moral characteristics of workers from different regions to the energy content of their diets.50

This food cartography that accounted for the possibilities of national progress arose from a culture of nutrition that, as Harmke Kamminga and Andrew Cunningham have noted, was the product of modern nation-states that hoped to control the bodies of their citizens in order to increase the capacity for production.51 Before the development of bacteriology and its great impact on societal organization and human conduct,52 laboratory science had already moved into the sociopolitical sphere of nutritional physiology and public health. Chemists like Justus von Liebig in Germany had succeeded in connecting organic chemistry with human physiology in the 1840s. He constructed a nutritional paradigm that singled out nitrogen-based foods, especially those of animal origin, as the basis for corporeal work and muscle growth. Animal protein thus appeared as the principal source of progress for modern Western society. With more meat consumption would come greater individual vigor and greater collective progress and civilization. Liebig then proposed a series of social reforms for the government to regulate the production, distribution, and price of meat; a rational diet system was required for the growing working class in Germany in order to increase productivity, following the same principles that applied to military rations.53

Although Liebig’s protein paradigm was later called into question (by demonstrations that fats and carbohydrates were also sources of energy), his quantitative approximation to food chemistry, as well as his emphasis on establishing diets that would improve a body’s efficiency and productivity, were central elements in the political aims of the Colombian hygienists who wanted a modern society of healthy and productive citizens. Indeed, in the last decade of the 19th century, research was beginning to quantify the food habits of the country’s different populations in terms of nutrients and calories. In these studies, food was understood as the quantity of fuel that the body needed to consume for optimal performance according to environmental conditions and the work to be done. At the heart of this analysis was the goal of increasing the “productive power of the country” to the extent that it could actually “restore the strength that had been destroyed by work,” thus avoiding the “destruction of the living machine.”54

Although these studies continued to mention race (whether in regional terms, such as the “Antioqueño race,” or ethnic terms, such as the “Muisca race”), in general the emphasis was on the body of a “working class” that was conceptualized as an energy-transforming heat engine.55 From this perspective of energy efficiency, a new framework of regional hierarchization and differentiation was proposed. Poor inhabitants from regions such as the (Atlantic) coast, Antioquia, or the Casanare plains were characterized as stronger, more loquacious, and more intelligent than those from the highlands of Boyacá and Cundinamarca due to their more nutritious diet with greater meat protein content. In fact, these studies pointed out a “physiological absurdity” in Colombia, since meat consumption diminished as altitude increased.56 This absurdity was related to the idea that a meat-heavy diet could compensate for the “high-altitude aggressions,” such as lack of oxygen.57 In the case of the Bogotá savanna, it was noted that the presence of meat in the working-class diet was almost nonexistent, while consumption of corn constituted the basis of this diet. Low consumption of protein, as well as an elevated consumption of chicha—this high consumption of chicha was explained by some physicians as the physiological effect of bodies with a large energy deficit—were given as principal causes of a process of racial degeneration among the poor populations of the Colombian Andean regions.58

The historical roots of this process of racial degeneration were identified by several conservative doctors as the result of liberal politics in the middle of the 19th century. For example, the claim was made that the “Muisca race” had tended toward a substantial and restorative diet during the colonial period that produced a strong and intelligent population. These doctors argued that the politics of economic liberalism in the mid-19th century, like the suppression of indigenous protections, led to physiological misery for a mestizo race that, under other political circumstances, would have been well-suited to the atmospheric and climatic conditions of the Andean highlands.59

Although they were referring to different historical, social, and biological causes, elites in the first two decades of the 20th century indiscriminately spread the notion that the poor populations of Colombia, in spite of regional and racial differences, were undergoing a process of “physiological degeneration” that prevented them from becoming an efficient workforce for the nation’s progress.60 At the same time, medical authorities were petitioning the government to take regulatory food measures for the “working class” and establish dietetic regimens according to climatic conditions. These measures, which were aimed at improving the human body’s energy levels, were understood as an integral part of the local eugenic movement. The optimization of the human machine—the physiological regeneration of the poor population—was thus understood as an acquired characteristic that one could inherit so that future generations of workers would be more efficient and have a greater work capacity.61 This social-engineering project for the construction of the Colombian citizen that incorporated elite ideals of a healthy, hard-working, and efficient poor population began to unfold in the first two decades of the 20th century and would gain political strength in the 1930s.

The First Half of the 20th Century

After the Thousand Days’ War and the loss of the Department of Panama led to a more pragmatic spirit among the conservative governments in the quest for economic development, various popular manuals on hygiene and physiology, domestic economy, and child care were published and distributed throughout Colombia to homes and public schools. One of the aims of these texts was to instill in mothers and children the importance of a rational diet for sustaining health and achieving a balance of energy between what they consumed and what they exerted while working. Colombian mothers thus had a duty to be familiar with health and nutrition, since they were nurturing the healthy and strong citizens of tomorrow.

The National Board of Public Hygiene was designated as the institution responsible for defining “the quantity and proportion of the food materials” in schoolchildren’s diets in Colombia, just as the Pediatric Society of Bogotá, founded in 1917, counseled the nutritional aspects of the social project Gotas de Leche (“Drops of Milk”).62 Initially a private instution, Gotas de Leche supported poor mothers who were unable to nurse their children by supplying them with milk and health assistance. The press depicted Gotas de Leche as a space to produce “beautiful models of race and strength” and to achieve “renovation within the poor population.”63

With the Liberal Party’s rise to power in the 1930s after almost half a century of conservative governments, the role of the state in the moral and biological improvement of Colombia’s poor population via nutrition acquired a much larger presence. As President Alfonso López Pumarejo, leader of the liberal “Marching Revolution,” declared, the transformation of the nature of the Colombian population had much to do with the configuration of several food practices based in modern nutrition.64 This revolution was to take place in the context of growing industrialization and a greater urban demographic, as well as the entrance of the country into a global market economy due to the strength of the coffee trade during the liberal period, which lasted until the end of World War II. The intention of the liberals was to modernize the government apparatus with specialized departments, structure a popular cultural policy, and link the economy, health, and labor as a duty of the state.65

The research pioneered at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, drawing connections among the poor population’s food, health, and productivity, began to multiply and gain the support of a number of governmental institutions, resulting in the greater prominence of the social problem of food and a particular approach to it. The project of “strengthening the race” and lifting it out of its “biological tragedy” now implied a “direct intervention of the State on the industrial factors of the production, transportation, distribution, and consumption of food, as well as on nutritional education, which naturally must be at the forefront.”66 Therefore, the ignorance of Colombia’s poor population about nutrition, which was said to be reflected in their traditional food habits, had to be reversed using educational campaigns accompanied by other policies and cultural institutions. As the liberal hygienist and subsequent Minister of Hygiene Jorge Bejarano said, it was essential to create a national council of food in order to find a solution to the “national problem” of malnutrition, “in which there is not only a social component, but also biological and racial ones, which are necessary to study in all of their minutiae.”67

First, several studies on the hygienic conditions of schoolchildren and laborers in different workplaces (the oil industry, railroads, mines, etc.), in which calorie content and food rations were calculated, were carried out by the National Department of Public Hygiene, created in 1931 as a centralized and autonomous administrative service, and later, beginning in 1938, the Ministry of Labor, Hygiene, and Social Security. The findings were compared to the minimum requirements set by international standards, and balanced, high-energy diets were proposed in order to avoid “biological fatigue.” Additionally, the ministry had the support of the Comptroller General of the Republic, a position that had been created in 1923 because of a recommendation from the North American mission on economic matters that the government had employed that same year (the Kemmerer Mission). At the end of the 1930s, this institution requested a number of studies on the working class’s conditions and standards of living in the country’s principal cities. Many of these studies completed systematic analyses of the diet, creating statistical tables that included types of families, food consumed, prices, chemical composition of food nutrients, and caloric and vitamin content, among other factors.68 The level of malnutrition identified was pinpointed as a main cause of the “racial degeneration” of the local population, and a rational diet was presented as the key to overcoming the “biological tragedy” that was said to be a “colonial legacy” that had persisted up to that point.69 Several of the studies’ results were published and disseminated by the Ministry of Labor, Hygiene, and Social Security in order to “make comprehensible to the public the basis of the biological policy” that the government was trying to develop and to “form a clear awareness of sanitation in all of the country’s social classes.”70

During the same decade, institutions aimed at providing food assistance that had been developing for years, such as Gotas de Leche and school dining halls, gained strength and acquired official status. Both of these institutions hoped to indoctrinate mothers and children with the principles of a scientific calorie-based diet and to teach them to understand their bodies as heat engines that needed to be in optimal shape in order to transform energy from food into productive work. They also created “school vacation camps” where rural adolescents from different regions came together for three-month periods for their “physiological restoration” and were taught a hygiene regimen that included physical education and a rational diet.71 Both the dining halls and the camps were coordinated by the Ministry of Education, which began an important cultural diffusion campaign in 1935 called Biblioteca Aldeana (“Village Library”).72 The content of these libraries, disseminated to every municipality within national territory, included, first and foremost, a series of technical handbooks with practical knowledge for the rural population. Knowledge of energy-based food and of body–machine function were central subjects taught by several of these handbooks.73

In addition to attempting to regulate and institute specific diets with the goal of restoring energy to an urban and rural working class that continued to be viewed as weak and racially inferior, albeit open to hereditary and physiological improvement, the liberal government was also interested in knowing the traditional customs (including food habits) of these social groups in different regions. The Economic Geographies of Colombia and the National Folklore Survey were institutionalized efforts to describe in detail the food traditions, among other things, of the “masses” of every region in the country.74 This social conglomerate, whom liberal leaders of the era considered a kind of “national soul,” emerged as a central force for the transformation of the country, reflecting changes in the relationship between the elites and the working class, as well as in traditional forms of domination.75 The democratization of the culture included a new interest in popular traditions. While traditional drinks such as chicha continued to be condemned, other popular products such as panela (unrefined cane sugar)—which represented an important part of the internal rural economy and a traditional craft—was depicted as the source of energy and nutrients that had allowed Colombian laborers to conquer the Andean cordillera and soldiers to display their heroism during the wars of independence.76 The history of the country, as described by the hygienist Jorge Bejarano, “is blended with that of this food.”77

Despite this food nationalism, a physiology- and energy-based conception of the human body remained profoundly connected with a racialized view of the working population in the plan for creating the modern citizen, as well as a dietary hierarchy expressed in caloric terms.

Discussion of the Literature

The relationship of race, food, and nation is an academic topic that has acquired increasing relevance in Latin America in recent decades. Types of foods, their consumption norms, and their methods of preparation have been addressed as agents of social hierarchization, status markers, and constructors of identity and racial differences in the historic contexts of the encounter between the Old World and the New, colonial expansion, and the construction of Latin American nation-states. A groundbreaking work that tackles these three periods together, for the case of Mexico, is the already-classic book by Jeffrey M. Pilcher ¡Que vivan los tamales!78 For the period of colonial expansion in the territory now known as Colombia, Gregorio Saldarriaga’s recent book Alimentación e identidades en el Nuevo Reino de Granada, siglos XVI y XVII represents an important contribution to this field of literature and combines in his analysis the symbolic values of food with systems of food production and distribution.79 In addition to these aspects, several historians have called attention to the ways in which food science, framed within a humoral physiology, supplied a scientific language to the discourses on human differences among the Spanish, Criollos, and indigenous peoples during the 16th and 17th centuries.80

These works on physiology, the body, and food have introduced new elements to the theoretical discussion on the pertinence of relating the notion of race—and scientific racism—to historical discourses and practices on human difference, exclusion, and hierarchization during the colonial period.81 These theoretical discussions take on special relevance from a Latin American perspective that advocates for taking into account the “coloniality of knowledge” as a constituent element of the modern projects of nation-state construction.82 Nevertheless, the discourse and knowledge of dietetics have hardly been kept in mind, at least in the case of Colombia, when it comes to analyzing what some academics have called the “genealogies” of Latin American nationality.83

Traditional historiography has underscored the role of modern science as a central element in the processes of independence in the Americas and in the origin of new nations, and as a source of the values of liberty, equality, and democracy.84 Nonetheless, from a critical perspective—among traditions such as the Frankfurt school, the social history of science, or postcolonial studies—the emphasis has been placed on the relationship of science with the exercise of power and domination. In the case of New Granada, the enlightened sciences and their practices have been analyzed as an essential tool in bringing order to nature, legitimize human difference, hierarchize society, and regulate people’s lives. Some of these works have taken the dietetic discourses into consideration, although there has been little academic work dedicated exclusively to the topic.85

By the 19th century, under projects of nation-state construction and consolidation, abundant literature had been published that relates scientific practices and knowledge to processes of representation of the nation, the territory, and its people, and with strategies adopted to enforce discipline and regulation on citizens.86 The configuration of a science and culture of nutrition as part of these processes has begun to attract attention. As many academics have pointed out, social thought in Latin America during the late 19th century acquired a Comtean and Spencerian positivist perspective, contributing to the “medicalization” of social problems. Within these social pathologies, the supposed state of “racial degeneration” of the poor population—whether indigenous, black, or mestizo—was thought to be one of the principal obstacles for civilization and progress in Latin American nations.87 The nutritional discourses of the era lent physiological meaning to this growing notion of racial degeneration and helped to construct a food hierarchy in terms of nutrients and calories.88

As part of the eugenics movements in Latin America from the first half of the 20th century—generally informed by neo-Lamarkian hereditary theories—a proper diet was understood to be a central element in the racial improvement of a population, as well as to produce healthy and productive bodies.89 Within this general framework of construction of modern citizens, food science had been analyzed in relation to public health campaigns and policies, nutritional education programs, and food assistance programs, among other things, under conceptions of race, gender, and class.90 For the Colombian context, in addition to the processes of food production and consumption, some of these issues had also been approached from the analysis of specific food items such as meat, chicha, and panela.91

Primary Sources

In the Colombian archives, there is no specific collection of primary sources dedicated exclusively to food science. However, in the National Library of Colombia and in the Luis Ángel Arango Library, both in the city of Bogotá, there exists an extensive collection of manuals on urbanity, health, physiology, domestic economy, and child care that represent an important source of information on nutritional and dietetic discourses from throughout the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. In these libraries, it is also possible to consult the medical-degree theses that students used to publish upon completing their studies. Several of these theses, first published in the 1880s, address issues of food and nutrition physiology. Both libraries possess a virtual catalog from which PDF versions of these materials can be downloaded. The historical archive of the Library of the National University of Colombia contains a complete collection of these theses and offers a digital collection from which a great deal of material relevant to the history of nutrition can be downloaded.

The reports that the ministries used to present to the national congress every year (especially those from the Ministries of Government, Education, and Labor, Hygiene, and Social Security) represent a rich source of information on food and nutrition policies for a large part of the time period analyzed. The Library of Congress of Colombia, also located in Bogotá, has a complete collection of these reports. Additionally, the municipal reports from various Colombian cities contain relevant information, although there is no single archive that has them.

There are several scientific journals with relative longevity that make it possible to track the development of nutritional practices and discourse and their relationship to notions of race and nation. The Revista de Higiene, the official communications outlet for public health in Colombia created at the end of the 1880s, or the Revista Médica, initiated with the creation of the Society for Medicine and the Natural Sciences in 1873, are two relevant examples. In Medellín, the Anales de la Academia de Medicina de Medellín began in the late 1880s. In Cali, the Boletín Médico del Cauca began publishing in the 1890s. The Revista Nacional de Agricultura, created in the 1910s, and the Anales de Economía y Estadística, published by the Comptroller General of the Republic beginning in the 1930s, are both good resources on this subject. One of the main journals for health popularization in the 1930s, funded by the government and widely circulated in many regions of Colombia, was Salud y Sanidad, published between 1932 and 1942. In this resource, a number of different dietary health campaigns may be followed.

The aforementioned Nacional Library and Luis Ángel Arango Library have the majority of these journals, though they do not have every issue. The University of Antioquia Library has digitalized a large part of the Anales de la Academia de Medicina de Medellín, which may be consulted online, and in the Library Jorge Garcés in Cali, the Boletín Médico del Cauca is available. The Jorge E. Cavalier Library of the National Academy of Medicine in Bogotá also has several of these journals, as well as an important collection of treatises on hygiene and medicine from the 19th and 20th centuries.

In addition, there are several cultural journals spanning many years, such as Cromos, published since 1916, or El Gráfico, founded in 1910, that are a rich source of historical nutritional analysis. They provide not only articles but also food advertisements of value to scholars.

Further Reading

  • Appelbaum, Nancy, Anne S. Macpherson, and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt, eds. Race and Nation in Modern Latin America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
  • Arias, Julio. Nación y diferencia en el siglo XIX colombiano: Orden nacional, racialismo y taxonomías poblacionales. Bogotá: Uniandes, 2005.
  • Bourges, Héctor, José M. Bengoa, and Alejandro O’Donnell, eds. Historia de la nutrición en América Latina. Panama City: Sociedad Latinoamericana de Nutrición, 2009.
  • Camacho, Juana. “Embodied Tastes: Food and Agrobiodiversity in the Colombian Andes.” PhD diss., University of Georgia, 2011.
  • Camacho, Juana, Alejandro Guarín, and Shawn van Ausdal, eds. “Historias de las comidas y la comida en la historia.” Revista de Estudios Sociales 29 (2008): 1–196.
  • Counihan, Carole, ed. Food and Culture: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 2008.
  • Cullather, Nick. The Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle Against Poverty in Asia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.
  • Earle, Rebecca. The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492–1700. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Escobar, Arturo. Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.
  • Flórez-Malagón, Alberto, ed. El poder de la carne: Historias de ganaderías en la primera mitad del siglo XX en Colombia. Bogotá: Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2008.
  • Kamminga, Harmke, and Andrew Cunningham, eds. The Science and Culture of Nutrition, 1840–1940. Atlanta: Rodopi, 1995.
  • Laudan, Rachel. Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.
  • Patiño, Víctor Manuel. Historia de la cultura material en la América Equinoccial. Vol. I: Alimentación y alimentos. Bogotá: Instituto Caro y Cuervo, 1990.
  • Pedraza, Zandra. En cuerpo y alma: Visiones del progreso y de la felicidad. Bogotá: Uniandes, 1999.
  • Phillips, Jim, and David F. Smith, eds. Food, Science, Policy and Regulation in the Twentieth Century: International and Comparative Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2001.
  • Pierce, Gretchen, and Áurea Toxqui, eds. Alcohol in Latin America: A Social and Cultural History. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2014.
  • Pilcher, Jeffrey M. ¡Que vivan los tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998.
  • Pilcher, Jeffrey M., ed. The Oxford Handbook of Food History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Rabinbach, Anson. The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.
  • Saldarriaga, Gregorio. Alimentación e identidades en el Nuevo Reino de Granada, siglos XVI y XVII. Bogotá: Editorial de la Universidad del Rosario, 2011.
  • Super, John C., and Thomas C. Wright, eds. Food, Politics, and Society in Latin America. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985.
  • Turner, Bryan S. Regulating Bodies: Essays in Medical Sociology. London: Routledge, 1992.
  • Weismantel, Mary J. Food, Gender and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland, 1988.


  • 1. Renán Silva, Los ilustrados de Nueva Granada 1760–1808: Genealogía de una comunidad de interpretación (Medellín: Banco de la república/EAFIT, 2002).

  • 2. Mauricio Nieto Olarte, Remedios para el Imperio: Historia natural y la apropiación del nuevo mundo (Bogotá: ICAHN, 2000); Adriana Alzate, Suciedad y orden: Reformas sanitarias borbónicas en la Nueva Granada 1760–1810 (Bogotá: Universidad del Rosario, 2007).

  • 3. Regarding enlightened science’s debate on the supposed inferiority of the nature and inhabitants of the Americas, see Antonello Gerbi, La disputa del Nuevo Mundo: Historia de una polémica, 1750–1900 (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1993).

  • 4. Alfonso Múnera, Fronteras imaginadas: La construcción de las razas y de la geografía en el siglo XIX colombiano (Barcelona: Planeta, 2005); Santiago Castro‑Gómez, La hybris del punto cero: Ciencia, raza e ilustración en la Nueva Granada (1750–1816) (Bogotá: Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2005); Mauricio Nieto Olarte, Orden natural y orden social: Ciencia y política en el semanario del Nuevo Reyno de Granada (Madrid: C.S.I.C, 2007).

  • 5. As Julio Arias states, this Criollo environmentalism helped construct a human hierarchy that was “supported in the interaction between the Hippocratic tradition, the Catholic moral regime, naturalist expert knowledge, and the project of civilization.” Julio Arias Vanegas, “Seres, cuerpos y espíritus del clima, ¿pensamiento racial en la obra de Francisco José de Caldas?” Revista de Estudios Sociales 27 (2007): 16–30; 28. For a general historical panorama on the environmental paradigm to account for human difference, see David Arnold, The Problem of Nature: Environment, Culture, and European Expansion (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996).

  • 6. Jorge Cañizares Esguerra, “New World, New Stars: Patriotic Astrology and the Invention of Indian and Creole Bodies in Colonial Spanish America, 1600–1650,” American Historical Review 104.1 (1999): 33–68; Rebecca Earle, The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492–1700 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Alexandre C. Varella, “A dietética no novo mundo: Aliementos para a natureza e o governo dos corpos de índios e espanhóis, entre os séculos XVI e XVII,” in Al otro lado del cuerpo: Estudios biopolíticos en América Latina, edited by Hilderman Cardona and Zandra Pedraza, 23–52 (Bogotá: Ediciones Uniandes, 2014).

  • 7. Rebecca Earle, ““If You Eat Their Food …”: Diets and Bodies in Early Colonial Spanish America,” American Historical Review 115.3 (2010): 688–713; 697.

  • 8. Francisco José Caldas, “El influjo del clima sobre los seres organizados,” in Semanario del Nuevo Reino de Granada (Bogotá: Biblioteca Popular de Cultura Colombiana, 1942), 194.

  • 9. Francisco Antonio Ulloa, “Ensayo sobre el influxo del clima en la educación física y moral del hombre del Nuevo Reyno de Granada,” Semanario del Nuevo Reyno de Granada 31–41 (1808): 276.

  • 10. Ulloa, “Ensayo sobre el influxo,” 333–334.

  • 11. Nieto Olarte, Orden natural y orden social, 174–181.

  • 12. Ulloa, “Ensayo sobre el influxo,” 293.

  • 13. On the idea that breastfeeding could transmit moral inclinations and the idea that the milk of wet nurses (Jews, Muslims, and conversos; black, indigenous, and mestiza women) could transform humoral composition—ideas that were present in both the Iberian Peninsula and the colonies of the Americas, see Max S. Hering Torres, “Saberes médicos—Saberes teológicos: De mujeres y hombres anómalos,” in Cuerpos anómalos, edited by Max S. Hering Torres (Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2008).

  • 14. Francisco José Caldas, “Estado de la Geografía del Virreinato de Santafé de Bogotá, con relación a la economía y el comercio,” in Semanario del Nuevo Reino de Granada (Bogotá: Biblioteca Popular de Cultura Colombiana, 1942), 22.

  • 15. Nieto, Orden natural y orden social, 237–247.

  • 16. Pedro Fermín Vargas, Pensamientos políticos y memoria sobre la población del Nuevo Reino de Granada (Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional, 1944), 99. For a general discussion on these issues, see Frank Safford, “Race, Integration, and Progress: Elite Attitudes and the Indian in Colombia, 1750–1870,” Hispanic American Historical Review 71 (1991): 1–33.

  • 17. Nieto, Orden natural y orden social; Castro‑Gómez, La hybris del punto cero.

  • 18. Alzate, Suciedad y orden; Adriana Alzate, “Comer en el hospital colonial: Apuntes sobre la alimentación en tres hospitales neogranadinos a finales del siglo XVIII,” Historia Crítica 46 (2012): 18–42; Estela Restrepo Zea, El Hospital San Juan de Dios 1635–1895: Una historia de la enfermedad, pobreza y muerte en Bogotá (Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2011).

  • 19. Marco Palacios and Frank Safford, Colombia: País fragmentado, sociedad dividida, su historia (Bogotá: Editorial Norma, 2002), 229–271.

  • 20. Jaime Jaramillo Uribe, “El proceso de la educación en la República (1830–1886),” in Nueva Historia de Colombia, edited by Jaime Jaramillo Uribe, vol. 2, 223–250 (Bogotá: Planeta, 1989).

  • 21. On the construction of a scientific tradition in Colombia during the 19th century, see Diana Obregón, Sociedades científicas en Colombia: La invención de una tradición, 1859–1936 (Bogotá: Banco de la República, 1992).

  • 22. Julio Arias, Nación y diferencia en el siglo XIX colombiano: Orden nacional, racialismo y taxonomías poblacionales (Bogotá: Uniandes, 2005); Alfonso Múnera, Fronteras imaginadas: La construcción de las razas y de la geografía en el siglo XIX colombiano (Barcelona: Planeta, 2005); Anna-Telse Jagdmann, Del poder y la geografía: “La cartografía como fuente de legitimación en Colombia” (PhD diss., Freie Universität Berlin, 2006); Lina Del Castillo, “The Science of Nation Building: A History of Geographic Sciences in Colombia, 1821–1921” (PhD diss., University of Miami, 2007).

  • 23. Zandra Pedraza, En cuerpo y alma: Visiones del progreso y de la felicidad (Bogotá: Uniandes, 1999), 115.

  • 24. José Félix Merizalde, Epitome de los elementos de higiene, o, De la influencia de las cosas fisicas i morales sobre el hombre, i de los medios de conservar la salud: Estractados de Estevan Tourtelle, traducidos al castellano, i añadidos con otras observaciones nuevas por José Félix Merizalde (Bogotá: Imprenta de Pedro Cubides, 1828), 176.

  • 25. Merizalde, Epitome de los elementos de higiene, 177. This manual was a summary that Merizalde wrote of a hygiene treatise by the French doctor Estevan Tourtelle, to which he added many of his own observations.

  • 26. Ibid., 178.

  • 27. Ibid., 50.

  • 28. On the myth of racial equality at the beginnings of the Colombian republic, as well as the implicit racism present in the actions of the first republican elites, see Marixa Lasso, Myths of Harmony: Race and Republicanism during the Age of Revolution, Colombia, 1795–1831 (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007).

  • 29. Edwin Cruz Rodríguez, “El federalismo en la historiografía política colombiana (1853–1886),” Historia Crítica 44 (2011): 104–127.

  • 30. Efraín Sánchez, Gobierno y geografía: Agustín Codazzi y la Comisión Corográfica de la Nueva Granada (Bogotá: Banco de la República, 1998).

  • 31. Olga Restrepo Forero, “Un imaginario de la nación: Lectura de láminas y descripciones de la Comisión Corográfica,” Anuario Colombiano de Historia Social y de la Cultura 26 (1999): 30–58; Nancy Appelbaum, “Evisioning the Nation: The Mid-Nineteenth-Century Colombian Chorographic Commission,” in State and Nation Making in Latin America and Spain: Republics of the Possible, edited by Miguel Centeno and Agustín Ferraro, 375–395 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

  • 32. Arias, Nación y diferencia en el siglo XIX, 107.

  • 33. Manuel Ancízar, Peregrinación de Alpha (Bogotá: Imprenta de Echeverría Hermanos, 1853), 107.

  • 34. Safford, “Race, Integration, and Progress”; Brooke Larson, Trials of Nation Making: Liberalism, Race, and Ethnicity in the Andes, 1810–1910 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

  • 35. Ancízar, Peregrinación de Alpha, 113.

  • 36. Antonio Vargas Vega, “Estudios de climatolojia comparada—Elevación del suelo,” Gaceta Médica 1 (1865): 1–2.

  • 37. Mónica García, “Clima, enfermedad y raza en la medicina colombiana del siglo XIX,” in Patologías de la Patria: Enfermedades, enfermos y Nación en América Latina, edited by Gilberto Hochman and Steven Palmer, 59–74 (Buenos Aires: Lugar Editorial, 2012); Max S. Hering Torres, “Orden y diferencia: Colombia a mediados del siglo XIX,” in Ensamblando heteroglosias, edited by Olga Restrepo Forero, 375–393 (Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2013).

  • 38. Stefan Pohl‑Valero, “¿Agresiones de la altura y degeneración fisiológica? La biografía del ‘clima’ como objeto de investigación científica en Colombia durante el siglo XIX e inicios del XX,” Revista Ciencias de la Salud 13, Special Issue (2015): 65–83.

  • 39. José M. Samper, Ensayo sobre las revoluciones políticas y la condición social de las repúblicas colombianas (hispano-americanas); con un apéndice sobre la orografía y la población de la Confederación Granadina (Paris: E. Thunot et C. Press, 1861), 299.

  • 40. Beatriz Castro, Caridad y beneficencia, en el tratamiento de la pobreza en Colombia 1870–1930 (Bogotá: Universidad Externado de Colombia, 2007).

  • 41. Emilio Quevedo et al., Historia de la medicina en Colombia, Vol. 2: De la medicina ilustrada a la medicina anatomoclínica (1782–1865) (Bogotá: Norma, 2008).

  • 42. Safford, “Race, Integration, and Progress”; Larson, Trials of Nation Making; Arias, Nación y diferencia en el siglo XIX.

  • 43. Stefan Pohl‑Valero, “The Energetic Body: Machines, Organisms and Social Thermodynamics in Colombian Path to Modernity,” in The Routledge History of Latin American Culture, edited by Carlos Salomon (New York: Routledge, 2016).

  • 44. María del Pilar Melgarejo Acosta, “Trazando las huellas del lenguaje político de La Regeneración: La nación colombiana y el problema de su heterogeneidad excepcional,” in Genealogías de la colombianidad: Formaciones discursivas y tecnologías de gobierno en los siglos XIX y XX, edited by Santiago Castro‑Gómez and Eduardo Restrepo, 278–307 (Bogotá: Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2008).

  • 45. Hayley Froysland, “The regeneración de la raza in Colombia,” in Nationalism in the New World, edited by Don H. Doyle and Marco Antonio Pamplona (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 2006); Rubén Sierra Mejía, ed., Miguel Antonio Caro y la cultura de su época (Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2002); Leopoldo Múnera Ruiz and Edwin Cruz Rodríguez, eds., La Regeneración revisitada: Pluriverso y hegemonía en la construcción del Estado-nación en Colombia (Medellín: La Carreta Editores, 2011).

  • 46. Javier Sáenz Obregón, Oscar Saldarriaga, and Armando Ospina, Mirar la infancia: Pedagogía, moral y modernidad en Colombia, 1903–1946 (Bogotá: Uniandes, 1997).

  • 47. Diana Obregón, Sociedades científicas en Colombia; Mario Hernández, La salud fragmentada en Colombia, 1910–1946 (Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2002); Emilio Quevedo et al., Café y Gusano, Mosquitos y petróleo: El tránsito desde la higiene hacia la medicina tropical y la salud pública en Colombia 1873–1953 (Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2004).

  • 48. Carlos Michelsen Uribe, “Carnes: Su consumo en Bogotá,” Revista de Higiene 3.29 (1891): 227–229; 228; and Carlos Michelsen Uribe, “Carne,” Revista de Higiene 1.4 (1887): 55–59; 55.

  • 49. Michelsen Uribe, “Carne,” 55–56.

  • 50. Stefan Pohl‑Valero, “‘La raza entra por la boca’: Energy, Diet, and Eugenics in Colombia, 1890–1940,” Hispanic American Historical Review 94.3 (2014): 455–486.

  • 51. Harmke Kamminga and Andrew Cunningham, eds., The Science and Culture of Nutrition, 1840–1940 (Atlanta: Rodopi, 1995).

  • 52. Bruno Latour, The Pasteurization of France (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). For Colombia’s case, see Jorge Márquez Valderrama, Ciudad, miasmas y microbios: La irrupción de la ciencia pasteriana en Antioquia (Medellín: Editorial de la Universidad de Antioquia, 2005); Mónica García, “From Medical Geography to Germ Theory in Colombia, 1860–1900” (PhD diss., University of Edinburgh, 2009).

  • 53. Mark R. Finlay, “Early Marketing of the Theory of Nutrition: The Science and Culture of Liebig’s Extract of Meat,” in The Science and Culture of Nutrition, 1840–1940, edited by Harmke Kamminga and Andrew Cunningham, 48–74 (Atlanta: Rodopi, 1995). See also Anson Rabinbach, The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); Philipp Sarasin and Jakob Tanner, eds., Physiologie und industrielle Gesellschaft: Studien zur Verwissenschaftlichung des Körpers im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1998).

  • 54. Manuel Cotes, Régimen alimenticio de los jornaleros de la Sabana de Bogotá: Estudio presentado al Primer Congreso Médico Nacional de Colombia (Bogotá: Imp. de La Luz, 1893), 41–42 and 6.

  • 55. Pohl‑Valero, “The Energetic Body.”

  • 56. Pohl‑Valero, “‘La raza entra por la boca.’”

  • 57. Pohl‑Valero, “¿Agresiones de la altura y degeneración fisiológica?”

  • 58. Pohl‑Valero, “‘La raza entra por la boca.’” See details of the discourses on meat consumption and hygienist practices of the era in Ingrid Johanna Bolívar, “Discursos estatales y geografía del consumo de carne de res en Colombia,” in El poder de la carne: Historias de ganaderías en la primera mitad del siglo XX en Colombia, edited by Alberto Flórez‑Malagón (Bogotá: Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2008). For the case of chicha understood as social pathology, see Óscar Iván Calvo Isaza and Marta Saade Granados, La ciuidad en cuarentena: Chicha, patología social y profilaxis (Bogotá: Ministerio de Cultura, 2002); Carlos Ernesto Noguera, Medicina y política: Discurso médico y prácticas higiénicas durante la primera mitad del siglo XX en Colombia (Medellín: Fondo Editorial Universidad EAFIT, 2003).

  • 59. Pohl‑Valero, “‘La raza entra por la boca.’”

  • 60. Although the majority of the intellectuals who participated in the discussion on “the race problems in Colombia” shared the general idea of the “degeneration” of Colombia’s poor population, the causes argued for this situation were multiple and varied. For a historiographical review of this debate, see Catalina Muñoz, “Estudio introductorio: Más allá del problema racial: El determinismo geográfico y las ‘dolencias sociales,’” in Los problemas de la raza en Colombia: Más allá del problema racial: El determinismo geográfico y las “dolencias sociales,” edited by Catalina Muñoz (Bogotá: Editorial Universidad del Rosario, 2011).

  • 61. Pohl‑Valero, “‘La raza entra por la boca.’”

  • 62. Bolívar, “Discursos estatales y geografía,” 254; Pohl‑Valero, “‘La raza entra por la boca.’”

  • 63. Jorge Bejarano, “Las Gotas de Leche: Su significado y valor social,” Cromos 8.181 (1919): 189–190; 190.

  • 64. Bolívar, “Discursos estatales y geografía,” 258.

  • 65. Hernández, La salud fragmentada en Colombia; Renán Silva, República Liberal, intelectuales y cultura popular (Medellín: La Carreta Editores, 2005); Catalina Muñoz, “To Colombianize Colombia: Cultural politics, Modernization and Nationalism in Colombia, 1930–1946” (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2009); Hanni Jalil, “Curing A Sick Nation: Public Health and Citizenship in Colombia 1930–1940” (PhD diss., University of California, 2015).

  • 66. Rubén Gamboa Echandía and Héctor Pedraza, Higiene integral y alimentación del niño (Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional, 1940), 50. See also Laurentino Muñoz, La tragedia biológica del pueblo colombiano: Estudio de observación y de vulgarización (Cali: Editorial América, 1935).

  • 67. Jorge Bejarano, “El consejo nacional de alimentación,” Revista Nacional de Agricultura 413 (1938): 2265–2267; 2266.

  • 68. Many of these studies were published in the Comptroller’s journal, Anales de Economía y Estadística.

  • 69. Francisco Socarrás, “Alimentación de la clase obrera en Bogotá,” Anales de Economía y Estadística 2.5 (1939): 1–77.

  • 70. José Francisco Socarrás, Alimentación de la clase obrera en Bogotá (Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional, 1939), 3.

  • 71. Norberto Solano Lozano, “Colonia escolar de vacaciones,” in Educación nacional: Informe al congreso 1938, Appendix I, edited by Joaquín Castro Martínez, 30–95 (Bogotá: Editorial ABC, 1938).

  • 72. On the cultural project Biblioteca Aldeana, see Silva, República liberal.

  • 73. Pohl‑Valero, “‘La raza entra por la boca.’”

  • 74. Bolívar, “Discursos estatales y geografía,” 264–265. For a detailed study on the Folklore Survey, see Renán Silva, Sociedades campesinas, transición social y cambio cultural en Colombia: La encuesta folclórica nacional de 1942: Aproximaciones analíticas y empíricas (Medellín: La Carreta Editores, 2006).

  • 75. Silva, República liberal, 24.

  • 76. Natalia Robledo Escobar, “Higiene y panela: Cambios en el discurso y las políticas del estado colombiano en el marco de las transformaciones neoliberales,” Maguaré 24 (2010): 197–231.

  • 77. Jorge Bejarano, Alimentación y nutrición en Colombia (Bogotá: Editorial Cromos, 1941), 64.

  • 78. Jeffrey M. Pilcher, ¡Que vivan los tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998).

  • 79. Gregorio Saldarriaga, Alimentación e identidades en el Nuevo Reino de Granada, siglos XVI y XVII (Bogotá: Editorial de la Universidad del Rosario, 2011).

  • 80. Rebecca Earle, The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492–1700 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Alexandre C. Varella, “A dietética no novo mundo: Aliementos para a natureza e o governo dos corpos de índios e espanhóis, entre os séculos XVI e XVII,” in Al otro lado del cuerpo: Estudios biopolíticos en América Latina, edited by Hilderman Cardona and Zandra Pedraza, 23–52 (Bogotá: Ediciones Uniandes, 2014). On the configuration of a “racial physiology” in the colonial Americas, see Jorge Cañizares Esguerra, “New World, New Stars: Patriotic Astrology and the Invention of Indian and Creole Bodies in Colonial Spanish America, 1600–1650,” American Historical Review 104.1 (1999): 33–68; Jorge Cañizares Esguerra, Nature, Empire and Nation: Explorations of the History of Science in the Iberian World (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006).

  • 81. Jorge Cañizares has contended, for example, that Criollos in the Americas in the 17th century constructed a vision of innate differences among races, with the double aim of justifying their superiority to the indigenous populations and defending themselves from the negative characterizations that Europeans had made about their homeland. For Cañizares, this “Criollo patriotism,” in the face of European ideas about the influence that climatic and astrological forces had on bodies, resulted in the first forms of modern racism; Cañizares Esguerra, “New World, New Stars.” Rebecca Earle and Alexandre C. Varella have emphasized that humoral dietetics helped construct a mutable, unfixed view of bodies, while also discoursing on racial differences and social subordination: Earle, The Body of the Conquistador; Varella, “A dietética no novo mundo.”

  • 82. Edgardo Lander ed., La colonialidad del saber: Eurocentrismo y ciencias sociales: Perspectivas latinoamericanas (Buenos Aires: CLACSO, 2000); Santiago Castro‑Gómez, La poscolonialidad explicada a los niños (Popayán: Editorial Universidad del Cauca, 2005).

  • 83. See, for example, Santiago Castro‑Gómez and Eduardo Restrepo, eds., Genealogías de la colombianidad: Formaciones discursivas y tecnologías de gobierno en los siglos XIX y XX (Bogotá: Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2008).

  • 84. For example, José Luis Peset, Ciencia y libertad: El papel del científico ante la independencia americana (Madrid: C.S.I.C, 1987); Thomas Glick, “Science and Independence in Latin America (with Special Reference to New Granada),” Hispanic American Historical Review 71 (1991): 307–334.

  • 85. Nieto Olarte, Orden natural y orden social; Castro‑Gómez, La hybris del punto cero; Alzate, “Comer en el hospital colonial”; Restrepo Zea, El Hospital San Juan de Dios. It is worth noting that the history of science in the European context has paid relatively little attention to nutrition during the 18th century. A recent exception is E. C. Spary, Feeding France New Sciences of Food, 1760–1815 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

  • 86. To cite just a few examples, Safford, “Race, Integration, and Progress”; Nancy Appelbaum, Anne S. Macpherson, and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt eds., Race and Nation in Modern Latin America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003); Larson, Trials of Nation Making; Arias, Nación y diferencia en el siglo XIX; Lina Del Castillo, The Science of Nation Building; Claudia Leal and Carl Langebaek, eds., Historias de raza y nación en América Latina (Bogotá: Ediciones Uniandes, 2010); Appelbaum, “Envisioning the Nation.”

  • 87. An exhaustive list of the works that have tackled these questions would be extremely long. Some outstanding references are Nancy Stepan, The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991); Eduardo A. Zimmermann, “Racial Ideas and Social Reform: Argentina, 1890–1916,” Hispanic American Historical Review 72.1 (1992): 23–46; Dain Borges, “Puffy, Ugly, Slothful and Inert: Degeneration in Brazilian Social Thought, 1880–1940,” Journal of Latin American Studies 25 (1993): 235–256; Javier Sáenz Obregón, Oscar Saldarriaga, and Armando Ospina, Mirar la infancia: Pedagogía, moral y modernidad en Colombia, 1903–1946 (Bogotá: Uniandes, 1997); Zandra Pedraza, En cuerpo y alma: Visiones del progreso y de la felicidad (Bogotá: Uniandes, 1999); Carlos Ernesto Noguera, Medicina y política: Discurso médico y prácticas higiénicas durante la primera mitad del siglo XX en Colombia (Medellín: Fondo Editorial Universidad EAFIT, 2003); Zandra Pedraza, “El régimen biopolítico en América Latina: Cuerpo y pensamiento social,” Iberoamericana 4 (2004): 7–19; Marisa Miranda and Gustavo Vallejo, eds., Darwinismo social y eugenesia en el mundo latino (Madrid: Siglo XXI, 2005); Diego Armus, ed., Avatares de la medicalización en América Latina 1870–1970 (Buenos Aires: Lugar Editorial, 2005); Jorge Márquez Valderrama, Ciudad, miasmas y microbios: La irrupción de la ciencia pasteriana en Antioquia (Medellín: Editorial de la Universidad de Antioquia, 2005); Julia Rodríguez, Civilizing Argentina: Science, Medicine, and the Modern State (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006); Diego Armus, La ciudad impura: Salud, tuberculosis y cultura en Buenos Aires, 1870–1950 (Buenos Aires: Editorial Edhasa, 2007); Marisa Miranda and Álvaro Sierra, eds., Cuerpo, biopolítica y control social: América Latina y Europa en los siglos XIX y XX (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2009); Adriana Novoa and Axel Levine, From Man to Ape: Darwinism in Argentina, 1870–1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).

  • 88. Pilcher, ¡Que vivan los tamales! 77–97; Pohl–Valero, “The Energetic Body.”

  • 89. Sandra Aguilar‑Rodríguez, “Nutrition and Modernity: Milk Consumption in 1940s and 1950s Mexico,” Radical History Review 110 (2011): 36–58; Pohl‑Valero, “‘La raza entra por la boca.’”

  • 90. Several examples are Francisco de Assis Guedes de Vasconcelos, “Fome, eugenia e constituição do campo da nutrição em Pernambuco: Uma análise de Gilberto Freyre, Josué de Castro e Nelson Chaves,” História, Ciências, Saúde—Manguinhos 8.2 (2001): 315–339; Paulo Drinot, The Allure of Labor: Workers, Race, and the Making of the Peruvian State (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 161–192; Sandra Aguilar‑Rodríguez, “Cooking Modernity: Nutrition Policies, Class, and Gender in 1940s and 1950s Mexico City,” The Americas 64.2 (2007): 177–205; Sandra Aguilar‑Rodríguez, “Alimentando la nación: Género y nutrición en México (1940–1960),” Revista de Estudios Sociales 29 (2008): 28–41; Joel Vargas, “Alimentar el cuerpo social: Ciencia, dieta y control en México durante el Porfiriato (Master’s thesis, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2011); Pedraza, En cuerpo y alma; Noguera, Medicina y política; Pohl‑Valero, “‘La raza entra por la boca’”; Zandra Pedraza, “La diffusion de una dietética moderna en Colombia: La revista Cromos entre 1940 y 1986,” in Entre medicos y curanderos: Cultura, historia y enfermedad en la América Latina Moderna, edited by Diego Armus, 293–329 (Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Norma, 2002); Solon Calero Ruíz, “¿Somos lo que comemos?” Pedagogías sociales en las prácticas de alimentación: Producción de la corporalidad y relaciones de conocimiento en comedores escolares de Colombia (Cali: Universidad Autónoma de Occidente, 2014); Mayali Tafur Sequera, “Antes que comer, hay que alimentarse: Reconociendo al sujeto del discurso de la educación nutricional en Colombia” (Master’s thesis, Universidad de los Andes, 2015).

  • 91. Alberto Flórez‑Malagón, ed., El poder de la carne: Historias de ganaderías en la primera mitad del siglo XX en Colombia (Bogotá: Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2008); Calvo Isaza and Saade Granados, La ciudad en cuarentena; María Clara Llano Restrepo and Marcela Campuzano Cifuentes, La chicha, una bebida fermentada a través de la historia (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, 1994); Robledo Escobar, “Higiene y panela”; Shawn Van Ausdal, “Reimagining the Tropical Beef Frontier and the Nation in Early Twentieth-Century Colombia,” in Trading Environments: Frontiers, Commercial Knowledge, and Environmental Transformation, 1750–1990, edited by Gordon M. Winder and Andreas Dix, 166–193 (New York: Routledge, 2016).