On 28 September 1911 Luz D. arrived with her husband at the admissions office of the General Insane Asylum La Castañeda, the largest state institution devoted to the care of the mentally ill in early-twentieth-century Mexico.1 Following the rules of the establishment, the Ds provided basic identification data before an asylum intern performed a routine physical and psychological examination designed to determine her mental condition. Because Luz D.’s affliction did not prevent her from understanding and answering questions, she actively participated in the institutional psychiatric interview—an interrogatory ritual structured around questions included in an official medical questionnaire—that would decide her admission status. Later, after she became an inmate, Luz D. chose to write the narrative of her illness on her own, on a separate sheet of paper:

Luz D.’s ability to elaborate the story of her own experience with illness was not...

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