Marcos Cueto begins his excellent book on epidemic disease in twentieth-century Peru by examining the outbreak of bubonic plague that occurred in the early 1900s and ends it with an analysis of the cholera epidemic of 1991. These two essays clearly demonstrate both the connections between poverty and disease and the inadequacies of the Peruvian public health system. Bubonic plague, which was first diagnosed in coastal Peru in 1903, was a disease of the poor, who lived in flimsy houses easily invaded by rats. Cholera, which spread all over Latin America in the 1990s, likewise primarily affected the poor, who lived in areas without safe drinking water or proper sewage systems. In both cases, official discourse and popular belief saw the epidemic not as the fault of the state, which failed to provide minimal, healthful living conditions for its citizens, but as the fault of the afflicted. Contracting plague or...

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