The Backbone of Rural Health: Nursing and Indigenous Healing in Oaxaca


ACLS Fellowship Program


Center for Healthcare History and Policy, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing


In the mid-1950s, Mexican officials trained and employed Indigenous men and women as nurses in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Indigenous nurses could speak Spanish and Indigenous languages, mobilize local social networks, and enter spaces typically segregated by gender. This book project argues that the federal government began hiring Indigenous nurses as the result of years’ worth of petitions sent from Indigenous municipal authorities and suggestions made by doctors and visiting nurses who worked in these rural spaces in the 1930s and 1940s. Rural nurses and Indigenous authorities therefore shaped health policy and practices by pressuring the government to accommodate their needs and expectations.