of Evidence: Legal Representation, Medical Recognition and
Chicano Urban History on the Border, 1900-1930
On March 7, 1916, Jesus Montelongo,
his family and his friend chose to brave the Rio Bravo over
the bridge crossing. The Texas quarantine guard met them on
the north bank of the river. Under orders by state health
officer H.C. Hall, the guards escorted his wife and children
over the bridge to Nuevo Laredo. The guard forced Mr. Montelongo
back into the river, where he drowned in view of both urban
Laredos. In response, the medical examiner of Nuevo Laredo
filed charges of willful homicide against the quarantine.
Using medical records, diplomatic
archives and popular ephemera, this paper will examine Mexican
border residentsí struggle for representation and recognition.
Long-term residents and sojourners articulated common-law
principles of bodily autonomy and due process against forcible
re-vaccination and other newly intrusive public health practices.
The erosion of local democratic participation, an increased
popular faith in professional authority, the stricter policing
of racial and national boundaries and changes in constitutional
law exemplified by Plessy v. Ferguson, Lochner v. New York
and Buck v. Bell restricted the scope and reception of these
rights-claiming practices.† In re Montelongo and other
unsuccessful border claims expose the question of recognition
in the American relationship between the realms of communicable
disease and citizenship in the Progressive Era.
Copyright © 2003