Political influences


In 1905, the Star of Chile asked, "Who are to blame? Chilean citizens or the government?"

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A Chilean hospital ward in the 1900s

As Chile’s public health system was still developing in the early 20th century, hospitals (already notorious for their inadequate health care) could easily be overwhelmed by patients during a pandemic. Thus during the plague epidemic of 1905, Chile’s inhabitants sometimes attempted to hide their symptoms in order to avoid ending up in the chaotic hospitals. Funds for new medical accommodations were raised by private enterprise and the government, but progress on building projects was slow: political power trumped public welfare.

Meanwhile, smallpox continued to ravage Chile as well. Conditions only worsened when, in 1906, the Chilean legislative branch rejected a bill on vaccination. Next, in July 1906, the legislature disseminated controversial “anti-vaccine” propaganda to get public attention. This false information persuaded people that smallpox vaccines produced disease and that people could get sick despite vaccination. As a result, people resisted the vaccination campaign. Although the government put some effort into healthcare initiatives, then, health policies were strongly tied to politics, diminishing people’s chances of prevention or cure.   


"Who are to Blame?," Star of Chile, no. 34 (Valparaiso, Chile), March 25, 1905.

A Chilean hospital ward in the 1900s, run by the Hermanas de la Providencia from Chilean National Museum of History (Santiago, Chile), 1900. Retrieved from http://www.memoriachilena.gob.cl/602/w3-article-77196.html. Accessed July 23, 2020. No Copyright - United States.

Political influences