An Eradication: Empire, Enslaved Children, and the Whitewashing of Vaccine History

Age of Revolutions

By Farren E. Yero

On February 12, 1804, at seven in the morning, an eight-year-old girl stood in the living room of Dr. don Tomás Romay. Her arm still throbbed, a slight if persistent hum that seemed to invite her touch. Involuntarily, she reached for the puckered spot, swollen into a great bubble on the soft flesh of her inner arm. The incision was made a week or so before, and news of it spread in Havana as quickly as the smallpox itself. The girl had only just arrived from Puerto Rico the day before. Yet here she was, waiting in the home of this strange man. He would soon pluck open her arm, draining it of the clear liquid the adults curiously coveted. The cut stung, but perhaps satisfyingly so, a welcome release after days of anticipation. The first doctor and the woman who enslaved the girl had prohibited…

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