The University of Iowa

In the news: University of Iowa associate professor considers Caribbean colonialism, yellow fever

April 17th, 2019

Professor Mariola Espinosa poses for a portrait in her office in Shaeffer Hall on Friday, April 5, 2019.

Katie Ann McCarver, The Daily Iowan

As an undergraduate, a professor prompted Mariola Espinosa to write about Col. Bailey Ashford, an American physician in Puerto Rico who dedicated his life to curing illness in the country during the U.S. occupation. Espinosa felt a connection to the topic, because she was from Puerto Rico.

Now the University of Iowa director of Global Health Studies, Espinosa said that conversation eventually led her to write a book about illness a couple of islands over, in Cuba. Her latest publication, still in its developmental stages, will cover yellow fever in all of the Caribbean.

“I’ve been working on this for many years,” Espinosa said. “Seeing how different islands and different people in that region understood and dealt with a disease that afflicted many people there.”

Espinosa said her initial interest in yellow fever developed while reading narratives from U.S. authorities occupying Cuba who were obsessed with finding a cure for the disease. However, she found that mortuary rates showed the sickness didn’t even rank in the island’s top five killers.