Gabriela Soto Laveaga (History, UCSB)
The Making of "National" Steroids: Mexican Scientists as Producers of "Foreign" Knowledge
In May 1951 Fortune magazine reported that "the biggest technological boom ever heard south of the border" was that a Mexican laboratory, Syntex, had derived synthetic cortisone from Mexican wild yams. Months later an even more momentous discovery, the first active oral contraceptive, was also discovered in this Mexico City laboratory with the pivotal participation of another Mexican chemist. The narrative of discovery, however, rarely places Mexico or Mexican chemists at the epicenter of steroid production. In the 1970s Mexico's president encouraged domestic scientists to emulate the U.S. and Europe and find "a Mexican pill." Since then Mexican family planning campaigns have lamented the high cost of imported oral contraceptives while complaining of Mexico's inability to produce science. What happens when the impediment to technology transfer is a nation's historical amnesia? Is it possible to trace the roots of this interruption?