Culture in the Clinic
Miami and the Making of Modern Medicine
After the 1959 Cuban Revolution, hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees came to Miami. With this influx, the city's health care system was overwhelmed not just by the number of patients but also by the differences in culture. Mainstream medicine was often inaccessible or inadequate to Miami's growing community of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants. Instead, many sought care from alternative, often unlicensed health practitioners. During the 1960s, a recently arrived Cuban feeling ill might have visited a local clinica, a quasi-legal storefront doctor's office, or a santero, a priest in the Afro-Cuban religion of Lukumi or Santeria. This exceptionally diverse medical scene would catch the attention of anthropologists who made Miami's multiethnic population into a laboratory for cross-cultural care. By the 1990s, the medical establishment in Miami had matured into a complex and culturally informed health-delivery system, generating models of care that traveled far beyond the city. Some clinicas had transformed into lucrative HMOs, Santeria became legally protected by the courts, and medical anthropology played a significant role in the rise of global health. Catherine Mas shows how immigrants reshaped American medicine while the clinic became a crucial site for navigating questions of wellness, citizenship, and culture.