Histories of Women’s Reproduction in Latin America and the Caribbean

This bibliographic essay first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Choice (volume 59 | number 2).


In recent years, a growing body of scholarship on Latin America and the Caribbean has examined the history of women’s reproduction. This scholarship grew out of a much longer tradition of feminist research on women’s history and, more recently, on gender and sexuality in the region. This bibliographic essay offers an overview of some of the major currents defining this emerging field of research. It is not intended to be comprehensive. Instead, it aims to highlight important lines of inquiry and trajectories of investigation, identifying key texts in the field. Although the primary focus is on English-language monographs and volumes, this essay will occasionally allude to important foreign-language texts, especially those on significant regions such as Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico.
The essay is organized chronologically in two main sections: one focusing on the colonial period, the other on the modern period. However, it is important to note diverging political trajectories across the region, especially those distinguishing the colonies of Iberian and non-Iberian empires, as well as the variances across the Spanish empire between mainland and Caribbean colonies. In other words, not all developments in reproductive history occurred at the same time in different regions. For this reason, we include separate sections for the scholarship on slavery and emancipation, since the abolition of that institution occurred at different moments with regard to political independence across the region. Finally, the reader will undoubtedly notice a focus on women, women’s bodies, and women’s experiences in the selected works. Although there are a few recent titles examining fatherhood, such as Eileen J. Suárez Findlay’s We Are Left without a Father Here, the primary focus of most studies discussed here center on women and children. This priority reflects the singular centrality of women and people with uteruses to the process of reproduction, as well as the feminist roots of the scholarship interrogating it. 

About the Authors:

Bonnie A. Lucero is a historian of Latin America and the Caribbean, specializing in race and gender in Cuba, at the University of Houston-Downtown. Her newest monograph, under contract with the University of Georgia Press, focuses on race and reproduction in Cuba.

Elizabeth O’Brien is assistant professor of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. She is currently writing a book about the cultural politics of reproduction and surgery in Mexico between 1770 and 1940.