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History of homeopathy in Uruguay

Translated by Katja Schütt and Alan Schmukler

Homeopathy is still not recognized officially in Uruguay, however, pharmacies have the permission of the Ministry of Public Health to prepare and sell homeopathic medicines. At the end of the 19th century there was actually a Chair of Homeopathy at the Faculty of Medicine of the Republic of Uruguay, which is evidence of the ups and downs homeopathy suffered in the course of its history.

The first knowledge of homeopathy arrived on the banks of the Silver River, southwest of Uruguay, in the middle of the 19th century. It came on the wave of Hahnemannian teaching from Europe, especially Germany and France. As frequently happens with great ideas, many of Hahnemanns’ followers did not understand the essence of his conception and propagated mistaken notions to the world. These ideas, remote from Hahnemann’s original concepts, found their way to Uruguay. For example, polypharmacy was practiced, in spite of Hahnemann’s frequent warning about using more than one remedy at one time.

The first homeopathic dispensaries to which we have reference, were established in Montevideo in 1845 and Buenos Aires in 1846 by the French physician Guillermo Darrouzain. He was subsequently persecuted and imprisoned for some time by the Hygiene Council of Rosa’s Government, for practicing homeopathy.

The first Argentine homeopathic association, the “Sociedad Hahnemanniana Argentina”, was founded in 1869 in Buenos Aires. A small book edited in Montevideo in 1873, “Instructions for Sick Persons Treated by Homeopathy“, was used in the Children’s Medical Practice of the Homeopathic Institute in Brazil. The institute was managed by Santiago Estrázulas and Lama (teacher at the school and member of the Homeopathic Institute in Turín, Brazil, and the “Sociedad Hahnemanniana de Buenos Aires”). This is an old antecedent, even if possibly not the first, of the intention to distribute homeopathy in Uruguay, and also testifies to the early development of this medical art in Brazil.

Dr. Augusto Turenne, a prestigious Uruguayan professor of gynecology, wrote in 1946 an anecdotal paper entitled “Passion Life and Death of the Chair of Homeopathy of the Faculty of Medicine” (3), documenting the above mentioned Chair of Homeopathy at the faculty of Medicine of the University of the Republic, established by Law of the National Parliament in 1881, and which declined in 1886 due to pressure from the medical establishment. The Faculty of Medicine was established only some years before, in Montevideo, in 1875. Homeopathy was very popular among the people during this period, and that ensured the favor of numerous parliamentarians of the Legislature, who had much sympathy for this new type of medicine.

The “Asociación Popular Homeopática”, presided by Dr. Hipólito Gallinal, was founded in Montevideo in 1882. This association united physicians and sympathetic followers (who had been treated at this institution), and had more than 6900 members–as the records of the official commission of the association indicate (4). Moreover, this association had correspondents in several cities inside the country.

There were two homeopathic institutions in Montevideo at this time. The already mentioned “Asociación Popular Homeopática”, and the “Sociedad Homeopática Uruguaya de Beneficencia y Propaganda”, which decided to merge into one single association, the “Sociedad Hahnemanniana Uruguaya de Beneficencia y Propaganda Homeopática.”

Contributions were made by Dr.Valdez García’s book “El consultor de la familia” (The consultant of the family), as well as a small book entitled “Resultado obtenido por los enfermos asistidos bajo el tratamiento homeopático” (Results Obtained in Patients under Homeopathic Treatment ) in which he describes statistics of treated cases from his practice during residence in San Jose between 1876 and 1877 (5). Also, a series of articles appeared, entitled “Para la propagación de la doctrina Hahnemanniana” (For the Propagation of the Hahnemannian Doctrine), published in the newspaper “La Razón” in Montevideo between 1892 and 1893 (these were saved by Dr. A. Fórmica Corsi) (6).

After this short period of blossoming, homeopathy began to decline due to pressure from the medical elite. It entered a long period of marginalization. Efforts to keep homeopathy alive grew weaker in the beginning of the 20th century in Uruguay, and in the course of time, all traces of its organizations and institutions were lost. Only a few isolated homeopathic physicians continued to practice, along with non-medical practitioners. These devoted doctors and lay people contributed to the diffusion and popularization of homeopathy, which continued to kindle the interest of the people. Disparaged by official criticism and frequently distorted by incorrect practice, homeopathy endured many difficult years.

The actual expansion of homeopathy in Uruguay began in the mid-decade of the 1980’s, due to the interest of a new generation of physicians formed by a prestigious Argentine teaching group, and under the responsibility of the “Asociación Médica Homeopática Argentina” and the “Escuela Médica Homeopática Argentina Tomás Pablo Paschero”, and some members of the “Escuela Mexicana de Homeopatía”.

Currently, there are two homeopathic institutions in Montevideo, the “Asociación de Medicina Homeopática Uruguaya” (AMHU) and the “Escuela de Medicina Homeopática Hahnemanniana del Uruguay” (EMHHU). Both institutions offer courses in homeopathic education for physicians, veterinarians and dentists. It is a postgraduate study only for professional graduates.

As is other parts of the world, when more people request homeopathy as a quality medical option, it begins to grow. Presently there are about 200 homeopathic physicians in Uruguay. Due to increased interest in this healing art, homeopathy may once again be officially recognized.

*Dr. Pablo Korovsky is physician, unicist homeopath and psychiatrist, tutor at the “Escuela médica Homeopática Hahnemanniana” in Uruguay and author of numerous papers for the diffusion of homeopathy, and two homeopathy books.

(1).Dr. Gustavo Cataldi. Historia de la homeopatía argentina. Acta Homoeopathica Argentinensia. Nº 58
(2) Del mismo nombre. Imprenta El Mensajero. 1873. Montevideo.(Biblioteca Nacional).
(3). Del mismo nombre. (Biblioteca Nacional y Facultad de Medicina).
(4) Del mismo nombre. (1877, Biblioteca Nacional).
(5) Del mismo nombre. Imprenta De Dornaleche y Reyes. Montevideo 1893.
(6) Diario La Razón de Montevideo 1892-1893 (Biblioteca Nacional).