Health Crisis, Counteractions and the Media in the Ibero-American World

by Javier Jurado (Volume editor)
©2023 Edited Collection 228 Pages


The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in an era of unprecedented change, fundamentally reshaping the fabric of our global society. This book, drawing from an international congress of scholars in Medical Humanities and Media Studies, explores the profound impact of the pandemic on Ibero-America, shedding light on the intricate web of historical antecedents, societal structures, and contemporary consequences. It delves into the pandemic’s role as a crucible for social inequalities, revealing the unique challenges faced in Ibero-America, such as informal labor markets and healthcare access disparities. From politics to culture, this collection of essays examines the multifaceted responses to the pandemic, probing the intricate dance between state control, economic dynamics, and cultural creativity. It also offers a comparative lens on past health crises and their resonance in literature and media.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Technical utopia and health dystopia: A contemporary visual battle
  • From the 1918 flu to Covid-19: A perspective from the Spanish case
  • The 1918 Influenza pandemic and its impact in the work of Ramón del Valle-Inclán and Josep Pla
  • “Tourism Yes, Tourism No”: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on discourse about tourism in the Spanish press
  • The inhumanity of neoliberalism and of the far-right in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil
  • Health crises in images: Possible approximations between three major epidemics in Brazil
  • Strategic communication and the vaccination plan of Covid-19: The Uruguayan case
  • The challenge of higher education through virtual education platforms during Covid-19: The Peruvian case
  • The July 11, 2021, protests in Cuba: A unique event?
  • Epilogue: Intersectional solidarity and fairness in Ibero-American counteractions


The health crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has irreversibly modified – and is still modifying – social, economic and cultural relations on a global scale, making this crisis an unprecedented event in the recent history of humanity. Covid-19 has clearly exposed social inequalities, which in Ibero-America have a particular character due to its socio-economic structure: the vast number of irregular jobs, the difficulties of accessing healthcare, the densification of urban spaces, etc. Although contagious and infectious diseases are undeniably a long-standing issue, the coronavirus epidemic has placed the world in an unprecedented health crisis, intensified by the characteristics of our societies, which is connected both geographically and in terms of communication.

Some of the consequences of this crisis are still today unforeseeable and to date have affected different social aspects such as tourism, education, cultural practices, working patterns, etc. Expert, political and lay actors publicly discuss the causes, developments and consequences of the epidemic, generating discourses on what is understood by pandemic, crisis, epidemic, etc. From the point of view of various disciplines from the human and social sciences, this volume questions the social effects of the pandemic in the Ibero-American world and proposes a discussion that allows us to put into perspective the antecedents, causes, synergies and consequences of this and other health crises.

The emergence and legitimisation of the modern state, and its coercive capacities, frame this reflection, which also aims to project itself into the more recent past (AIDS, syphilis, Spanish flu, etc.), not excluding the first years of the establishment of the nation-state, which, according to Foucault, established the biopolitical regime characteristic of contemporaneity.

Authors in this volume ask ourselves, then, what are the collective responses to the readjustments in social control imposed by the pandemic and in what way are they ascribed to political contexts (in the case of the Spanish ultra-right or the mobilisation for a new constitution in Chile), economic (the ebb and flow of so-called “tourism-phobia”) or cultural (the subversive potential of confined theatre or the expansion of Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime or Movistar).

In short, we propose a reflection on the socio-economic changes provoked or arising from this and other health crises, as well as the scope of cultural creation when it comes to answering, integrating or modifying the medical-political discourse of government bodies in Latin America and Spain.

These contributions are the result of an international congress that reunited researchers from different Latin-American countries interested both in Medical Humanities and Media Studies in a fruitful exchange that inspired this publication.

From a historical perspective, Pau Font Masdeu compares the discourses around the epidemics of 1918 and 2020 in Spain, rising the parallelisms as well as the inspiration academics the media took from the so-called “Spanish Flu”.

This dialogue is also the matter of Jaume Silvestre’s study around the works of Josep Pla et Ramón María del Valle Inclán during those last years of the 1910s decade. The interest Covid raised on how societies adapted to previous health crises had also found in literature a fertile ground for innovative research. Fever, delirium and creativity drive here a dialogue between these two writers which were both infected by the flu at the same time in two very different vital moments. But both are seminal figures of the Silver age of Spanish culture that developed in the first third of the 20th century.

Teacher Dagmar Vandebosch relies pharmaceutical and cultural industries with another key sphere of our modern economies that was most violently shaken by the Covid crisis. Tourism suffered a tremendous blow with travel restrictions all around the world, and in this article Vandebosch focalizes in Spain as well. In a country where tourism is frequently identified with European integration and economic development, discourses around freedom of movement became highly polarised and politicised. The opposition of Madrid’s astronomical president, right-wing populist Isabel Diaz Ayuso, to the socialist government in almost every ground found in tourism a fertile ground to oppose libertarian freedom to “authoritarian State communism” as she denounces during her mandate.

Similar outbursts can be found in Bolsonaro’s speeches in Brazil, thoroughly studied in César Bolaño’s and Fabrício Zanghelini’s article. They unveil the highly rational motivations that drive these apparently eccentric attitudes from extreme-right leaders. Deepening of neoliberal policies lies behind populist discourses of the now-defeated president. The consequences of these policies are suffered by the most fragile part of the society as is also shown in Marcela Barbosa Lins, Caio Dayrell Santos and Ângela Cristina Salgueiro Marques contribution. These three researchers not only follow the visual discourses raised by the Covid pandemic but also compare it with the 1918’s flu and the yellow fever outbreak of the late 19th century. A biopolitical analysis of images and particularly photography of these three health crises allow the reader to follow the developement of a technocratic discourse that hides sickness as it promotes the modernization of the country through its medical bodies.

Since media and communication, as we have seen, are essential to health management, the contribution of Uruguay’s communication advisor to the ministry of public health, Patricia Schroeder completes the account of political communication that most of the contributors to this book deal with. The informational strategy followed by the Austral country, analysed and exposed here in first person, supposes an unvaluable practical support to our study in a context where social media and the internet in general became a key factor in political communication.

Following this path, Giancarlo Gomero and Mariana Nicolini Zevallos focus on another sphere conditioned by the pandemic: education. Although the continuity of the learning processes was one of the main challenges countries all around the world had to deal with, the means made available to teachers and students have depended on the technology companies outside (initially) the school world. In line with what has been said so far, we can suggest here the hypothesis that one of the bastions of the welfare state, beset by the wave of liberalisation and privatisation since the 1980s, is facing a new offensive – this time with technological and efficiency arguments, thanks to the Covid crisis.

It is precisely with a very particular case of governance that we close our journey around health crises in Ibero-America. We are speaking about Cuba and it is thanks to the contribution of Dr. Orlando Manzano that we can dive into the causes and consequences of the protests that shook the island in July 2021. Even though we deal here with a different model, always under scrutiny and ground for political disputes, what we can draw from this account is the similarity of the fed-upness expressed by the Cuban people with that of the rest of the antagonistic discourses provoked by the pandemic worldwide.

Thanks to the contribution of Marina Ruiz Cano, this short introduction to our volume is completed and enriched notably with a gender perspective, clearly missing from our discussion until this point.

I take this opportunity to thank her and our workmate Camila Pérez Lagos for the invaluable help provided during the whole process of coordinating, preparing and publishing this research project. It would not have been possible either without the collaboration of professors Nadia Lie, Elizabeth Amann, Patricia Novillo-Corvalán and my personal friend and colleague Dr. William Rowlandson. I would like to thank M. Stéphane Thys as well who allowed this project to be possible despite the precarious university status of the editor of this volume, something that is rare and quite unique in the French University system.

Therefore, I would like to dedicate this volume to all those university workers who have seen their working conditions degrade over the last few years as well as to all the young (and not so young) researchers who continue to be punished by the lack of resources and often also of empathy. To all of them we send a big hug of solidarity.

Javier Jurado, Lille september 2023

Technical utopia and health dystopia: A contemporary visual battle

Javier Jurado (Université de Lille)

The relationship between public health and communication is complex and shifting, including attitudes that flow between necessity, mistrust, opportunity and denial as has been evident in the recent Covid-19 pandemic. The media need a flow of news to justify their relevance and aim to sell their products to citizens and consumers of a given society or social group with which they share a cultural and linguistic context (Hesmondhalgh, 2002: 179). In the case of news related to public health, the role of the media is somewhat contradictory to that of a public service in which coordination with state institutions is essential and necessary.

Contradictory, we say, because despite the fact that public health policies are based on the very statute of service to citizens, it does not escape from a political-partisan use that determines the quality and type of information that society receives (Castells, 2009: 196–213). The recent crisis demonstrates this last point, and the different information and/or opinion battles around subjects as varied as the origin of the pandemic, its vectors of transmission, and the measures to contain it and, later, to mitigate it are only examples of such use.

Looking at the United States, we can recall the confrontation that President Trump had with several media outlets, notably with CNN, as a result of the solutions proposed by the New York magnate. This was not an isolated event, and the pandemic – or rather the discourse surrounding it – became a political weapon in different countries and contexts, wherever it is possible to speak of the existence of a “free” press that is independent of the powers of the state.

Indeed, in democratic regimes, since the end of the 18th century, the press has had the status of a “fourth estate” that has served as a counterweight to various more or less corrupt or dishonest governments. This quality does not prevent us from ignoring the dependence of the media on the public authorities at the legislative or economic level, among others. It is not in vain that the emergence of public opinion itself goes hand in hand with the construction of the modern state, with the industrialisation that makes reproducibility technically possible (to borrow Walter Benjamin’s concept), and with the very idea of public health.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2023 (December)
Covid-19 pandemic Ibero-America Social inequalities Health crisis management Pharmaceutical industry
Bruxelles, Berlin, Bern, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2023. 228 pp., 26 fig. b/w, 1 table.

Biographical notes

Javier Jurado (Volume editor)

Javier Jurado teaches Visual Culture, Contemporary Spanish History, and Cultural and Creative Industries Theory at the Université de Lille. His primary interests lie in Media History and the Sociology of Art. He has recently published "Economía del cine Franquista" (2021). Marina Ruiz Cano holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Literary Studies from the University of the Basque Country and a Ph.D. in Romance Studies from the University of Nanterre. She currently serves as a PRAG (Pedagogical Assistant with a Fixed-Term Contract) at the University of Le Mans. Her research primarily focuses on contemporary Basque theater with a political dimension.


Title: Health Crisis, Counteractions and the Media in the Ibero-American World