Leprosy has been a scourge of man for all antiquity, since well before biblical times. I remember movie scenes with Lepers, with badly misshapen faces and no fingers, begging in the streets, while “the healthy people” run for safety from them. It was like a prequel to today’s Zombie movies.
This horrible affliction was a mystery until it was first identified by Doctor Armauer Hansen, in 1873. Hansen identified Leprosy as a bacterial infection, a germ, now called Mycobacterium Leprae or Hansen’s disease. It causes an infection that affects the skin, destroys nerves and can also cause problems in the eyes and nose. And the cure is a simple course of antibiotic pills.
Leprosy was a scourge for state of Colima in the 1800’s, and a real problem for Manzanillo in particular. The incidence of Leprosy was so rampant in the region that it came to be known for the highest incidence in the country, into the first part of the last century. The authorities decided to build a hospital in a remote part of Manzanillo in what is now Playa de Miramar, near La Curva del Indio. The hospital/colony became known as the Quarantine Ranch (Rancho de Cuarentena). All those suffering from this disease in the region, and a good few that may have had only skin rashes, were sent to the Ranch to live out their days.
During the thirties, lepers were treated with constant salt water baths in the sea along Miramar beach, because it was believed that this therapy would fight or even end the effects of the disease.
A patient showing improvement would be placed in isolation, and if he/she continued to be stable, was discharged. The ones that worsened and died, eaten away by leprosy, were cremated in a crematorium in the hospital made expressly for the purpose of cremating lepers.
At the start of World War II Mexico, being an ally of the United States, admitted some wounded Japanese, captured in the Pacific, to the Quarantine facility. The residents of Miramar and Santiago, though, upon seeing that they were Oriental, figured they were Chinese and referred to them as such.
During the forties, the hospital ceased operations. Today, the ruins of the hospital can still be found in Miramar, slightly ahead of La Curva del Indio, on the property now known as the Quarantine Ranch. You can still find some of the beds, stone cooking surfaces and other artifacts there.
By Victor Manuel Martínez
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