Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Megan Birk

Second Advisor

Dr. Amy Hay

Third Advisor

Dr. George Diaz


This thesis analyzes the conditions the mentally ill and mentally disabled population in the Rio Grande Valley faced during the era of the asylum in the United States, from 1860 until 1962. The treatment options for the citizens of the Rio Grande Valley are compared with the treatment of the mentally ill in the nation as a whole, as well as in the state of Texas. The Rio Grande Valley has been geographically distant from large population centers, and the state of Texas neglected to place any state-funded health care centers in the region until the 1960's. The Rio Grande Valley is culturally distinct from much of the United States because of its proximity to the border with Mexico. The intermarriage of cultures and faiths at the border allowed for the practice of curanderismo (faith healing) to thrive in the region. Evidence points to the fact that ethnic Mexicans in the region felt excluded from professional medical treatment, and preferred spiritual treatment for mental illness, which they believed was a spiritual condition.


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