Mexican Samples, Latino DNA: The Trajectory of a National Genome in Transnational Science

  • Emily Elizabeth Vasquez Columbia University
  • Vivette García Deister Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Keywords: national genomes, genomic sovereignty, panethnicity, ambiguity, bioeconomy, Latin America


Experts have widely promoted developing country investment in national genome projects in order to ensure their inclusion in medical genomic advances, to protect their genomes from foreign exploitation, and to foster their participation in a future genomics-based bioeconomy.  In this context, the Mexican federal government’s investments to establish the National Institute of Genomic Medicine in 2004, that institute’s subsequent efforts to map the “Mexican genome” between 2004 and 2009, and the passage of legislation in 2008 to protect Mexico’s “genomic sovereignty” drew attention as the most comprehensive national genomics program among the world’s emerging economies. Given the prominence of Mexico’s decision to pursue its “national genome” and to understand how this approach to science policy has unfolded with time, we track major developments in the field of genomic medicine in Mexico and the trajectory of the “Mexican genome” over the last decade.  Rather than the nation-state bound “Mexican genome,” we show that flexibility and ambiguity with regard to genomic identity has been instrumental amid the increasingly transnational and public-private nature of this scientific field. Over the last decade, Mexican samples have frequently been re-branded as the source of flexible, panethnic “Latino” or “Latin American” DNA.

Author Biographies

Emily Elizabeth Vasquez, Columbia University

Emily Vasquez is a doctoral candidate in the Departments of Sociomedical Sciences and Sociology at Columbia University and a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow.  An ethnographer of health, science and medicine, her research explores relationships between health and justice, knowledge and power, and race and nation in Latin America.

Vivette García Deister, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Vivette García-Deister is Associate Professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where she is co-responsible for the STS laboratory at the School of Sciences. Her research focuses on the history of race science, the epistemologies of biomedical and forensic genetics in Mexico, and the philosophy of science in practice, as informed by ethnographic methods and critical anthropology of science. She studies the impact of biomedical and forensic genetics on issues of health, racism and justice.


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15 May 2019
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