International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    São Luiz


    Category Leprosarium
    Country Brazil
    Address Maranhão


    Souza-Araújo refers to this leprosarium as a white elephant, one of the monumental works of the Inspectoria de Prophylaxia da Lepra that never opened. The foundation stone was laid in 1920, on a site bought by the State Government for the location of a federal leprosarium. The contract of construction was signed by Dr Raul de Almeida Magalhães, representing the Federal Government, and the construction engineer, Luiz Rodolpho Cavalcanti de Albuquerque Filho. The aim was to construct a large building for 250 patients.

    In the 1923 report of the Serviço de Prophylaxia Rural, Dr Salvio de Mendonça objected to the construction of the hospital, saying that it is a waste of money and land. He wrote that there were too many rooms without a determined function. He called for the abandonment of the ruined foundations and the construction of a ‘colonia agricola’ better suited to the local needs. In 1924, a contract was signed by the firm Meanda Curty & Cia, and the National Department of Public Health, to finish the construction. In January 1925 the work was handed over to the engineer Horacio Mario Meanda, and later the same year work was suspended by order of the Ministerio do Interior after over-spending. The works and materials were passed on to Dr Cassio Mirande, head of the Serviço de Saneamento Rural [Rural Sanitation Service], but the following year they were passed back to Meanda Curty & Cia, represented by the engineer Luiz Andrade Calvalcanti.

    In 1927 work was suspended yet again due to overspending. In 1930, Dr Cassio Miranda sent a report to Dr José Pires Sexo, president of the state of Maranhão, on the problem of leprosy in the state and the solution. Much work was still needed to complete the leprosarium of S. Luiz. In 1931, Dr Salvio de Mendonça wrote an article, ‘A Lepra no Maranhão’ [Leprosy in Maranhão], in the Revista da Soc. De Estudos Maranhenses, No. 1, July 1931, which attacked the government for neglect and waste of finances with regard to S. Luiz Hospital. He pointed out that back in 1923, when work had barely begun, the failings of the project had been emphasised by himself and others, but no heed was taken.

    In 1933, Souza-Araújo visited the “leprosario abandonado”, with Tarquinio Lopes filho, Salvio de Mendonça, Heitor and Carlos de Oliveira. He described it as a monstrous construction of three pavilions, with a covered area of 3 000 m². It seems that installations such as lavatories and baths were already in place, but as it had been abandoned since December 1927 due to lack of funds, the site was in ruins. This ruined state was largely due to the roofing tiles that were in a state of disrepair, and much of the flooring was also damaged, but doors and windows were still in good condition. He blames the irresponsibility of the government, the lack of continuity of administrations and the lack of public spirit with regard to humanity as the causes of the economic collapse of the country and by extension the cause of the failure of such projects as this hospital.

    (Araujo, H C S. 'Contribuição á epidemiologia e prophylaxia da lepra no norte do Brasil. Mem. Inst. Osw. Cruz, 1933:27 (3) 259-63)


    In 1930 the Federal Government acquired the site of Sá Vianna for the site of Leprosário S. Luiz. The construction had already begun ten years earlier, but was suspended for the third time in 1927, due to insufficient funds, and the building was in ruins at the time of writing.
    (Araujo, H C S. 'A lepra e as organizações anti-leprosas do Brasil em 1936'. Mem. Inst. Osw Cruz, 1937:32, 118)

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