Hugo Pesce was born in Peru to an immigrant Italian family. He was educated in Italy, studying medicine in Italy (Genoa), before returning to practice medicine in Peru.
He initially set up a small leper house in Huambo, in the Peruvian highlands, but this establishment was short-lived. In 1940 he set up an antileprosy service in Apurimac (Servicio Antileproso de Apurimac), also in the highlands of Peru, despite the fact that many of his contemporaries doubted that the disease existed in the Andean region.
In 1944, Pesce contributed to the national campaign against leprosy, under the Ministry of Health. He was also involved in the 1953 national campaign against leprosy, which included the formation of the Servicio Nacional Antileproso. Pesce established the Hospital de Guía as campaign headquarters, adding a research laboratory and transferring a specialised leprosy library from the Ministry of Health.
In the early 1950s, Pesce was visited by an Argentinian medical student, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who was attracted by accounts of Pesce's work in Peru. Guevara's visit to de Guía and San Pablo are depicted in the film "The Motorcycle Diaries", which is based on Guevara's travels.
In 1959, Pesce was appointed to the Chair of Clinic of Infectious, Tropical and Parasitic Diseases, as the School of Medicine in San Marcos. He subsequently established a new educational institution there, called the Cayetano Heredia.
He died 26 July, 1969.
Source: Marcos Cueto and Julio Núñes, "Leprosy in Peru: a general description of historical developments" ( reseach funded by the ILA project) 14 August 2006.
See also: JN Ramírez, "Hugo Pesce: el Hombre, el Maestro, el Amigo".
Laura María Moratal Ibáñez, Alberto J. Carli y Beatriz Kennel. "Inequity. A Trip through Latin America: The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)", Journal of Medicine and Movies, (2005): 103-8.