restricted access Chapter Three: Spanish Military Mapping of the Northern Borderlands after 1750
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Three u Spanish Military Mapping of the Northern Borderlands after 1750 dennis reinhartz The era of the latter half of the eighteenth century to Mexican independence in 1821 was a dynamic period in the history of Spain, its New World empire, and especially the northern borderlands of the North American Greater Southwest.1 With the occupations of Texas, Alta California, parts of Louisiana, and briefly even the western portion of Vancouver Island on Nootka Sound, the northern frontier was expanded to it greatest geographical limits. While a region large in area, by 1750 it was still vaguely defined, poorly organized, and inadequately developed, yet also experiencing population growth, restructuring, and reform. At the opening of the eighteenth century, Spain still viewed these northern borderlands primarily as defensive and not particularly profitable . Not only could these northern colonies barely support themselves, but also their very existence recurrently was threatened by the presence of unfriendly Indians (often agitated by Spanish slaving practices among them), such as the Pawnees and Comanches in the northeast and the Apaches and Navajos (Dinè) in the northwest. The Spanish colonies also regularly experienced the encroachments of some of their mother country ’s principal European rivals—France, Great Britain, and Russia—who, for example, often armed and inflamed groups of those very same Indians against them. Thus, the relatively scanty allocation allotted this area for its protection by Spain was stretched pitifully thin. Accordingly, Spain’s policies towards its European rivals along the northern frontier of New Spain were ‘‘essentially reactive,’’ and its actions towards the Indians out of necessity often were innovative, employing one tribe against another.2 It should be kept in mind that the northern borderlands of New Spain geographically, politically, economically, and militarily were a frontier, 58 u dennis reinhartz zonal in nature and not forming a hard and fast linear boundary, and endured as such in part due to Spanish imperial neglect.3 Although concerned largely withTexas and the northeast, the cultural geographer D.W. Meinig’s summary is appropriate for most of the northern frontier of New Spain in 1750: Although it might appear from the considerable sprinkling of names and network of trails on some of the maps of its time as a great northwestern of Spanish colonization, it was in fact more an area of widespread missionary failure and a tenuous feeble thrust against foreign powers in the lower Mississippi, and it had so little substance as to be affronted almost at will by the Comanches on one side and smugglers and filibusters on the other.4 A particular manifestation of this European rivalry in the Americas was the French and British campaign of cartographic ‘‘filibustering’’ against the Spanish northern borderlands. From the founding of its American empire and the 1503 establishment of Casa de Contratación, the official clearing house for New World information in Seville, Spain held such geographic knowledge to be a ‘‘state secret’’ and guarded at all cost. Hence, although Spain had the best data, over the next two centuries very few detailed Spanish maps of the Americas were published. The well-known maps of Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, such as the Descripción del Destricto del Avdienciade Nveva España (Fig. 3.1), were an extreme expression of the Spanish geographic-cartographic paranoia during this period. They show only relatively accurate outlines of landmasses, with little interior detail.5 As a result, Spanish claims especially to frontier areas like the northern borderlands were never securely made public. As a result of the sparsity of Spanish settlements and printed maps in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, French and British mapmakers found it relatively easy to encroach cartographically on Spanish territory. Using the explorations and claims of René Robert Cavelier (Sieurde La Salle), Father Louis Hennepin, Louis Juchereau Saint-Denis, and others, Louis XIV’s finest mapmakers like Vincenzo Coronelli and Guillaume Delisle on paper moved the boundary between Louisiana and New Spain westward from the Sabine and Red rivers across Texas to the Rio Grande, as shown on Delisle’s Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississipi . . . , published in Paris in 1718 (Fig. 3.2). Others readily copied this imperialistic distortion introduced by the French, for example, the British cartographer Herman Moll on his . . . Map of North America . . . (the 3.1 Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, Descripición del Destricto del Avdienciade Nveva España (Madrid, 1601). Personal collection of the author. 3.2 Guillaume...


pdf