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  • Historias de la cartografía de Iberoamérica: nuevos caminos, viejos problemas
  • Magali Carrera
Historias de la cartografía de Iberoamérica: nuevos caminos, viejos problemas. Edited by Héctor Mendoza Vargas and Carla Lois. Mexico City: Instituto de Geografía de UNAM, 2009. Pp. 494. Maps. Tables. Bibliography. Photographs.

In recent decades, scholars from diverse disciplines have taken up the study of maps and mapping as a field of interest. Their research on the history of cartography deploys cross-disciplinary perspectives and methodologies that interrogate maps as scientific, cultural, and visual productions. The result has been conferences, seminars, and numerous scholarly publications, including the epic multivolume History of Cartography (1996- ). This burgeoning international scholarship provides the context for this collection of essays in which researchers from a variety of disciplines, countries, and continents write on the history of Iberoamerican cartography.

In their introduction, "Viejos temas, nuevas preguntas: la agenda de la historia de la cartografía iberamericana hoy," Héctor Mendoza Vargas and Carla Lois trace the broadening of the study of maps to embrace cultural as well as scientific perspectives, citing the foundational and highly influential work of J.B. Harley. As a result, they suggest, scholars of Iberoamerican cartography are investigating new roads not only manifested by an increased interest in the conservation of maps but also in the growth of interpretive studies.

The breadth and depth of this ongoing research is evident in this collection of 19 original and revised essays (selected from conferences held in Buenos Aires and Mexico City), which are organized into four sections. In "Las representaciones cartográficas," the authors analyze mapping associated with cities and towns from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Their articles identify the exchange of cartographic ideas between Chinese and Portuguese maps of Macao; trace the colonial cartography of Buenos Aires from notarial (written) descriptions to graphic images; and deconstruct the 1580 map of the Mexican town of Huaxtepec, reconstructing the presence of Spanish as well as Mesoamerican references. [End Page 573]

The next section, "Las cartografías del territorio: estudios de caso," traces the history of mapping of territories, small and large. Beginning in Spain, the authors trace the mid-nineteenth-century production of a cadastral atlas of the municipality of Llívia (Cataluña) and the late-century compilation of a map of northern Morocco by Spain's War Office. Moving to the Americas, the essays describe the spatial production of Mexico from pre-Hispanic times through the early nineteenth century; analyze how the threat of foreign intrusion stimulated Spain's production of maritime cartography of its territories in the Americas; and explain the cartographic manipulation of the desert spaces of Patagonia by Welch immigrants.

Essays in "La cartografía, la técnica y la planificación: aspectos técnicos de la producción o del uso de las cartografías" investigate the impact of technical and scientific changes on late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Iberoamerican cartography. The authors study the production of a general map of the empire of Brazil that would appear in the 1876 Universal Exposition in Philadelphia; relate how as late as 1880 the only unified maps of Argentina came from Europeans; and follow the development of comprehensive topographic mapping. In addition, the extensive work of Brazil's Comissáo Geográfica e Geológica, which mapped the Minas Gerais region, is discussed in detail. The final essay in this section moves to the Río de la Plata area, as the authors examine the new modes of measurement and representation of space brought by technological shifts and explore the intersection of pictorial art and cartography in the production of maps and plans.

In the final section, "El Estado, la cartografía: mapas nacionales, profesionales e ingenieros militares," a more conceptual approach is tested through a case study of a land dispute between two towns in Veracruz, Mexico, whose litigants used literal and figurative archives to construct their claims of ownership. The subsequent articles elucidate the prominent role physical geography played in the mapping of Chile and the history of the mapping of Cuba beginning in the nineteenth century. The authors also examine how the border limits of Argentina were...


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