Even when Spanish or Spanish American authors of scientific texts consciously erased Amerindian or African sources and Christianized local information and practices, their empirical methodology folded in Amerindian epistemology and arts. From first contact, knowledge of nature in the Spanish world and beyond was advanced by a convergence of many streams of data and methodologies. This essay discusses how the natural history manuscript completed in Cadiz, Spain in 1757 by the Peruvian-born José Eusebio Llano Zapata displays convergent knowledge production, which drew on diverse cultural traditions and scientific practices from both sides of the Atlantic. Hoping to advance both science and commercial traffic, Memorias histórico, físicas adopted a methodology in which European academic science, Jesuit knowledge, and Amerindian natural knowledge and practices all converge. The first examples in this essay analyze Llano Zapata’s observations about the unicorn and mythical peoples and mermaids. These marvelous asides might appear to detract from Llano Zapata’s enlightened goals, but they were intended to reinstate and validate Spanish scientific contributions within the wider European scientific community. The second part of this essay examines Llano Zapata’s volume on plants to reveal how eighteenth-century imperial science could benefit from earlier Iberian valorization of induction and empiricism and at the same time foreground indigenous sources. Whether consciously or not, Llano Zapata’s Memorias histórico, físicas modeled ways that professional or amateur natural historians benefitted from a convergent production of knowledge (science) and practical uses (arts) involving several cultures and peoples. This cultural exchange advanced Peruvian and Spanish science and elevated Imperial Spain’s contributions to European science.


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pp. 201-215
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