By Angela Perez-Mejia, Dick Cluster
Unravels the wealthy complexities of the colonial trip adventure.
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Extra info for A Geography of Hard Times: Narratives About Travel to South America, 1780-1849
We have here some important matters whose solution depends upon the profound knowledge of the illustrious Mutis. . How many relationships! How many characteristics! How many rays of light essential to discerning these distinctions could be supplied by that Linnaeus of the new world! ” To them he is part of paradise and not a visitor there. Mutis is, without doubt, a European traveler within the line of those who contributed to the scientific reinvention of tropical America, but nonetheless his circumstances were unique.
Within those multiple and inevitable situations, the traveler is narrating herself or himself. The Diario de observaciones has a scientific objective, but in its final form it also testifies to a change in Mutis’s subjectivity. At first we find him radiant with faith in the cause of European science. Little by little this certainty grows weaker, and Mutis establishes his alliances with the advancement of American knowledge and of his own personal wealth. At the end of his day, Mutis will be a silent patriarch of the exact sciences in a workshop where protest against the Spanish crown is taking root.
August 22, 1784, he writes, “My journals supply the history of my errors and disappointments” (Diario de observaciones, libro II: 441). In June 1785 he writes: It is not easy to make discoveries at a single stroke, nor to verify that which you suspect. The polygamy of plants cannot be demonstrated by conjecture, only by repeated observations. The traveler cannot do so without stopping for a long time in the same place. (Diario de observaciones, libro I: 634) Thus, travel could no longer be justified as pursuit of knowledge.
A Geography of Hard Times: Narratives About Travel to South America, 1780-1849 by Angela Perez-Mejia, Dick Cluster