Modernity and the Silencing of Nature in Nineteenth-Century Maps of Bogotá

Stefania Gallini & Carolina Castro Osorio

The article explores the environmental content of urban modernity in a nineteenth-century Latin American capital city through a comparative analysis of the cartographic silencing of “nature” in four versions of two urban plans of Bogotá dated 1797, 1853, 1891, and 1896. Following Harley, it reads Cabrer’s, Dussán’s, and Clavijo’s maps as political – albeit also technical – devices whose silences are revealing of a “subconscious mentalité” about urban modernity and its relation to nature. Following Colombian urban ecologists and Bogotá recent city planners, it understands “nature” as a network of ecosystemic relations (Ecological Main Structure, EMS) whose original cornerstones are the Eastern Mountain Ridges (Cerros Orientales), the savanna (Sabana), and the hydrologic systems of rivers and wetlands. The cartographic analysis tackles the shifting representation of these components through time. The article relates that the graphic reduction of wetlands, the loss of visual importance of the Cerros Orientales, and the literal disappearance of the Sabana from the city maps are cartographic indicators of the process of building a “modern” city as something divorced from its ecological structure. Silencing nature became a noisy weapon to domesticate it.

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