Introduction: Mapping Latin American Geographies
The origins of this special issue can be traced to conversations four years ago I had with then-JLAG editor, David Robinson. Those early plans never materialized but morphed into a special session titled “Mapping Latin American Geographies” at the January 2014 CLAG meeting in Panama City. In the call for papers I wrote that, “geographers are to maps as writers and literary critics are to literature. We make and use maps but we also interrogate and deconstruct them to reveal meanings beyond those intended by the mapmaker. We explore maps as graphic texts and sources of information, but also as ideological representations that reflect the dispositions of their makers, the worlds of their times, and those of their superiors.” The ten articles in this special issue illustrate these points and expand upon the relationships between geographers and maps.
Most of the papers presented in Panama were never submitted for publication in this collection. To make a more complete collection, I solicited articles or responded encouragingly to enquiries from others. In the end, ten scholars followed through with the lengthy peer and editorial review process that started over a year ago. I’m very happy with the collection and I’m especially glad we were able to increase the page size of JLAG in advance of the special issue, making the printed space more accommodating for the many small scale maps presented, and almost 90 images in total! I remind readers that the maps appear in full color in the pdf versions of the articles distributed by Project Muse.
This diverse collection represents a cross-section of research being done by scholars dealing with maps and mapping in and about Latin America. Herein one will find everything from graphic representations of subterranean mining spaces in the colonial Andes to the geographic constructions of the Darién and the Panama Canal Zone; from the unusual case of commercial flower plantation mapping in the Andes to the cartographic and political controversies surrounding the 1:1,000,000 Hispanic Map of America; from maps revealing the extent of the Amerindian slave trade in colonial Central America to the silencing of ecological systems in ‘modern’ maps of urban Latin America; from the intrigue surrounding the selection of the ‘official national map’ of Argentina to the little-known history of a Guatemalan map publisher. The articles are presented in approximate chronological order and cover topics spanning the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries. It is, perhaps, telling that women author seven of the ten articles because it confirms my own anecdotal evidence that women contribute the majority of map-related scholarship in Latin America. Hopefully this issue will inspire still more research.