By Angela Perez-Mejia, Dick Cluster
Unravels the wealthy complexities of the colonial commute adventure.
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Extra info for A Geography of Hard Times: Narratives About Travel to South America, 1780-1849
All the rest concluded that there was a pact with the devil in these cures. (Diario de observaciones, libro I: 96) This time the scientist confesses, “In this report many details are lacking, especially the result for the patient” (Diario de observaciones, libro I: 96). As he recognizes that he does not have all the necessary information, Mutis leaves open the extreme possibility of a pact with the devil. About a fantastic story of monstrous hens and roosters produced by a particular kind of corn, he notes, “A strange way of thinking, that does violence to the eyes, which might have seen the contrary.
In 1808 Mutis died in Santa Fe, but his disciples continued his work until 1817. Then, in the face of the capture of the city by Simón Bolívar, the Spanish government decided to dismantle the Royal Botanical Expedition of the New Kingdom of Granada. All of Mutis’s work was sent to Spain. A good part was lost forever, according to his biographer, because of negligence on the Spanish authorities’ part. During those last difficult years of political confusion and uncertainty, Mutis did not write anything.
Twenty-eight years would pass before his pleas for the crown to patronize his scientific dream would be heard. His Diario de observaciones begins in that same 1760, and in 1763 and 1764 he sent his first letters to the king of Spain requesting support for the undertaking of a natural history of the New Kingdom of Granada. In the letters, as part of his argument in pursuit of the money, Mutis places himself in the context of the international situation: If other Nations which possess establishments or Colonies in America have acquired from the outset a precise knowledge of all that the soil of these Possessions yields them—as may well be gathered, especially in this century, from their handsome, well-printed histories—this must be attributed not only to the good taste of that beautiful day which for them dawned so early, but also to the ease with which such expeditions could be mounted.
A Geography of Hard Times: Narratives About Travel to South America, 1780-1849 by Angela Perez-Mejia, Dick Cluster