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Mapping the Country of Regions

The Chorographic Commission of Nineteenth-Century Colombia

Nancy P. Appelbaum

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Geschichte


The nineteenth century was an era of breathtakingly ambitious geographic expeditions across the Americas. The seminal Chorographic Commission of Colombia, which began in 1850 and lasted about a decade, was one of Latin America's most extensive. The commission's mandate was to define and map the young republic and its resources with an eye toward modernization. In this history of the commission, Nancy P. Appelbaum focuses on the geographers' fieldwork practices and visual production as the men traversed the mountains, savannahs, and forests of more than thirty provinces in order to delineate the country's territorial and racial composition. Their assumptions and methods, Appelbaum argues, contributed to a long-lasting national imaginary.

What jumps out of the commission's array of reports, maps, sketches, and paintings is a portentous tension between the marked differences that appeared before the eyes of the geographers in the field and the visions of sameness to which they aspired. The commissioners and their patrons believed that a prosperous republic required a unified and racially homogeneous population, but the commission's maps and images paradoxically emphasized diversity and helped create a "country of regions." By privileging the whiter inhabitants of the cool Andean highlands over those of the boiling tropical lowlands, the commission left a lasting but problematic legacy for today's Colombians.

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Geographical Expeditions in Colombia, Federalism in Colombia, Codazzi, Agustín (Agostino) (b. 1793 d.1859), Chorographic Commission of Colombia, History of science in Colombia, Price, Henry (Enrique) ( b. 1819 d. 1863), Costumbrismo/costumbrista art/artists and literature/writers, Ancízar, Manuel (b. 1812 d. 1882), Gendered representations of regions in nineteenth-century Colombia, Representation of blacks/Indians/whites in Colombia, Visual culture in Colombia in the nineteenth centuryl Representations of Pacific Coast of Colombia/Chocó region of Colombia in the nineteenth century, History of Cartography in Colombia (and Latin America), Frontier colonization in Colombia in the Nineteenth Century, Genre painting in Colombial Colombian regions/regionalism/regional stereotypes, Influence of Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859) in Colombia, Representations of Antioquia region of Colombia in the nineteenth century, Representations of Eastern Plains of Colombia in the nineteenth century, Economy of Colombia in the Nineteenth Century, Representations of Amazon Basin/Caquetá region of Colombia in the nineteenth century, Colombian state formation, History of Colombia, nineteenth century, Paz, Manuel María (b. 1820 d. 1902), History of Colombian art in the nineteenth century, Travelers and Travel Literature in Nineteenth-Century Colombia, Representations of Eastern highlands of Colombia/Santander/Boyacá in the nineteenth century, Chorographic Commission of Venezuela, History of Geography in Colombia (and Latin America), History of race in Colombia (and Latin America), Fernández, Carmelo (b. 1809 d. 1887)