Traveling from New Spain to Mexico

Mapping Practices of Nineteenth-Century Mexico

Traveling from New Spain to Mexico

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 91 illustrations Published: June 2011

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Geography, Latin American Studies > Mexico

Antonio García Cubas’s Carta general of 1857, the first published map of the independent Mexican nation-state, represented the country’s geographic coordinates in precise detail. The respected geographer and cartographer made mapping Mexico his life’s work. Combining insights from the history of cartography and visual culture studies, Magali M. Carrera explains how García Cubas fabricated credible and inspiring nationalist visual narratives for a rising sovereign nation by linking old and new visual strategies.

From the sixteenth century until the early nineteenth, Europeans had envisioned New Spain (colonial Mexico) in texts, maps, and other images. In the first decades of the 1800s, ideas about Mexican, rather than Spanish, national character and identity began to cohere in written and illustrated narratives produced by foreign travelers. During the nineteenth century, technologies and processes of visual reproduction expanded to include lithography, daguerreotype, and photography. New methods of display—such as albums, museums, exhibitions, and world fairs—signaled new ideas about spectatorship. García Cubas participated in this emerging visual culture as he reconfigured geographic and cultural imagery culled from previous mapping practices and travel writing. In works such as the Atlas geográfico (1858) and the Atlas pintoresco é historico (1885), he presented independent Mexico to Mexican citizens and the world.


“The newly independent nations of Latin America imagined themselves in ways that linked specific pasts to new, national identities. While each emerging nation-state did this slightly differently, Magali Carrera shows that Mexican intellectuals did this by visually constructing—mapping, drawing, photographing, exhibiting and even performing— idealized narratives of Mexican history and geography that defined what it meant to be Mexican. And, Carrera does this in a well-written and visually profuse book that should interest Latin Americanist geographers working with questions of visual culture, national identity, or cartographic intention.” — Karl Offen, Journal of Latin American History

Traveling from New Spain to Mexico is a thoughtful and richly detailed book that seeks to illuminate ‘the complex and diverse spatial practices through which Mexico came to locate and define its national space’ (p. xiv). The book certainly achieves this goal…. This book will be important for historical geographers because it amplifies our understanding of how a distinctive visual culture emerges within the dynamic social contexts of a newly-independent nation. Although the book focuses on the Mexican case, Carrera’s methodology can be applied to other newly-independent countries, thereby expanding its potential readership wider than the title suggests…. Theoretically grounded in critical cartography, rich in historical detail, and laced throughout with over 90 illustrations, this is not light reading. Expect to spend some time with this sophisticated and delightful book.” — Richard Hunter, Journal of Historical Geography

Traveling from New Spain to Mexico is well researched and documented in primary and secondary sources…. Carrera’s clear and jargon-free writing makes the book enjoyable to read, and the abundant, well-chosen illustrations add to its enjoyment.” — Paula Rebert, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Carerra makes a convincing presentation…. Her approach is intellectually sophisticated and backed with a large amount of evidence…. Carerra makes an important contribution to our understanding of Mexican cultural and cartographic history." — David Y. Allen, Portolan

“The elegant sweep of visual history within which Carrera places sophisticated readings of the Mexican cartographer’s participation in nation-building discourse is a considerable achievement indeed. The extensively illustrated text and accessible prose will encourage specialist and non-specialist readers alike to get inside the visual narratives created by García Cubas in mapping his many Mexicos.” — Deborah Toner, Journal of Latin American Studies

“This book bridges an important gap in the study of Mexican cartographic production.” — Jordana Dym, Cartographica

“This relevant, important, and original contribution to the history of cartography, to the history of geography, to art history, and to visual cultural studies will be of great interest and read for enjoyment by a diverse public, specialist or not, on the history of Mexico.” — Claudia Agostoni, Canadian Journal of History

Traveling from New Spain to Mexico is an important book. It is distinctive in that it situates what we traditionally recognize as cartography in relation to post-independence Mexico’s broader visual culture, patriotic and geographic literature, and even oratory. In addition, Magali M. Carrera grounds the work of late-nineteenth-century historians and geographers in the colonial experience of New Spain, allowing us to see how visual tropes changed across several centuries and in response to Mexico’s independence and early national experience.” — James R. Akerman, editor of The Imperial Map: Cartography and the Mastery of Empire

“In this original, theoretically sophisticated, and empirically rich book, Magali M. Carrera situates Mexican art and cartography in national and international contexts, gives the mapmaker Antonio García Cubas the scholarly attention he has long deserved, and connects his projects not only to nineteenth-century visual culture but also to colonial visual culture and travel narratives from the early independence era. It is a superb book, one that scholars of Mexican and Latin American history, art history, visual culture, and cultural studies will read and admire for years to come.” — Raymond B. Craib, author of Cartographic Mexico: A History of State Fixations and Fugitive Landscapes


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Magali M. Carrera is Chancellor Professor of Art History at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is the author of Imagining Identity in New Spain: Race, Lineage, and the Colonial Body in Portraiture and Casta Paintings.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations ix

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xix

Introduction: Research and Theoretical Perspectives 1

1. Making the Invisible Visible 19

2. Locating New Spain: Spanish Mappings 39

3. Touring Mexico: A Journey to the Land of the Aztecs 63

4. Imagining the Nation and Forging the State: Mexican Nationalist Imagery—1810–1860 109

5. Finding Mexico: The García Cubas Projects—1850–1880 144

6. Traveling from New Spain to Mexico—1880–1911 184

7. Performing the Nation 232

Notes 245

Bibliography 277

Index 317
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4991-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4976-1
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