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Mapping the Country of RegionsThe Chorographic Commission of Nineteenth-Century Colombia$
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Nancy P. Appelbaum

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469627441

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469627441.001.0001

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Solitary Deserts

Solitary Deserts

The Eastern Plains and Amazon

(p.131) 6 Solitary Deserts
Mapping the Country of Regions

Nancy P. Appelbaum

University of North Carolina Press

The sixth chapter examines the commission’s representations of the lowland Orinoco and Amazon borderlands in 1856 and 1857, especially the areas then known as Casanare and Caquetá, which the commission sought to transform and colonize. These costly and difficult trips took place during a period in which the commission operated under increasingly adverse circumstances, characterized by illness, dwindling state support, and constitutional revisions that required the commission to revise its maps. Manuel María Páz had become the commission’s principal illustrator and secretary. In addition to his paintings and sketches, the chapter analyzes a large manuscript map of the Eastern Plains, replete with ethnographic notations that belie Codazzi’s own repeated characterization of the region as deserted. Codazzi’s notations, reports, and illustrations emphasized the uncivilized sexual habits and gender roles of the populations that existed beyond the control of the state. Unlike in the highlands, the commission acknowledged the uncertainty of its cartography and explicitly cited the humble, local informants from which it obtained geographic knowledge, including Pedro and Miguel Mosquera as well as other black, mulatto, and indigenous inhabitants. Posthumously published maps, however, elided these informants’ intellectual contributions and their very existence, depicting the lands as empty and open for colonization.

Keywords:   Amazon region, Casanare, Caquetá, Agustín Codazzi, Eastern Plains, Indians, Miguel Mosquera, Pedro Mosquera, Manuel María Paz, Orinoco region

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