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Other research product . 2022

Aerial Views of Central America’s R�o Lempa Basin in the Descripci�n Geogr�fico-Moral de la Di�cesis de Goathemala, 1768-1770

Rivas, Carlos Anilber;
Open Access
Published: 01 Jan 2022
Publisher: eScholarship, University of California
Country: United States
This dissertation investigates the thirty-seven entries in the Descripci�n Geogr�fico-Moral de la Di�cesis de Goathemala (DGM) that correspond to present-day El Salvador and the R�o Lempa basin. Each of these entries is a description of a parish in the diocese and includes census data, ethnographic reflections, and watercolor aerial views that operate as maps for each parish. Informed by the latest advancements in decolonial methodologies and critical race studies, I offer the first art historical reading of these aerial views and contextualize them among other Spanish colonial cartographical technologies. I situate the DGM’s images among contemporaneous cartographical production to show that this was the most ambitious visualization of Central America yet attempted. In addition, I evaluate Cortes y Larraz’s subjectivity in America –– imagined in the early modern period as the “New World” –– to understand biases in the historical record that affect even census data. In contrast to previous scholarship, which has taken much of Cortes y Larraz’s census at face value, I offer a more nuanced view of eighteenth-century racial politics that included a complex set of negotiations between church officials, colonial administrators, and inhabitants of color. I show that the racial diversity in the R�o Lempa basin was far too complicated for eighteenth-century information technologies to properly record. Consequently, works such as the DGM accelerated and promoted mestizaje.

Art history, Latin American history, Ethnic studies, Central American Studies, Colonial Latin America, El Salvador, Experimental Critical Theory, Guatemala, History of Cartography

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