The first time I saw the Painting of the Lands, Marshes and Swamps of the Town of Bogotá, I was taken aback by its colors and details. It was 2012 and I was starting my PhD in History at Yale University. I had decided to study the relationships between natives and the Spanish empire, and in order to narrow the scope of my inquiry I traveled to Sevilla to visit the General Archive of the Indies. This archive holds an important amount of documents produced by the Spanish empire for the administration of their possessions in the Americas and Asia. What first caught my eye in the map was the unusually beautiful way in which animals, spaces and agricultural practices in the Bogotá Savanna of the early seventeenth century are depicted. On one hand, because of its use of color and attention to detail; on the other, because of the way in which this harmonious landscape encapsulates some of the historical processes that took place between the Spanish invasion of the Bogotá Savanna in the 1530s and the time the image was painted, around 1614.
I had taken an interest in the history of maps a few years before. From this field, I had learned that although in our first encounters with maps from the past we tend to compare them to modern ones in search for right and wrong representations, they are a unique source for understanding the way in which different societies saw and conceived their world. What is interesting about these varied interpretations is not whether they are precise or imprecise, but the way in which they illustrate the processes of a society in a given place and time.
Colonial Landscapes is an attempt to show how the Painting of the Lands, Marshes and Swamps of the Town of Bogotá reveals some of the processes triggered by the Spanish invasion in the landscapes and societies of the Americas. As we delve into the many layers of the map, we find this beautiful painting of the Savanna to be full of tensions and we understand it encapsulates part of the human drama and the environmental transformations imposed by the Spanish invasion on the landscapes of the Andes and its native societies.
Santiago Muñoz Arbeláez (PhD in History, Yale University)
Department History and Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages
University of Conneticut
Adelaida Ávila Cabrera
María Alejandra Orduz Avella
Anthony Picón Rodríguez
Ana María Durán
Juan Camilo Rodríguez Manríque
María Lucía Guerrero, Centro de Enseñanza y Aprendizaje
Bibiana Alfonso, Centro de Enseñanza y Aprendizaje
Juan Cobo Betancourt
Daniela López Baracaldo
Catalina Salguero Palacino
Juan de Brigard
Archivo General de la Nación, Museo Colonial (Bogotá), Museo del Oro, Biblioteca John Carter Brown, Archivo General de Indias, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Biblioteca Real Danesa, British Museum, Library of Congress, Pitt Rivers Museum, Real Academia de la Historia e Instituto Geográfico Agustín Codazzi.