HUMBOLDT'S MEXICAN TEXTS AND LANDSCAPES*

Authors


  • *

    Although the views expressed in this essay do not necessarily reflect those of the people acknowledged, I thank Ulrike Leitner for sharing insights on Humboldt's unpublished field notebooks, the staffs of the Latin American Rare Books Room of Tulane University and of the Special Collections Room of the Louisiana State University, and the anonymous reviewers.

Abstract

ABSTRACT. While in New Spain from 1803 to 1804, Alexander von Humboldt interacted with some of its landscapes and the texts that represented them. Analysis of those interactions regarding the Basin of Mexico and the Gulf lowlands demonstrates what purely text-based studies of the production of places cannot: The contrasting landscape elements and patterns that had emerged over millennia during precolonial times in those two places, their relative degrees of depopulation during the colonial era, and the relative degrees of rigor Humboldt applied to interacting with the resulting landscapes and the texts that represented them greatly affected his representations of those places in his 1811 Essai politique sur le royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne. His representations of the precolonial Basin of Mexico as productively developed and of the precolonial Gulf lowlands as pristine have influenced the transformations of those places in the two centuries after New Spain became the Mexican republic through its wars of independence (1810–1821).

Ancillary