Matthew Bush - Searching for Latin America

Access to these maps was an invaluable resource for my course titled Searching for Latin America: Constructing Fictions and Identity. The goal of our class was to examine a variety of mediums – including literature, film, paintings – to question how the idea of Latin America as a geographic region home to vast cultural difference has been construed throughout history. These maps of Tenochtitlán and Cusco provided the class with an early glimpse into how Latin America was being imagined well beyond its shores.

What was immediately striking to us were not only the vibrancy of the images, but also how they worked to portray the two spaces as idylls, entirely in tune with nature. We questioned why these far off spaces would be so represented and ultimately discussed how such portrayals fed a drive to conquer this region of the Americas. Indeed, the figures represented in the foreground of these maps are closer to European models of beauty than to figurations of the indigenous peoples of these early metropolises. As such, what these maps betray is an impulse to imagine foreign spaces, not on the terms of local realities, but from the basis of a European othering gaze.

Matthew Bush, Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies

Associate Chair, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures