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Additional info for A Geography of Hard Times: Narratives About Travel to South America, 1780-1849 (Latin American and Iberian Thought and Culture)
Let Your Honor learn something of these people’s manner of thought, and give thanks to heaven that you are not in a country where rationality is so scarce that any wellenlightened understanding is in danger. (Viaje a Santa Fe de José Celestino Mutis, 1991, 23) The letter was written from Cartagena during the first year of Mutis’s visit. His journal of that period also displays his disdain for the curative practices of the residents of Nueva Granada. 2 “Mutisia Clematis” Painted by Salvador Rizo.
In 1766 came an important event in Mutis’s life: he began the mining activity14 in which he would embody, for many years, his dreams of economic prosperity. In a 1789 letter to Charles IV’s physician Francisco Martínez Sobral, in which Mutis communicates that at last he will devote himself to botany as had been his longstanding dream, he would write: I also hope to soon harvest the generous fruit of my tasks in a most-abundant Mine in Sapo, which deserves recognition for its abundance and its wonderful circumstances.
Frías 1991, Viaje a Santa Fe de José Celestino Mutis, 206) His body fails him in every way, and suddenly he writes, “I lack the hands to draw everything I would like” (Diario de observaciones, libro II: 207). That sharp aside written by the scientific observer could be the beginning of a certain surrender to American nature, making it a project superior to his strength. This scientific traveler does not portray himself a strong figure capable of conquering and dominating that which he visits. 11 Those travelers with magnifying glasses in hand often trip and fall and thank heaven for the bump that saved the lens.