Latin American Geographies – Travel Writing
Travel writing has always been an abundant resource in regards to Latin America, particularly during the 19th century. Todays travel literature was influenced by what Jones refers to “imperial citizens” who were often contracted on missions to route paths for railways, land colonization and diplomatic missions. Contemporary travel guides have even used guides written in the 19th century as foundational resources upon which to build their work. For example in Toby Greenes, Saddled with Darwin he travels the South American horseback routes that Charles Darwin once took.
According to Jones, “detachment and dominance” over the landscape is one of the overriding themes of travel guides relating to Latin America. In stark contrast to the more industrialized landscapes found in Europe, Latin America was said to be very lush and populated with exotic species. In 1799, von Humboldt wrote: “What a fabulous and extravagant country were in! Fantastic plants, electric eels, armadillos, monkeys, parrots, and many, many real half-savage Indians.”
Contrary to the often elaborate and beautiful descriptions they would use to describe the landscape, travel writers regarded the indigenous population of Latin America as almost less than human, and used terms such as “backwards, lazy, as well as temperamental and prone to sexual ill-discipline” to describe them. Other writers would discount the people entirely such as Koettlitz who Jones says, “devoted more column inches to insects and flora than people, whom he rarely mentions other than in relation to their race, conditions of disease/mortality and laziness.”
The writing of these early authors established a stereotype that fostered the idea of Latin America, both the environment and the people as being “different” than Europe or North America.
The next section is titled Representations of Latin America as “British Culture” and begins by describing ways in which Latin America has influenced British society. Jones mentions the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural and British