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By Angela Perez-Mejia, Dick Cluster

Unravels the wealthy complexities of the colonial commute adventure.

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Extra info for A Geography of Hard Times: Narratives About Travel to South America, 1780-1849 (Latin American and Iberian Thought and Culture)

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MUTIS 29 At the moment (eleven months after having arrived) I am lacking many things that would contribute to alleviating the discomforts suffered by one away from home, but now in some manner I have adapted, until God pleases to return me from this exile and place me in my own country, surrounded by family and friends, whom I will entertain for a long while with my abundant harvest of tasty species. (Viaje a Santa Fe de José Celestino Mutis, 1991, 212) He has made the decision to stay until he can assemble the “abundant harvest” which he will take back to his country, and he still places his role as a doctor above all of others.

It will take me many years to publish my great work. . I am afraid of my first winter, everything is so new, I will try to find myself again. (Lettres Américaines, 135) Humboldt’s voyage had transformed his native Europe, while the tropics had gotten under his skin. He apparently never managed to carry out the proposed re-encounter with himself. Contact with American reality caused a division within the scientist. Though he managed to re-create America on a textual level in his travel writing, he remained exiled in the realm of nostalgia for the rest of his days.

In Nueva Granada, that task had been assigned to Mutis and his students: Francisco José de Caldas, Francisco Antonio Zea, 39 40 THE SCHOLAR AND THE BARON Salvador Rizo, and others. All of them were to be students of Humboldt and Bonpland during the travelers’ three-month stay in Santa Fe. Shortly thereafter, in a rather paradoxical twist of fate, several of these ex-students would die before the firing squad for having defended the cause of independence. To that group of young scientists, Humboldt’s cartographic knowledge proved not merely a courtly offering, but a politically useful gift.

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