Conference on Latin American History 6
Columbus’ arrival on Caribbean soil marked the beginning of a rich history of interactions between peoples with originally distinct conceptions of the animal world. European fascination with parrots and iguanas was first met with Amerindian amazement at horses and cattle. But in the colonial setting, European and Amerindian ways of knowing animals and insects gradually hybridized. The exotic hummingbird became a proxy for representing the Holy Spirit and livestock became central to agriculture. This panel explores how human interactions with animals and insects resulted in new ways of understanding and relating to nature in the early modern Spanish Atlantic. Drawing from the histories of science and medicine, environmental history, animal studies, anthropology and colonial history, the panel presents case studies that illustrate the construction and circulation of hybrid knowledge about animals and insects. Early records by Amerindian elites, missionaries, government officials and travelers, as well as a vast corpus of pre-Columbian visual evidence provide a unique window to the understanding of human-animal interaction in the case of Spanish America. By looking at animal domestication or adoption practices, the exploitation of medicinal animals and insect extermination technologies, the panel suggests that human-animal interaction was crucial to the conformation of the colonial order that emerged in the early modern Spanish Atlantic.