The Silent War of Place-Names: Mapping Portuguese American Frontiers, 1720–1808

Friday, January 3, 2014: 3:10 PM
Columbia Hall 4 (Washington Hilton)
Iris Kantor, Universidade de São Paulo
Mapping Portuguese America's interiors became a priority for the Portuguese Crown after the Peace of Utrecht (1713-1715), when, concerned with preserving its domains, it hired two Jesuit mathematicians to make the first atlas of the longitudes observed within the continent. Although the project was neither completed nor published, this experience produced an important and substantial collection of geographical information provided mainly by colonists interested in legalizing land ownership and other privileges. A second significant moment for the mapping of the backlands began after the Luso-Hispanic Frontier Treaties  (1750-1777), when many expeditions were sent to set the boundaries between Spanish and Portuguese America. At this moment, local population, mainly Indians and Afroamericans, were fundamental to achieving demarcation goals. Enlightened cartographers also sought to rename regions between imperial borders. This paper examines the cartographic process during the demarcation of the Luso-Hispanic borders, and the attempt to erase the memory of the Jesuit presence in Portuguese domains. Pointing out the  strategies of naming the land, features and settlements used by the Jesuits, metropolitan authorities and local population, I analyze the transformations of memory of the place-names during the reconfiguration of the Ibero-American frontiers in the second half of the 18th century.