By Angela Perez-Mejia, Dick Cluster
Unravels the wealthy complexities of the colonial trip event.
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Extra info for A Geography of Hard Times: Narratives About Travel to South America, 1780-1849
All the rest concluded that there was a pact with the devil in these cures. (Diario de observaciones, libro I: 96) This time the scientist confesses, “In this report many details are lacking, especially the result for the patient” (Diario de observaciones, libro I: 96). As he recognizes that he does not have all the necessary information, Mutis leaves open the extreme possibility of a pact with the devil. About a fantastic story of monstrous hens and roosters produced by a particular kind of corn, he notes, “A strange way of thinking, that does violence to the eyes, which might have seen the contrary.
I return with thirty-five crates filled with botanical, astronomic, and geologic treasures. 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.
During the travels of the expedition he would often complain of his tiredness, of the length and complexity of the trips, the discomforts and shortages he faced. On his first voyage to Cartagena he fell terribly ill. In a letter whose intended recipient is unknown he complained about his destiny as a martyr to science: The mosquitos, centipedes, scorpions, snakes, spiders and other vermin taint with unspeakable bitterness the wondrous flavors which the investigator of nature finds. (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).
A Geography of Hard Times: Narratives About Travel to South America, 1780-1849 by Angela Perez-Mejia, Dick Cluster