Mapping Latin America: A Cartographic Reader: Jordana Dym, Karl Offen


For many, a map is nothing more than a tool used to determine the location or distribution of something—a country, a city, or a natural resource. But maps reveal much more: to really read a map means to examine what it shows and what it doesn’t, and to ask who made it, why, and for whom. The contributors to this new volume ask these sorts of questions about maps of Latin America, and in doing so illuminate the ways cartography has helped to shape this region from the Rio Grande to Patagonia.

In Mapping Latin America, Jordana Dym and Karl Offen bring together scholars from a wide range of disciplines to examine and interpret more than five centuries of Latin American maps.Individual chapters take on maps of every size and scale and from a wide variety of mapmakers—from the hand-drawn maps of Native Americans, to those by famed explorers such as Alexander von Humboldt, to those produced in today’s newspapers and magazines for the general public. The maps collected here, and the interpretations that accompany them, provide an excellent source to help readers better understand how Latin American countries, regions, provinces, and municipalities came to be defined, measured, organized, occupied, settled, disputed, and understood—that is, how they came to have specific meanings to specific people at specific moments in time.

The first book to deal with the broad sweep of mapping activities across Latin America, this lavishly illustrated volume will be required reading for students and scholars of geography and Latin American history, and anyone interested in understanding the significance of maps in human cultures and societies.


“Mapping Latin America . . . is the first publication that takes on the ambitious and long overdue task of showcasing the crucial role that maps have played in shaping human communities across the entire region and, no less importantly, in demonstrating their value to students and scholars alike in gaining new insights into the societies that produced them. . . . [T]he volume succeeds admirably in demonstrating that scholars of colonial and modern periods alike would do well to take seriously the role of space and spatial representation in the shaping of Latin America’s societies, cultures, and environments. This book will appeal not only to students and scholars of Latin America but to anyone with an interest in critical studies of cartography and visual culture.” — Heidi V. Scott, University of Massachusetts, Amherst ― Imago Mundi

“[Mapping Latin America] adds a unique and valuable perspective about the region. . . . Recommended.” — L. Yachner ― Choice

“This compendium will appeal to a diverse array of groups, from the casual reader to the most avid ‘map geek’. . . . The accompanying essays do an excellent job of situating each map in the appropriate political, economic and/or cultural context, and the book can thus be read in its entirety or used as a resource to shed light on a particular place and time in the region’s history. As such, it would be a good addition to the bookshelves of many scholars interested in the geography or history of Latin America, clearly illustrating the power of maps.” — Edward L. Jackiewicz, California State University, Northridge ― Journal of Latin American Studies

“This is one of the most important books to have appeared on a Latin American topic in the last quarter century and beyond. . . . What this superb volume does is inspire one to look and think, and thus hopefully to promote a deeper understanding of the representation of meaningful spatial distributions.” — David J. Robinson, Syracuse University ― Journal of Latin American Geography

“This volume, which serves as a source of original insights about particular times and places as well as a methodological primer for use in the classroom, will without doubt catalyze even greater interest in the roles of those and other types of maps in Latin American history.” — Andrew Sluyter, Louisiana State University ― Hispanic American Historical Review

“Ambitious and wide-ranging, . . . Mapping Latin America is an excellent resource for undergraduate instructors who can use these maps as primary documents to explore major themes and developments in Latin American history. That the volume’s contributors are experts across a wide range of disciplines illustrates the interdisciplinary interest in, and relevance of, these maps. The reader will also likely inspire greater critical cartographical readings of graphic texts among geographers and historians alike.” — Sarah A. Blue, Texas State University ― Journal of Historical Geography

“Mapping Latin America offers a new kind of map history, one that brilliantly combines interdisciplinary approaches to maps that range over many centuries, producing insightful essays that ground the maps firmly in the societies that created and consumed them. It sets a significant new standard both for the history of cartography in Latin America and for the study of cartography itself.”

David Rumsey, Cartography Associates, David Rumsey Map Collection

“Mapping Latin America gathers together the foremost scholars of cartography and Latin American history. The novel format of the work allows Jordana Dym and Karl Offen to present a stunning range of cartographic materials, all carefully contextualized by the outstanding scholarship of the authors, which notably includes assessment of the contributions of indigenous cultures. Illustrating over five hundred years of mapping, this work is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the history of Latin America.”

Neil L. Whitehead, University of Wisconsin–Madison

“In a single volume, featuring fifty-seven succinct yet authoritative chapters, Dym and Offen have not only remapped the field of Latin American historical cartography, but have also charted a new path for critical map studies. More than a millennium’s time depth and a continent’s expanse are surveyed with fascinating details and composite illumination. Area specialists, devoted cartophiles, and adventuresome readers in general will find this collection a delight.”

Kent Mathewson, Louisiana State University

About the Author

Jordana Dym is associate professor of history and director of Latin American studies at Skidmore College and the author of From Sovereign Villages to National States: City, State and Federation in Central America, 1759–1838. Karl Offenis associate professor of geography at the University of Oklahoma.

  • Publisher‏ : ‎ University of Chicago Press; Illustrated edition (September 28, 2011)
  • Language‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback‏ : ‎ 358 pages
  • ISBN-10‏ : ‎ 0226618226
  • ISBN-13‏ : ‎ 978-0226618227
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2 pounds
  • Dimensions‏ : ‎ 8.5 x 1.2 x 11 inches

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