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By Angela Perez-Mejia, Dick Cluster

Unravels the wealthy complexities of the colonial trip event.

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Additional 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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In June 1785 he writes: It is not easy to make discoveries at a single stroke, nor to verify that which you suspect. The polygamy of plants cannot be demonstrated by conjecture, only by repeated observations. The traveler cannot do so without stopping for a long time in the same place. (Diario de observaciones, libro I: 634) Thus, travel could no longer be justified as pursuit of knowledge. What had scientific validity, now, was remaining in the same spot. Mutis’s text “La vigilia y el sueño de las plantas” dates from this same year.

What has earlier produced his surest disdain soon becomes his object of study. By 1761 he is writing: I did not omit from journal some notes relative to Medicine, just as I have heard them from these people who daily put them into practice, as well as some other loose reflections about various vulgarities that prevail in Santa Fé among all classes of people. (Diario de observaciones, libro I: 87) For months he keeps up the stories of how diseases and the bites of tropical animals are treated, and little by little local knowledge comes to occupy a good many of his pages.

15 Mutis apparently kept the details of the exploitation of the cinchona secret for many years, which eventually gave rise to a dispute with José López Ruiz, another botanist who claimed to be the discoverer of the species in Nueva Granada. Quinas Amargas (Hernández de Alba 1991) discusses this polemic at length. What is clear, however, may be seen in passages in Mutis’s report El arcano de la quina (The Secret of the Quinine), in which he gives complete medical information about its use as a fermented beverage.

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