Alzate y Ramirez and the mapping of New Spain
In 1768 Mexican Jesuit priest Don José Antonio de Alzate y Ramirez created a large manuscript map of New Spain (defined at the time as those portions of North America controlled by Spain) which, in a bold move, he sent to the French Royal Academy of Sciences hoping that the learned society would publish it. For centuries, Spain had guarded its geographic knowledge about the New World and rarely allowed information to be published. Alzate’s outrageous breech of protocol resulted in the publication of the only printed map of New Spain using Spanish information in the eighteenth century. The map is rich with new geographic information of the area which would become the western United States. This presentation describes this extraordinary map in the context of the limited knowledge of that region of America at the time.