Pelagios Commons al Sur: Extending Pelagios to the South American Continent
This is the first post in a series of introductory blogs from the 2017 Resource Development Grant recipients. More posts from our project will be uploaded over the next months.
The Humanidades Digitales CAICYT (https://hdcaicyt.github.io/) team from CONICET, Argentina, is very pleased to announce that it will be extending Pelagios Commons to the South American continent. Pelagios Commons al Sur will run from now until December 2017 thanks to the support provided by the Pelagios Commons Resource Development Grant scheme.
Over the last three years Pelagios Commons tools and resources have been featured at our two inaugural DH events in Argentina: the First National Conference in Digital Humanities (Buenos Aires, November 2014), and the First International DH Conference (Buenos Aires, November 2016). With funding from the 2016 Pelagios Commons microgrants, we were able to team up with the LINHD group at UNED in Madrid (http://linhd.uned.es/) to work on annotating material related to Medieval Iberia (http://commons.pelagios.org/2016/10/mediaeval-iberia-through-pelagios-commons/ and http://commons.pelagios.org/2017/04/mediaeval-iberia-final-report/)—work that has attracted the attention of many Spanish and Latin American researchers. With this new project we aim to be even more ambitious and explore the relationships between Spain and Latin America through their historical, literary, and cartographic sources, using Pelagios Commons tools and resources.
The South American Continent has been the subject of intense description since the Spanish Conquest, from fray Bartolomé de las Casas to Charles Darwin. Pelagios Commons al Sur takes as its main focus the Río de la Plata region and the texts written about it. Even though nowadays the Río de la Plata lands refer to the province of Buenos Aires (Argentina) or, on the other shore, Uruguay, we are here thinking of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata of the Spanish Empire (in Spanish, Virreinato del Río de la Plata), the last viceroyalty to be organized and also the shortest-lived. The Viceroyalty was established in 1776 from several former Viceroyalty of Perú dependencies that extended over the Río de la Plata Basin, roughly the present-day territories of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The corpus of texts that we will work on belong to the early period of the Conquest of South America (16th-17th centuries) especially those related to the so-called lands of the Río de la Plata. These texts are:
- Comentarios (de Pero Hernández) a Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (first edition 1542/1555)
- Viaje al Río de la Plata– Ulrico Schmidl (first edition 1567)
- La Argentina– Martín del Barco Centenera (first edition 1602)
- LaArgentina manuscrita – Ruy Díaz de Guzmán (first edition 1612)
- Un Informe de un viaje por el Río de la Plata y desde allí por tierra a Perú…- Acarete du Biscay (first edition 1672)
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish explorer. In 1540 Cabeza de Vaca was appointed adelantado of what is now the Argentine Republic. After returning to Spain, he wrote an account of his experiences, first published in 1542 as La Relación, which in later editions was retitled Naufragios (“Shipwrecks”).
Ulrico Schmidl took part in 1534 as a Landsknecht under Pedro de Mendoza in an expedition to today’s Argentinian Río de la Plata. He also accompanied Juan de Ayolas on his first trip in quest of provisions, and afterward went with Ayolas in his expedition up the Paraguay River. He was one of the soldiers who were left with Domingo Irala in charge of the vessels in Puerto la Candelaria (modern Fuerte Olimpo). When Cabeza de Vaca was deposed in April 1544, Schmidl supported Irala as the new governor. He kept a diary during his adventures, which he published in Frankfurt in 1557, under the title of Wahre Geschichte… (The true story of a noteworthy trip made by Ulrich Schmidel von Straubingen in America or the New World from 1534 to 1554, where will be found all his troubles of 19 years and the description of lands and noteworthy peoples he saw, described by himself), of which a Latin version appeared in Nuremberg in 1599 as Vera historia… In the 19th century Henri Ternaux-Compans published a translation of his work in his Voyages, relations et mémoires…(1837-1841), as did Andrés González de Barcia in his Historiadores primitivos de Indias. In this way Schmidel became to be seen as the first historian of Argentina. Much of his account (in German) overlaps with the record offered by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, but they also differ from each other in many respects.
Martín del Barco Centenera was a Spanish cleric and explorer. He accompanied, as chaplain, the expedition of Juan Ortiz de Zárate to the Río de La Plata in South America in 1572. He returned to Europe after 1582, where he finished his poetical work, known as La Argentina, which he dedicated to the Viceroy of Portugal.
Ruy Díaz de Guzmán was a conqueror who became the first writer born in the governorship of the Rio de la Plata and Paraguay. In addition, he is considered the first mestizo of Hispanic-Guarani descent to record the history of the region of the Río de la Plata. La Argentina manuscrita is a text about the discovery, population and conquest of the Río de la Plata, and was dedicated to his relative Alonso Pérez de Guzmán the Good and Zúñiga, Duke of Medina-Sidonia, Count of Niebla and Señor de Gibraleón. It narrates the events from the discovery of the Río de la Plata (which appears erroneously dated in the text as 1512) to the founding of the city of Santa Fe in 1573.
Acarete du Biscay was a Frenchman, possibly of Basque origin. In December 1657, he travelled from Cádiz, Spain, to South America. In 1658 he travelled overland across the Argentine pampas to the silver mines of Potosí, located in present-day Bolivia. In 1672, Acarete published an account of this trip in his native French. A later version of the work was published in Paris in 1696 under the title Relation des voyages dans la rivière de la Plate. This English translation of the later edition was published in London in 1698. It is part of a larger work entitled Voyages and Discoveries in South-America that contains accounts of three early voyages to the continent.
We are interested in analyzing these texts because they belong to a historical moment in which individual—and more literary—stories replace the more general, historical and moral chronicles or reports. Consequently, these texts hover between objectivity and subjectivity, history and fiction, and are highly diverse in tone and genre (Del Barco Centenera’s Argentina is, for example, a long poem). Furthermore, these texts are not restricted to the ruling powers (Spanish diplomats or military officers)—Ruy Díaz de Guzmán is, for instance, half native, half Spanish, as his father married a guaraní woman—even though they may form part of expeditions related to the Spanish Crown. Indeed, they often differ widely in their points of view. In addition, all of them prove to be important texts in a local and global sense, since they were edited not only in Europe but also, later in the XIXth century, in the Río de las Plata’s presses. In the case of Schmidl and Biscaye, their works were firstly published in German and French and translated later into Spanish (and Latin, in the case of Schmidl). Last, but not least, they are attractive for the linguistic difficulties that they present in transmitting the experience of a totally unknown world (from the ease or difficulty that they find in the acts of appropriation, adoption, adaption as translation or/and reuse of the native named of places, vegetation or animals, or the pretended inaugural act of giving new names) and the “part” that they select as important to the “Conqueror” eyes. For instance, in Ruy Díaz de Guzmán’s La Argentina manuscrita, these acts can be read in this passage: “(…) que es la que hoy llaman Pernambuco, por estar sitiada de un brazo de mar que allí hace, que los naturales llaman Paranambú, de donde se le dio esta nominación” [“(…) which is what they now call Pernambuco, because it is situated on the one side of the sea that the natives call Paranambú, from which this name was given”]. Other interesting problems in relation to names and naming and the relationship between time and space can be seen in the changes to naming the land to be described from “Indias” to “Río de la Plata”, “Virreynato”, “Argentina”. We think that these kinds of problems deserve a philological, historical and technical approach following Bakhtin’s notion of chronotope.
Thus Pelagios Commons al Sur will aim to identify the names that the texts assign each place, identify their native names (and also their language -guaraní, charrúa, etc.-), and record the time in which those names change (see the cited case for “Pernanambuco”, “Indias”, “Argentina”). For this purpose, a tool for the management of Controlled Vocabularies such as TemaTres (http://www.vocabularyserver.com/) will be used to define the relevant geographical categories which can be used to describe the spaces and locations that exist in the socio-geographical environment of the 16th and 19th centuries in the Río de la Plata territory. TemaTres is a powerful, open source web tool for managing formal and linguistic representations of knowledge. It allows you to manage open code controlled vocabularies (glossaries, taxonomies, thesaurus, headers lists) in open source servers. In this sense, TemaTres is the ideal tool to work on the linguistic issues of our texts, as it weaves a net between authors, concepts, bibliographic records, digital resources, information sources and data. Exporting the data in a favourable format (Data in RDF), we will the establish a historical Gazeetter and tag our texts with Recogito.
Although Pelagios Commons is a project that was originally primarily devoted to research in the ancient world, in recent times it has shown a special interest in extending its spatial and geographical borders. This can be seen in the projects that were presented at the Linked Pasts Symposium (UNED-Madrid) as winners of Small Grants in 2016. In our case, the presence of a project with texts from the 13th century such as Medieval Iberia in this group of grant winners is especially significant for the diachronic and geographical connection between Spain and the New World. Although much critical bibliography referring to the study of the chronicles of American discovery, conquest and colonization during the 16th and 17th centuries may be found, no historical gazetteers or research projects that relate texts with GIS in the field of Literature or History have been developed. More generally, Digital Humanities tools have yet to gain wide traction in Latin America. In this sense, the resources and tools of Pelagios Commons will be key elements in the development of a Latin American Digital Humanities. Moreover, we think that this project is an opportunity to continue expanding Pelagios’s community of users beyond Europe to an audience interested in texts that are halfway between Europe and South America (as well as halfway between Literature and History), mainly in countries such as Argentina, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Through the interesting topic of the texts, these new communities will also discover the multiple approaches that Pelagios Commons can offer with its resources, tools and working groups.
Pelagios Commons al Sur team members
Gimena del Rio Riande (IIBICIRIT and CAICYT, CONICET)
Carina Zubillaga (IIBICRIT, CONICET)
Melisa Martí (IIBICRIT, CONICET)
Romina De León (CAICYT, CONICET)
Diego Ferreyra (CAICYT, CONICET)
Nicolás Quiroga (Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata)
Elena González Blanco (LINHD-UNED)
Clara Martínez Cantón (LINHD-UNED)
María Luisa Díez Platas (LINHD-UNED)
James Blake Wiener (Ancient History Encyclopedia)