This broadside map embraces the entire country and is richly lithographed in resplendent colours. The ‘Signos convencionales’ in the lower left corner, identifies the symbols used to identify departmental boundaries, departmental capitals, pueblos del interior (interior villages), pueblos de Nvo. Creacion (new villages), Colonias (agrarian colonies), roads, railways in operation, telegraph lines, submarine cables, lighthouses and floating buoys.
The map includes a detailed statistical chart in the upper left corner providing figures for the national and departmental populations, geodetic coordinates and land areas, predicated upon the latest official information.
Special attention should be given to Uruguay’s railway network, which was soon to undergo rapid expansion, but is here shown to be limited to the 205 km line between Montevideo and Duranzo (with a branch shooting off to San Jose), and the short route between the capital and Pando. Also notable are the numerous new agrarian colonies that were rising in the interior, populated by recent European immigrants. The boundary between Uruguay and Brazil, as mandated by the Treaty of May 15, 1852, is carefully delineated. Along the coast, all lighthouses are marked, along with the radii of their beams.
A Note on Rarity
An ephemeral work, this broadside map would have been issued in only a small print run, mainly to be sold at news kiosks and bookstores (the price of 50 Centavos is found in the lower margin). Not surprisingly, the survival rate of such maps is incredibly low.
We can trace only 3 institutional examples of the map, held by the Museo Histórico Cabildo de Montevideo, Biblioteca Nacional de Uruguay and the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Moreover; we cannot trace any sales records.
Historical Context: Uruguay’s Moment in the Sun
Uruguay achieved its independence from Brazil in 1828, following a rebellion, becoming the República Oriental del Uruguay. However, the promising country soon fell into turmoil, leading to the ruinous Guerra Grande (1843-51), during which Montevideo was besieged for eight years, only occasionally receiving provisions from the sea.
After the war the republic recovered somewhat, but growth was always threatened by flashes of political instability. However, during the period from 1875 and 1890, a military junta established control, and while somewhat oppressive, it brought order and predictability to Uruguay for the first time in living memory. The present map is the product of this boom period, when an alliance of commercial barons and major agrarian landowners, fueled by foreign (mainly British) capital rapidly industrialized the country, leading to unprecedented economic growth. Immigration from Europe was encouraged, sparking a population boom. As the statistical chart on the map reveals, the national population was 438,245 (this was up from 230,000 in 1860; it would rise to 1.05 million in 1908). Montevideo, population 110,500, became the most modern and best-planned city in Latin America, while new agrarian colonies flourished in the interior, making the country into a major exporter. The stability transformed Uruguay into a favoured target for foreign investment and an entrepot for trade, and the country’s good times continued, almost unbated, until the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Gabino Monegal: Cartographer and Artist of the New Uruguay
Gabino Monegal (1848 -1906) was one of the great chroniclers of late 19th Century Uruguay, being a mapmaker, topographical artist and photographer. He joined the army at a young age and fought in Paraguayan War (1864-70), whereupon he was decorated for his bravery. He received advanced training in surveying and draftsmanship, and subsequently became one of Uruguay’s leading surveyor-cartographers, executing both military and civilian commissions.
His first major work for public consumption was an excellent large format national map, Mapa de la República Oriental del Uruguay (Montevideo: Imp. de A. Godel, 1876), which was soon followed by an important map of Montevideo:
As a hobby, Monegal sketched the places his visited all across Uruguay while on active duty, employing a unique style with vivid colours. He was also an avid photographer whose works are much prized today.
Monegal’s work was the subject of a recent exhibition at the Museo Histórico Cabildo de Montevideo entitled ‘Ninguna imagen es inocente’ (No Image is Innocent). The show includes the original lithographic stone used to publish the present broadside map (an amazing survivor!), along with one of the few surviving examples of the map. Please see a link to video of the exhibition (with the stone and map!):
Monegal achieved the rank of full colonel in 1887 and continued to serve in the army and sketch for the rest of his years.
References: Bibliothèque nationale de France, GED-1125; Biblioteca Nacional de Uruguay: 00.267.G5370.1882.L3; Anuario del Instituto Geográfico Militar de la República Argentina, vol. 1 (Buenos Aires, 1912), p. 70.