Commercializing Patagonia: From Rabbits to Guano 

Get Complete Project Material File(s) Now! »

Chapter II Imaging and Popularizing Patagonia

“So we galloped; but shortly we descried dark forms coming down the side of the mountain, from a pass among the hills, one or two miles distant. Then another and another squad followed, while we rode on to meet them. The first detachment came up like a whirlwind, their long, coarse, black hair streaming, and their rough skin mantles flapping in the wind, while all were shouting in savage glee. The ground shook under the rush of their horses, and the atmosphere was clouded with dust. They surrounded us; they yelled and grinned; they were as noisy as a flock of loons and as active as a swarm of bees. . . They were large, strong, and bold men, quite independent in their bearing and perfectly conscious that they were the masters of the situation. They were dark and filthy, ignorant and brutal in th e last degree. They laughed, showing splendid rows of white teeth, and in five minutes the interview ended. Every man put spurs to his horse, and, with yells and an uproarious shout, the whole band of about 20 rushed toward the Strait, leaving a long cloud of dust behind them.” (A Patagonian Mission: Adventures in Patagonia by Rev. Henry M Field in The New York Times, April 12 1880, p. 3)
When confronted with this description the reader can feel aesthetic reaction experienced by Westerners in their encounter with the Otherness. Bodies and landscapes become objects of examination under the “imperial eyes.” Under this “imperialist gaze” “the writer literally sees the landscape of non-Western world in terms either of the promise for westernized development or the disappointment of that promise.”1 In this fragment extracted from the NYT the cultural and geographical Other is objectified, evaluated, and understood as mysterious, exotic, and barbarous. At the same time, the Other is presented to the public as a mo re primitive and uncivilized human being. The description connects readers to those lands, a place never seen, outside their Western world. Certainly, this image of the Geographical Space (Patagonia) and Geographical Other (Patagonians) influenced a number of people who read the article. Such writings influenced the way they thought and imagined the Otherness. But how do we explain this characterization? What ideas lay behind this image? Did this image of the Other change through time? Did American and British perceptions of Patagonia and Patagonians differ at some point?
This chapter explores these questions through the analysis of the articles found in the LT and the NYT during the second half of the nineteenth century. That is, this section of the research examines different layers of meaning attributed to the land (Patagonia) and the people inhabiting the region (Patagonians) and how they relate to the United States and Great Britain’s international as well as national agendas. As David Spurr writes, “the news media’s reliance on institutional sources, their place in a market economy, and their standardized discourse produce an ideology that is fairly easily explained in terms of national policy and public opinion.”2 Certainly, the press in the nineteenth century was one of the sites used by governments and dominant groups to disseminate imperialist ideology and information about other places and people.
In this context, the images created by the press reveal the ideology that rests behind the representation of Patagonia and Patagonians. In other words, the analysis of the press discourse unveils the ideology and interests behind each newspaper’s “imperial writings.” In this sense, the writings published in both newspapers provide us with a means of exploring British and American attitudes and ideas associated with a faraway land and unknown people.
The concepts of representation and discursive approach serve as the theoretical and analytical framework to explore the newspapers’ depictions of the Patagonia region, that is, the rhetorical position from which Patagonia and the people that inhabited that region were understood, analyzed, described, or represented. Stuart Hall has defined representation as “the production of meaning through language.”3 Representation “is the link between concepts and language which enables us to refer to either the ‘real’ world of objects, people, or events, or indeed imaginary worlds of fictional objects, peoples, and events.”4 Thus, to Hall, meaning is created through representations which “social actors” create while using language. Consequently, Hall asserts, representations “involve the process of interpretation,” where the “reader [recipient] is as important as the writer [sender] in the production of meaning.”5
In the process of writing discourse, language has a key role. Language, as a means of reproduction and creation of discursive representations, is according to Bakhtin loaded with symbolisms, imports, ideologies. As Said pointed out, “language itself is a highly organized and encoded system, which employs many devices to express, indicate, exchange messages and information, represent, and so forth. In any instance of at least written language, there is not such a thing as a delivered presence, but a re-presence, or a representation.”6
According to Said, these representations, created by language, are constructions that give meaning to spaces, which have some significance separate from the space itself (exteriority). Essentially, representations are independent from the space they define. In addition, these representations of the Geographical Other rely on a series of assumptions (authority) that place us in the “larger ideological complex that produced them.”7 i.e., each writer or observer “assumes . . . some previous knowledge . . ., to which he refers and on which he relies.”8 Through these “clusters of images” one can see how people perceived the world around them (a vision of the Other) as a way to situate themselves in a specific space (a geographical self- image) and, also, in order to explain or define their own identity (self-examination).9
Considering that representation of spaces reflects, legitimates, constructs, and reinforces colonialist ideology, we can identify a relationship or link between texts (discourses) and the historical and cultural contexts (institutions, values, beliefs, etc) in which texts are produced (textuality). As Said stated, “no one has ever devised a method for detaching the scholar from the circumstances of life, from the fact of his involvement (conscious or unconscious) with a class, a set of beliefs, a social position, or from the mere activity of being a member of society.”10 Ideology, then, becomes a key element to consider when dealing with representations; and the “examination of ideology requires the discourse be situated with regard to power.”11 In this sense, Althusser defines ideology as “the imaginary representation of the world.”12In other words,“ideology represents the imaginary relation of individuals to their real condition of existence,”13 to their “real world;” and those representations always reproduce relations of power.
In this context, written texts may be regarded as“instruments of control”14 by which national and international powers shape thoughts about regions so the y might legitimize the control that imperialist countries exert in specific areas. Indeed, newspaper discourse is used to influence and convince readers of certain ideas regarding people or places. Newspapers published the information gathered from the colonies and increased the knowledge of the region and people, which would allow imperialist countries to dominate those specific areas.15 In this sense Abdul R. JanMohamed argues, Colonialist literature is an exploration and a representation of a world at the boundaries of ‘civilization,’ a world that has not (yet) been domesticated by European signification or codified in detail by its ideology. That world is therefore perceived as uncontrollable, chaotic, unattainable, and ultimately evil. Motivated by this desire to conquer and dominate, the imperialist configures the colonial realm as a confrontation based on differences in race, language, social costumes, cultural values, and modes of production. 16
Therefore, to place the press discourse within a system of hierarchical relations, to uncover the ideological foundations of press discourse, this study applies David Spurr’s ideological dimensions of colonial discourse.
For Spurr colonial discourse “does not simply reproduce an ideology or a set of ideas that must constantly be repeated. It is, rather, a way of creating and responding to reality that is infinitely adaptable in its function of preserving the basic structures of power.”17  Colonial discourse is the “system by which one culture comes to interpret, to represent, and finally to dominate another.”18 Therefore, our sense of others comes from representations (newspapers, travel accounts, etc); and the construction of representations is accomplished by the dominant (colonial power). Dominant political discourse on Patagonia was constructed on the basis of nineteenth century ideals of progress and civilization. In this sense, civilization versus barbarism was the dichotomy that served as the basis for the differentiation between Western and culturally different people.
David Spurr has enumerated what he considers the main ideological dimensions of colonial discourse: surveillance, appropriation, aestheticization, classification, debasement, negation, affirmation, idealization, insubstantialization, naturalization, eroticization, resistance. The author has explored how those modes operated when writing about non-Western people and how nineteenth century ideals of progress and civilization informed the ways of writing about the Other. Having in mind these ideological dimensions characteristic of imperial writing, this chapter explores how the press in the United States and Great Britain, responding to their countries’ interests, portrayed the Southern region of Patagonia and its inhabitants. Specifically, this chapter considers some of Spurr’s ideological dimensions, particularly, those most reflected in nineteenth century discourses on Patagonia.
In the nineteenth century, the general public could satisfy its need for information and curiosity about an unknown land and people not only through the reading of travel writing but through the reading of articles published on newspapers as well. In this context, newspapers influenced readers in the ways they understood and represented Patagonia and Patagonians, conditioning American and British attitudes toward the region.

Representing Otherness in the Press

The analysis of the articles found in both newspapers allowed identifying some changes in the discourse. A close examination of the information suggests the existence of two phases in the imaging of the Patagonian region and its inhabitants. The first stage corresponded to the myth created around Patagonia and Patagonians and was the product of the limited geographical knowledge of the area and its people. The second stage resulted from new explorations in the area and, consequently, the increasing geographical knowledge of the land and its people.
From the moment it was first noticed by European in 1520, Patagonia was represented as an uncivilized, unattended, empty, inhospitable, desolate, and remote land. This image not only prevented settlers from going there but also postponed the economic exploitation of the area. The strong winds and rains on the Patagonian coast seemed to reinforce the negative views of the region. In this context, the image of Patagonia as desert became fixed in the minds of Europeans and Americans.

Chapter I: Introduction 
Chapter II: Imaging and Popularizing Patagonia
Representing Otherness in the Press
The Myth: Between the Desert and the Giants
Struggles of Representation: Creating New Knowledge about the Other
Chapter III: Commercializing Patagonia: From Rabbits to Guano 
Zoological, Botanical, and Geological Imports
The Guano Trade
b. Sales
d. Debt Settlement
e. Dispute
Chapter IV: Colonizing and Re-populating Patagonia 
Chapter V: Argentine and Chilean Boundary Dispute 
The Struggle over the Control of Natural Resources
Contest over Territory
Chapter VI: Conclusions 
Imagined Contested Spaces: The Imaging of the Patagonian Region (1840-1881)

Related Posts