Paul Kamàck first became interested in Mexico when, still a student, he visited the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. What caught his attention was not the calculated exoticism of the materials on display, but rather the statistics that showcased the country as a perennial cornucopia. (Rivera Garza 156, my translation)
As Paul made his way through the fair, he ignored everything sensuous or artistic. He didn’t care to learn about monuments, didn’t care about painters or writers. He paid great attention, however, to the numerical details about the waterways and climate zones of Mexico. And once he had arrived in the country, seven years later, he followed up in the archives, spending his mornings poring over articles from the annals of the natural sciences or geography and statistics. He was unimpressed by the country’s progress in engineering—few places in the world could compete with Chicago’s prowess in those days—but he saw this lack as a growth opportunity. He discovered the existence of a mining area north of the capital and fell in love. He loved, especially, the exorbitant numbers of pesos it generated, and he loved also that they needed engineers like himself. He went to San Luis Potosí, and once there “he tried to make love to the very land itself” (159). But it’s unclear what this attempt entailed, since mostly he kept looking at numbers. Someone also gave him an elegantly drawn map, which pleased him greatly, for “there was nothing in the world that Paul so adored as well designed maps where all reality was measured and reduced to scale” (160). He copied it down as best he could on a sheet of white paper.
This episode takes place in Cristina Rivera Garza’s novel Nadie me verá llorar (2000; No One Will See Me Cry 2003). This book is wide-ranging, but its conceptual center lies in La Castañeda, the large, now-defunct insane asylum in Mixcoac that was inaugurated by President Porfirio Díaz in 1910. Rivera Garza, also a historian, has written another book solely about La Castañeda, and Nadie me verá llorar details its own historical sources in a postscript. All of which is to say that this is a fiction firmly based in history. Thus it is unsurprising that much of the chapter cited above, simply titled “Un mapa,” resonates so much with Cartographic Mexico (2004), Raymond Craib’s brilliant study of cartography in modern Mexico. The geographical focus of each book is different, but they describe roughly similar attitudes toward mapping.
See Craig Epplin´s "Cartography and Participation" here