Since our first post, this blog has addressed the history of cartography at National Geographic, geographic names (toponyms), and even the cartographic exploits of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, the American artist best known for the painting “Whistler’s Mother.” I hope that these topics have proven of interest to some if not all of you. But what we have not addressed is the personal more intimate side of cartography here at the Society.
Unquestionably, National Geographic is the place to be if you love the science as well as the art of mapmaking. Our production schedules are full of stimulating and challenging projects that often test our knowledge of the cartographic profession. Once in a while, we will be assigned a project so close and near to our hearts that it becomes an overriding passion. Several months ago, I was given such an assignment—a large format (36″ x 24″) political map of Cuba.
The last time the Society published such a map was in October 1906! Those of you in the exiled Cuban community, both in the U.S. and abroad, know the significance of this map. Anyone who has visited Miami’s Little Havana, Tampa’s Ybor City, or even Union City, New Jersey, can’t avoid seeing maps of Cuba painted on walls, plastered on windows, or even printed on the sides of grocery bags.
To Cuban exiles of a certain generation, such maps bear more significance than any mere icon—they serve as portals to a place and time forever frozen in our hearts and minds. The mere site of them awakens our senses. They evoke the smell of sugar being processed in the mills, the taste and feel of a mango, and even the sounds of dominoes being shuffled on a tabletop.
So you may be wondering where I’m going with this blog. Well, I thought it could serve as a preface for a series of blogs on the making of our new map of Cuba. In future posts, the project’s staff will provide you with their experiences in the production of this map. And perhaps by the time it’s printed in June, you will also have Cuba on your minds.
Juan José Valdés
Director of Editorial and Research
National Geographic Maps
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