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Central America in Maps (1562-1860


Central America, and particularly Costa Rica, has not always been represented as we see them in today’s maps. Representation has varied as a response to the history of the Spanish Conquest and Colony, geographical studies, and cartographical advances. Seventy maps, dating from 1562 to 1860, display this in the new exhibit of the Museums of the Central Bank: Central America in Maps (1562-1860).

Starting on October 29th . and ending in May 2022, the public will be able to see these maps from the collection of Mr. F. Tomás Dueñas Leiva. Curated by Mr. Dueñas, accompanied by the historians Héctor Pérez and Manuel Chacón, visitors will appreciate for the first time this collection of maps, engravings of ports and fortifications, reproductions of navigation instruments, and colonial coins. The exhibition is sponsored by the California 49 Fund.

With this exhibit, our museum commemorates the Bicentennial of our Independence, a process that has transcended into historical documents such as maps. By seeing them one by one and comparing them throughout the visit, we invite everyone to discover how the territorial borders changed, the spots on land and sea that received more attention, the symbology and visual resources used in their design and, in a more implicit way, the political, commercial, and cultural dynamics at play

Short Tour

The objects on display, the contents of the investigation, and the educational resources that promote reflection and interaction are distributed through different sections. The introduction invites the visitor to acknowledge the importance that maps have always had as a means of simply finding a place or for political administration and military defense. Their creation and use remind us also of the permanent human interest in understanding the unknown or the recently discovered.

globo terráqueo

The next large section focuses on how the creation of maps was driven by the oceanic and imperial expansion of Spain and Portugal. This opens the way into the routes of the conquistadors, commercial routes, the main fortifications and ports, the rise of pirates, buccaneers, and privateers. Here, animations of relevant characters from history such as the Spanish jurist and politician, José Bernardo de Gálvez y Gallardo, or the pirate Mary Read and the privateer Francis Drake tell us some of these stories. The main commercial routes used at the beginning of the 18th Century may be explored on a projection on the floor that will respond to the actions the visitor takes.

The most ancient map in this collection (1562)

The third great topic relates to the changes in the configuration of the territories that occurred at the beginning of the independence process, with the creation of the political unit known as the United Provinces of Central America, which then became the Federal Republic, and -after its dissolution- the Central American republics. All of this had an impact on the borders of the region and established dynamics of unity or division that were reflected in cartographic representations.

One of the smallest and most detailed (1700)
Engraving of Trujillo Port (Honduras) (1671)

Towards the end of the exhibit, you will find a section called Costa Rica in Cartographic HistoryCosta Rica in Cartographic History. Here, an interactive screen will take you through seven moments in history to identify the changes in territorial borders from the 16th Century up unto the 20th Century.

Carta-cartografica-mas-reciente-despues-de-la-independencia (1825)
Most recent map after the independence (1825)


Visit resources

Visit the exhibit Monday through Sunday from 9:15 a.m. at 5 p.m. Buy your tickets online or at the museum box office.

Buy ticketBuy tickets onlineRoom GuideDownloadArtículo- Conformación de Costa Rica- Luis F. SibajaDownloadBiografía Manuel María de Peralta y AlfaroDownloadShare
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