Portions of paradise: aromatic landscapes in Chilean urban gardens (1671-1897)
Castro, Amalia [Chile. Universidad Mayor. Facultad de Humanidades. Centro de Investigación en Artes y Humanidades]
Burdick, Catherine [Chile. Universidad Mayor. Facultad de Humanidades. Centro de Investigación en Artes y Humanidades]
The present essay identifies the smellscapes of colonial and early Republican Chile through the reconstruction of botanical aromas in private urban gardens. Using archival documents in the Chilean National Archives, the Franciscan Archives of Chile, the Judicial Archives of San Juan Province and the Historical Archives of Mendoza we identify the botanical contents of enclosed gardens and orchards in upper-class homes. In contrast to previous studies that have linked the bad odors of early modern Latin America to infirmity and poverty, our purpose is to consider the place of pleasant aromas as part of a garden typology in which the garden is a reconstruction of paradise. Through our analysis of inventories and appraisals we identify continuities in botanical contents and structure between private Chilean gardens and prototypes in Moorish Spain. Our data confirms that the aromas of roses, jasmine, and citrus were a feature of the elite Chilean garden alongside native plants, and the resulting pleasant sensorial experiences imparted a paradisiacal ideal adapted from Moorish-Spanish antecedents. Ultimately, we interpret the fragrances of such private gardens as performances of power that gave presence to the hidden sites where elite Chilean networks were forged, and thus served as ephemeral signals of social exclusivity.
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