Of Alternative Geographies and
Plausible Futures
José Manuel Restrepo, a distinguished member of the group of New Granada’s
enlightened creoles and one of the most prominent po litical figures of Colom-
bia’s early national period, drafted a par tic u lar Colombian past and dreamed
of a specific Colombian future. His cartographic work, his role as interior
minister of Colombia during the 1820s, and his acute fear of race war and of
a Haitian- like future for Colombia, as chapter 6 shows, made him one of the
masterminds of the Andean- Atlantic republican proj ect and its concomitant
pro cess of deca ribbeanization of the nascent republic. Restrepo was also Co-
lombia’s first national historian. His Historia de la revolución de la república
de Colombia provided a lasting framework within which many generations of
Colombian historians have interpreted the country’s transition from colony
to nation. The work privileges elite po litical actors and a narrative of po litical
fragmentation that tragically but inevitably led to the emergence of three re-
publics: Colombia, Venezuela, and Ec ua dor. Restrepo’s Historia is a standard
bearer of the type of nineteenth- century historical account that sees history,
in the words of Lara Putnam, “as the discipline charged with writing each
nation- state a usable past” and, by extension, an enduring future of po liti-
cal in de pendence.1 His account fits neatly into what sociologists have termed
“methodological nationalism.”2 Methodological nationalism, the unquestioned
use of national borders as geographic units of analy sis or “the naturalization of
the nation- state” as the analytical unit, effectively creates what in his analy-
sis of Restrepo’s Historia Colombian historian Germán Colmenares called a
“historiographical prison.”3 Actively seeking to rethink and transcend the
geographic bound aries and periodization schemes that a nation- state–driven
historical account solidifies, historians of the Atlantic world have developed
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