This project began in Bogotá’s Biblioteca Nacional, as I read nineteenth-
century newspapers for my earlier book on Colombian popular political
beliefs and actions. I spent most of my time uncovering hints of how in-
digenous peoples, ex- slaves, and small farmers appeared in the historical
record. Now and again, however, I would turn away from my intensely
local pursuits and glance at the news of the world these nineteenth-
century papers reported. At first, this was just a diversion, playing hooky
from my real work—it was fun to see what Colombians thought about the
U.S. Civil War, or Garibaldi’s adventures in Italy, or Maximilian’s empire in
Mexico. After a while, however, I became troubled. These Colombian writers
were not seeing the world in the way that I had been taught they should.
They were not pining for a distant European civilization, hoping to imitate
the latest fashion from Paris, and depressed about the sad state of their own
barbarous republics. Instead, these writers expressed a great confidence in
their own societies, the Americas as a whole, and their place in creating a
new future for the world. My effort to understand this contradiction, to un-
derstand how nineteenth- century Latin Americans saw the world and their
place in it, became this book.
Since this project began quite some time ago, I have accumulated more
debts than seem warranted. As my partner is a librarian, I must begin by
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