“A more adequate definition of cartography needs to express not just the presence of geographical knowledge but also cosmographical or biographical information, such as the soul flight of shamans or the passage and pathways of gods, heroes, and ancestors.”*

We set out to make a map for our son, something to show him where he comes from, to explain the unlikely fact of his existence. We wondered: what could a map be?

We weren’t starting from scratch — Jen’s a data visualization expert and Patricio’s a digital artist at a mapping company — but we wanted this map to reflect our son’s Argentinian heritage, and we realized we knew nothing about the history of maps in South America. Our research turned up a rich history of native South American mapping, combining earth and stars* with humans, plants, animals, and gods, into complex cosmographical systems*. We learned that daily and annual shifts of the Milky Way were used by the Quechua people to keep track of time*. We were inspired by the mass migrations of the Tupi-Guarani people, as they searched for guayupia*, The Land Without Evil. In addition to native maps, we found shoreline sketches from European navigators’ rutters*, drawn to help them recognize harbors that were new to them. We found the more recent south-up maps of artist Joaquin Torres-Garcia*, and the comic artist Quino*.

Our son’s genealogy is vastly more colonialist than native. He’s descended from kings and soldiers and factory workers and farmers who crossed the Atlantic, settling the Americas at the cost of native lives and freedoms. Hundreds of years later, we are still travelling to find success, now even more frantically: we move every year and change jobs every few years; each move taking us further from family and friends. Our comforts still depend on the lives of others less free than ourselves. In our families, the relentless search for guayupia goes back generations. Does seeing the futility and cost of the search mean we’ll call it off? (In our hearts, this is an open question.)

We set out to make a map for our son; we made it south up, to establish his geographic first principles in the hemisphere where his family lives; we include the earth and stars and shorelines, to help him find his way to the gods and heroes he’ll map for himself.

For more information about this piece, see this issue's legend.

Patricio González Vivo (1982, Buenos Aires, Argentina) is an artist and developer based in New York and Buenos Aires. Patricio’s work has been shown at Eyeo, Resonate, Sundance, Tribeca, FILE, Espacio Fundación Telefónica, and FASE. He was a MediaLab resident at Centro Cultural Español. His work has been featured in Gizmodo, The Atlantic, and Fast Company. He's taught at Parsons The New School, NYU ITP, and SFPC (School for Poetic Computation).

Jen Lowe is a writer and researcher based in New York and Buenos Aires. Jen taught at NYU ITP and SVA's Design for Social Innovation program. She was a researcher at the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University, and she cofounded the School for Poetic Computation. She's spoken at SXSW and Eyeo, and contributed ideas at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Her work has been published in Scientific American and covered by The New York Times and Fast Company. Jen is also a member of deeplab, a collaborative group of women researchers, artists, writers, engineers, and cultural producers.

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This is halfway between Jen's happy place on a mountain in Tucson, Arizona, and Patricio's happy place, eating milanesa on a patio in Buenos Aires.