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January 2021 Vol. 58 No. 5

University of North Carolina Press

The following review appeared in the January 2021 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Social & Behavioral Sciences
History, Geography & Area Studies - Latin America & the Caribbean

Erbig, Jeffrey Alan, Jr. Where caciques and mapmakers met: border making in eighteenth-century South America. North Carolina, 2020. 259p bibl index ISBN 9781469655031, $90.00; ISBN 9781469655048 pbk, $24.95; ISBN 9781469655055 ebook, $19.99.

This impressive study analyzes Spain and Portugal’s collaborative efforts to delineate the border between Spanish Latin America and Brazil following the 1777 San Ildefonso Treaty. Building on borderlands studies along with cartographic and spatial history, Erbig (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) demonstrates that this boundary introduced significant changes to autonomous peoples in the region, particularly the Minuanes and Charrúas. Focusing on mobile Native encampments (tolderías) and their interaction with European settlers, Erbig argues that the border was no mere rhetorical imposition of imagined European power. The author reveals how the demarcation transformed the region by altering where toderías positioned themselves geographically, empowering legal claims to indigenous lands and, crucially, propagating postcolonial narratives of indigenous “absence.” Based on research in seven countries, this study details the many ways that Native actors participated in the regional power dynamic. Their involvement, the author maintains, gave the border its meaning. This provocative case study alternately provides a reexamination and, in places, reiteration of the core arguments of spatial history. It demonstrates how cartographic practices simultaneously created and transformed ethnicities while significantly contributing to the contemporary marginalization of Native peoples.

--D. Newcomer, East Tennessee State University

Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals.