The Caribbean at an Arm’s Length

The stereoscopic images of Puerto Rico produced and distributed between 1900-1910 by the American company Underwood & Underwood are notable visual documents on the aftermath of Spanish American war and discourses of vision and visuality of the nascent American empire. With more than 2000 images of the territories acquired after the 1898 Treaty of Paris, Underwood & Underwood put out in 1901 a 100-card set on Cuba and Puerto Rico. Just as other sets that comprised The Underwood Travel System—a collection of more than 80 tours of different countries around the world— the one on the recently acquired territories included views of the countries’ cities, monuments, industries, natural resources and people, and explanatory notes on the backs of the cards. Considered one of Underwood’s innovations in the industry, these tours intended to situate the viewer within a foreign territory, simulating an experience of mental travel.

After looking at this virtual exhibition and interactive map, viewers will understand how the Underwood’s conveyed an imaginary sense of presence and participation in the process of colonizing Puerto Rico with the help of maps, captions and stereographic images. The main purpose of this exhibition is to show how technology shapes the way we look at racialized bodies and landscapes, and to promote reflection on the constructed nature of looking. These questions are particularly crucial today because images of Puerto Rican people and landscapes produced in the first years of the American occupation of the island not only anticipate iconographies of the Caribbean disseminated in tourism and fruit industry advertisements of the twentieth century, but also remain fixed as organizing principles for a colonial archive of the island.

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Exhibit Dates
December 2021 – December 2023

Maria Pautassi Restrepo, Art History MA ‘2021, Newcomb Art Department

This exhibition was made possible thanks to The Stone Center 2021 Summer Research Grant. Special thanks to Sean Knowlton, Head of Digital Scholarship and Initiatives at Tulane University Libraries; Melissa Chomintra, Scholarly Engagement Librarian for the Social Sciences and Geospatial Data; David Robinson, head of Scot Ackerman MakerSpace at Tulane University; Dr. Christine Hernández at the Latin American Library at Tulane; and Dr. Adrian Anagnost, my thesis advisor at the Department of History of Art.

Gif animation completed by Alan Velasquez, Lea Saslekova and Sophie Aheron.

Exhibit Sections