Boundaries of Nature

What role do national boundaries play in the environmental change of a region?

My dissertation investigates the environmental history of the border between Argentina and Brazil in the twentieth century. I approach my subject through the establishment of two national parks in this region during the 1930s, one in each country: the aforementioned Iguaçu National Park in Brazil, and the Iguazú National Park in Argentina. My thesis explores the transformation in the region’s landscape, beginning in the 1910s, when the region was inhabited primarily by the indigenous Guarani and Kaingang, through the 1930s, when the governments of Argentina and Brazil created two of their first national parks at their borders, to the early 1980s, when the last inhabitants of the areas engulfed by the parks were evicted and the massive hydroelectric dam of Itaipu began exporting electricity to the industrial centers of São Paulo. I argue that the founding and development of the Iguazú/Iguaçu national parks was a crucial step in the processes of territorialization of the region, and thus they provide a window for understanding the history of successive colonization projects involving government technocrats, national and regional politicians, entrepreneurs, indigenous peoples, farmers, and settlers, revealing a decades-long story connecting state, society, and the environment.


Terrain of History

At the Spatial History Lab I was part of a larger research led by Professor Zephyr Frank on social networks in Brazilian nineteenth-century novels and plays. Using tools like Gephi (a tool for creating network graphs) we constructed dialogue-based network diagrams showing the interaction of the characters in literary works. We then analyzed the interactions both semantically (through topic modelling) and spatially. See some of the results here, and here.

Rio das Mortes

Using GIS applications and a database of post mortem inventories compiled by professor Afonso de Alencastro Graça Filho, I studied patterns of land use change and deforestation in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century southeastern Brazil. I found a strong correlation between maize growing and pig raising in frontier areas, which acted as a bridgehead for a subsequent waves of cattle ranching. You can read the results of this research here.

The Voyages of Francisco Moreno

As an undergrad at University of São Paulo, I studied the views on Patagonia of Francisco Moreno, an Argentine naturalist and geographer traveling the region the late nineteenth century. Few years before Buenos Aires launched a military campaign to conquest Patagonia from its native inhabitants, Moreno traveled the region depicting nature as part of a nationalized monumental landscape, thus naturalizing the conquest. You can read the article in Portuguese here, and in English here.