How to Read a Map: Global and Local Circulations on Pedro Murillo Velarde’s Map of the Philippines (1734)

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The standard teleological reading of Pedro Murillo Velarde’s map of the Philippines (1734) as the origin of scientific, national maps of the Philippines fails to situate the map in its proper historical context. Several itineraries manifest themselves on the map, such as Murillo’s global Xaverian pilgrimage, his personal travels to different islands of the archipelago, and the circulation of cartographic knowledge through missionary, colonial, and indigenous communities. Contrary to stereotypes of Murillo as a sedentary cartographer, he traveled extensively through the archipelago, particularly Mindanao, and his itineraries are visible on his map. In addition to being an object of spiritual meditation, Murillo’s map speaks to imperial contexts as part of a larger narrative of conquest that emerged from the circulation of the geographic knowledge of Spanish officials and indigenous informants. Through this case study, I show how circulations and itineraries can be used to interpret the creation and content of colonial maps.