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DISCOVERING COMMON GROUND

Ever since Ptolemy, humans have described the contours of earths lands and
seas according to their observations, with each new discovery redrawing the map.
Even now, with a multitude of scientific tools that help us describe our worlds
geography with great precision, there remain uncharted territories in our
understanding of its cultural boundaries and how they are interconnected across
borders. With an attitude of adventure, what we find when we look afresh at our
suppositions may forever change our mental map of what we thought we knew.
One common supposition is that distance breeds difference. Though distinctions
among nations and peoples exist, its my view that brains are wired to be more like
one another than unlike, and it has always been important to me to understand
what connects us all. In Latin America, I see that there are more similarities
between, for example, Brazil and Argentina, or between Venezuela and Colombia,
or between Bolivia and Peru. Weve had a common ancestry and a common

history through the wars of independence. And even after the wars of
independence, when we diverged in some respects, we have shared a tremendous
culture together, and we have two languages that unify us all.
Global exchange is built on commonality, cooperation, and collaboration, and Latin
America has been a nexus of global commerce and culture since the Colonial
period. Its nothing newthe creation of those networks of finance, ideas, objects
and people that unite us in so many ways, and which we now refer to as globalism,
has been happening for a very long time, over great distances.
Like so many families everywhere, my grandchildrens family has included men
and women who were willing to take risks to overcome distances in order to
resettle in more opportune soil. Ancestors on both the Cisneros and Phelps side
my family and my wife Pattys familyfound homelands in Spain, Venezuela,
Cuba, Trinidad, Spanish Florida, England, and the United States. In researching
our genealogy for our grandchildren, it has become clear that a seemingly genetic
predisposition toward adventure, a sense of the vital importance of education for
all, and an ability to adapt and changecombined with moments of good fortune
have allowed us to respond to challenges and has made us successful. With that
success comes responsibilities.
One responsibility we take very seriously is the preservation of the many wonderful
examples of material culture from Latin America that comprise our collections.
Preserving the heritage of artworks involves more than the crucial work of caring
for them physically. It involves giving them new avenues of correspondence with
other works of art and other traditions where they may be studied in public, and
creating new scholarship that reveals previously unseen connections and
discovers new facts.
When Patty and I began collecting the landscapes of Latin America by traveler
artists to and within the region, we recognized that the images they recorded from
the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries represented a way to perceive a world
whose boundaries transcended political borders. They further provided an

understanding of Latin America as a longstanding participant in networks of


interconnected ideas, traditions, and fruitful exchange.
We have been delighted to be able to collaborate with Hunter College, the City
University of New Yorks Graduate Center, and Americas Society, to organize
anexhibition of the landscapes that demonstrate those connections, and to publish
abook about them with new scholarship by distinguished scholars and students
from the two schools.
Patty and I are especially proud of the students, whose research and curatorial
work contributed tremendously to both the exhibition and book. Their work has
added important gains to the intellectual preservation that will allow these works to
live for a new generation, who will no doubt discover in them national identities with
more in common than previously imagined.

gustavo cisneros, cisneros, cisneros foundation, patrica phelps, hunter college