Using travelers' accounts as a historical source poses an unavoidable epistemological question. How do we know to what degree --and it is a question of degree-- a particular observation reflects (a) the idiosyncratic world-view and prejudices of the author, (b) the collective ones of his/her social group, and (c) the objective realities of the place visited. While analyzing the text for internal logic and consistency can help, checking the observation with other sources --even if of the same type-- will offer more, and perhaps more reliable, clues. If, for instance, the same observation is made by scores of travelers, we can safely eliminate "a" as an explanation. If the cultural and social background of these travelers is very diverse, we can move further toward "c." In other words, relying on a large number of accounts can turn personal, and even biased, observations into more than anecdotal evidence. For researchers, thus, the publication of a manuscript diary is always a welcome addition to the travel literature, even for a place like colonial Cuba where that corpus is vast.
Copyright © 2012-2013 Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe.
Editores: Ori Preuss; Nahuel Ribke
Instituto Sverdlin de Historia y Cultura de América Latina, Escuela de Historia
Universidad de Tel Aviv, Ramat Aviv,
P.O.B. 39040 (69978), Israel.
Correo electrónico: email@example.com