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Once the new nation was opened up for foreign curiosity and investment, a stream of travelers began to flow through. The scientific traveler and natural historian Alcide d’Orbigny was among the first Europeans to cross the Andes into Bolivia in the years immediately following independence. He undertook an exhaustive and meticulous survey of Bolivia’s physical and human geography, gaining prominence and respect during the three years he spent in the country. He received advantageous offcial support, and obtained information and insights from a variety of sources, including creole intellectuals, local priests, and indigenous peoples. His Voyage dans l’Amérique Méridionale offered an exotic yet sympathetic account of Bolivia, and his engravings etched a romantic vision of peoples and landscapes. This provided material for a new, positive view of national identity, and d’Orbigny was a formative influence in the nineteenth century and beyond. For example, the prolific production of the Bolivian artist and autodidact Melchor María Mercado included vernacular versions of d’Orbigny’s drawings (see color plates) to provide a nationalist counterpoint.

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