The Great Conglomerator
In 1967 Arturo Solís Tovar, a cartographer, explorer and engineer for Peru’s Roads Department, compiled a series of maps and corresponding longitudinal profiles of what was then becoming the Carretera Marginal de la Selva. In his capacity as project coordinator, Solís Tovar drew from feasibility studies made in prior years by New York-based consultants Trippets-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton, civil engineering firm Brown & Root, and Peru’s National Office for Evaluation of Natural Resources, and in doing so he joined information from discrete and sometimes disparate projects to form a cohesive representation of what La Marginal should be and was indeed becoming.
Various aspects of these profiles stand out, but here I want to stress two factors that indicate the fluidity of the road-building process. To begin with, the fact that these were fused from disparate sources indicates the very constructed nature of a road build, constructed not just in the sense of concrete and rebar, but in the discursive sense, as well. To represent La Marginal, cartographers at the Roads Department engaged in map-making the way Deleuze and Guatarri urge us to engage in reading: “Follow the plants: you start by delimiting a first line consisting of circles of convergence around successive singularities; then you see whether inside that line new circles of convergence establish themselves”. (A Thousand Plateaus 11) In their chopping and suturing of previous singularities Solis Tovar and his colleagues produced new singularities that perpetuated a multiplicity.
This brings me to the second fact of road building that these profiles evince: they cannot be taken as depictions of the road, but depictions of how the road-building process was supposed to progress. Take a diachronic approach to longitudinal profiles and you will see that mistakes were made, inaccuracies resolved and original plans scrapped. This is most clearly demonstrated when juxtaposing Solis Tovar’s 1967 maps with those produced a year later by his office. The second set of profiles represented the way La Marginal should have been going in October, 1968. Compare them with the earlier profiles and you’ll see they represent the same space but not the same reality.