All Roads Lead to… Digital Mapping

Digital Mapping had provided the visually contextualize specific information that could help the overall reception of the data as well as the information received. Digital mapping can provide the opportunity of creating great maps that allow the possibility of seeing different patterns. Different projects of digital mapping have provided the opportunity for not only the creator to interpret the data differently but the various users to offer their interpretation of such. Digital mapping can provide more knowledge of for example historical battles. In The Cutting-Edge Second Look at the Battle of Gettysburg there are exquisite example of what digital mapping can achieve. Within this project there are several  recorded moments and locations of the battle of Gettysburg. This map allows people to examine, down to an hourly bases on some occasions, moments within the battle that with a better understanding of the terrain and several other factors gain new appreciations.
The Caribbean has some exciting digital mapping projects, one of particular interest is the development of railroads in Puerto Rico. This project because of it several essential points of Puerto Rican and Caribbean History. Created by Hector Ruiz in his Blog Redescubriendo a Puerto Rico. Started in 2012 when Ruiz was looking at a map he has had for many years and wondered about the old railways of Puerto Rico. Railways that only are seen in reminiscents on the island today as all were decommissioned by 1957. Within his page the story of the old Puerto Rican Railways can be presented with a more vivid concept than previously shown.

Puerto Rico rail map of 1925

Many people within the island of Puerto Rico perhaps have no knowledge that this Railway system even existed, for the most part, it has been forgotten. Construction of the railways began in 1888 and ti started service in 1891 it traveled much of the coast of the island. Having a tumultuous history, the railway system in Puerto Rico regularly circulated until 1951 and it had limited and in limited operations until 1957. In this excellent crowdsourcing project, the railway mapping becomes a tremendous communal effort between many people in Puerto Rico to tell a history of a plethora of subjects. This could manifest itself in the map as a place, like a train station of a particular town and the Hacienda in its proximity, a study of the people who lived and worked there. This mapping project uses Google Maps as its engine this map details wherein the island there were different railways, stations, culverts, railway streets, buildings, bridges, old loco-motors, ports, and routes, among some other interesting information. All these widgets make the map look a bit clunky, but the knowledge gained from it is quite impressive.

The map details different culverts along the routes of the railways. When you select the culvert icon or any of the others, there is a small window on the left of the screen that presents itself with a brief description and photo. The map also displays the different train stations positioned in the various towns. Some stations do not provide much information but others, like the Campo Alegre Station which can even include information as to the different station chiefs in the early 20th century. It also provides the trajectory between stations; this becomes particularly interesting when focusing on stations between major cities. In Puerto Rico at the turn of the 20th century and still today San Juan and Ponce. The map provides information circa 1914 of the trajectory from the “Campo Alegre Station” in a direction to Ponce, taking from 9:10 AM to 11:18 PM and in a direction to San Juan from 6:54 AM to 3:13 PM.

This map helps provide an exciting backdrop of Puerto Rican history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when putting this mapping project in contrast with the others found in the Redescubriendo a Puerto Rico blog the expansion of the project of quite fascinating. This project goes in hand with another mapping project located on the page which is of Sugar Plantations in Puerto Rico. It should come as no surprise that when comparing both maps, the railways and the plantations line up. The real economic gain that was profited by the sugar plantations led to the further expansion of the railways. The Sugar plantation or hacienda map, not as crowded as the railway map, provides a clear understanding of the dominating power of the sugar economy in Puerto Rico. The strength of the sugar and coffee economies are very well highlighted through these maps. Considering how quickly the railways were abandoned after the sugar and coffee economies had gone down in Puerto Rico shows how the trains and these economies went hand in hand.

These digital mapping projects provide a different vantage point for Puerto Rico’s economic history on the turn of the 20th century and a missed opportunity of public transportation. There is one map dedicated to the travel from San Juan to Ponce. This mapping project gains more significance when considering how important these two particular cities were to Puerto Rico at that time. In the 19 and 20th centuries as both cities were considered to be for the capital of the Island in one point, San Juan winning out in the end. These mapping projects provide a further understanding of the Puerto Rican economy in this crucial historical period. When comparing the Centrales Azucareras map (Sugar Plantation) with the Railway Map, there is more clarity with locations as it relates to production. The Centrales Azucareras  that were located more on the coast had, in most cases, begun earlier than those in the interior. There is also something to be said of the proximity of the haciendas to certain train stations. Ruiz had a whole map dedicated to the railways of the more mountainous areas, which is essential to understand how specific Haciendas moved their merchandise. By tracking the different years and locations were Haciendas began to develop there is also the possibility of monitoring population movement and establish a pattern of labor history in the island. With the different mapping tools provided in this blog, so many opportunities and focuses of study become available.

Digital mapping tools have become very useful Worldwide for humanitarian efforts. For example, after Hurricane Maria digital crowdsourcing maps began to develop in Puerto Rico. Using the tool OpenStreetMap,  crowdsourced maps were produced to help determine where relief efforts were most needed. This was made possible by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team. This group has worked with several humanitarian efforts from all over. In 2010 they were helping assist the people in Haiti after the Hurricane by using crowdsourced mapping. The information provided or ascertained through digital mapping can seem boundless at times. Digital mapping can create new historical quandaries of previously thought to be static data. It can also be utilized as an incredible tool for at the moment humanitarian efforts. All roads lead to digital mapping.