Impresiones de un viaje ("Impressions of a journey") is a milestone in the travel literature produced in Ecuador, and one of the first texts written about the Galapagos Islands by an Ecuadorian. The CDF Library preserves, in one of its special collections, a first edition of the famous book.
Its author, Nicolás Guillermo Martínez, was in the archipelago between November 1906 and August 1907, during an agitated period in the country's political history. Having just resigned his position as assistant at the Astronomical Observatory of Quito, and being in Guayaquil, he contacted by chance with the representative of the sugar mill "El Progreso", located in the highlands of San Cristobal Island. That man organized the trip for Martínez to Galapagos aboard the Manuel J. Cobos, and prepared letters of recommendation for him. In San Cristobal he was received by the Territorial Chief, Colonel Pedro Jaramillo, and remained on the island carrying out, in his own words, "a modest civil position". He took advantage of a trip of Antonio Gil's Tomasita to get to know Isabela Island, and became interested in the local reality, with which he had already had a first approach through the book of German naturalist Franz Theodor Wolf Ein Besuch der Galápagos-Inseln (1879, published in Quito in 1887 as Memoria sobre las Islas Galápagos).
To understand the importance of Martínez's trip (and his subsequent chronicle), it is necessary to realize that, at that time, the only boats that covered the route between the continent and the islands were the Manuel J. Cobos and the Josefina Cubas, which went to San Cristobal, and the Tomasita, which went to Isabela. The three ships used to carry the workers and employees of the local haciendas, as well as officials of the national government, and many recommendations or influential friends were needed for them to accept other types of passengers, as was the case with Martínez. Sometimes the cruise ship Cotopaxi, of the Ecuadorian Navy, arrived in the archipelago, but the boat was in poor condition, and the local captains had such bad training that on one occasion the ship was lost at sea and did not find the islands (which had disappeared in some unknown cataclysm, according to the official explanation of the incident).
Given the difficulties to get there, visits to the islands by travelers (especially nationals) were not frequent and, therefore, Ecuadorian chronicles are scarce, especially when compared to the produced by foreign authors.
Throughout his months of stay, Martínez wrote down a series of notes about his experiences. He published an extract of them, those related to San Cristobal, in the newspaper La Prensa of Ambato in 1911, and two years later he did the same with his writings on Isabela. In 1915 the complete chronicles were published for the first time in Quito, in the Talleres de la Policía Nacional. In 1916 the text was presented, in 23 parts, in El Telégrafo of Guayaquil. The second edition of the complete work appeared in Ambato (Imprenta de R. Costales) in 1919, and the third was launched in 1934 as part of a series by the Quito Observatory.
At present, reprints of this work continue to appear. A work which had as its predecessor Las islas Encantadas by Bognoly and Espinosa (1905) and which would, in turn, precede Galápagos, las últimas islas encantadas, by Paulette E. de Rendón (1946). One more link in the chain of literary works that made the Galapagos their object and their motive.
Bognoly y Espinosa (1905). Las Islas Encantadas ó el Archipiélago de Colón. Guayaquil: Imp. y Lit. del Comercio.
Rendón, Paulette E. de (1946). Galápagos, las últimas islas encantadas. Guayaquil: [n.d.].
Wolf, Franz Theodor (1879). Ein Besuch der Galápagos-Inseln. [N.d.].
Martínez, Nicolás Guillermo. Impresiones de un viaje. [Book]. Quito : Talleres de la Policía Nacional, 1915. 120 pp. : [n.d.] : 18 cm. DDC 918. Poorly preserved.
Text & picture: Edgardo Civallero (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Publication date: 1 October 2022
Last update: 1 October 2022