May 22, 2011

Cuba on My Mind - Part II : Hitting the Geographic Jackpot

I have been assigned the task of researching and compiling our forthcoming map of Cuba. During the early stages of my research, I hit the cartographic jackpot—the possibility of two new provinces forming in 2011. Not only were we going to be publishing a map of Cuba for the first time since 1906, we were also going to be among the first to showcase its new administrative structure. This is considered an exciting event for cartographers here at the National Geographic. Why? Because before any element is mapped, we need to assure that it portrays the most up-to-date information.

My first stop was Cuba’s official government website. Unfortunately, it was a bit difficult to navigate, especially since the English version of the site was “under construction.” My next stop was the Cuban Embassy—well, not exactly since Cuba and the U.S. have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1961. But there is the Cuban Interests Section embedded within the Embassy of Switzerland here in Washington. It was there that I was able to obtain the official document (Gaceta Oficial de la Republica de Cuba, No. 023) spelling out the upcoming changes to Cuba’s new administrative divisions—Artemisa and Mayabeque provinces.

As Cuba is organized administratively by province and municipality, we were able to delineate the new provincial boundaries pretty easily by using a map of municipalities contained in the most recent Nuevo Atlas Nacional de Cuba. In the latter stages of my research I was able to reconfirm the delineation of these boundaries with the Cuban statistics office, La Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas, as they were now providing statistics for these two new provinces.

Now I have to keep abreast of the deepwater oil exploration off the northern coast of Cuba. If possible, we would like our map to also showcase the location of such prospective oil fields.

—Julie A. Ibinson
Map Researcher & Editor
National Geographic Maps

May 2, 2011

The Geographer's Blog: Cuba on My Mind

New and Complete Map of Cuba, supplement to
National Geographic magazine, October 1906; NG Maps.

Since our first post, this blog has addressed the history of cartography at National Geographic, geographic names (toponyms), and even the cartographic exploits of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, the American artist best known for the painting "Whistler's Mother." I hope that these topics have proven of interest to some if not all of you. But what we have not addressed is the personal more intimate side of cartography here at the Society.

Unquestionably, National Geographic is the place to be if you love the science as well as the art of mapmaking. Our production schedules are full of stimulating and challenging projects that often test our knowledge of the cartographic profession. Once in a while, we will be assigned a project so close and near to our hearts that it becomes an overriding passion. Several months ago, I was given such an assignment—a large format (36" x 24") political map of Cuba.

The last time the Society published such a map was in October 1906! Those of you in the exiled Cuban community, both in the U.S. and abroad, know the significance of this map. Anyone who has visited Miami's Little Havana, Tampa's Ybor City, or even Union City, New Jersey, can't avoid seeing maps of Cuba painted on walls, plastered on windows, or even printed on the sides of grocery bags.

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