Posted by: Rob Viens | July 28, 2012

Ascending the “Mount”

Today, July 28th, Darwin was finally able to come ashore and do a little exploration. As is often the case, one of the first things he did was head for the highest point in the area – the Cerro de Montevideo, or what he calls “The Mount”. At first, he is unimpressed:

“Landed early in the morning on the Mount, This little hill is about 450 feet high & being by far the most elevated land in the country gives the name Monte Video.— The view from the summit is one of the most uninteresting I ever beheld.— Not a tree or a house or trace of cultivation give cheerfulness to the scene.— An undulating green plain & large herds of cattle has not even the charm of novelty.— Whoever has seen Cambridgeshire, if in his mind he changes arable into pasture ground & roots out every tree, may say he has seen Monte Video.” (July 28)

But it starts to grow on him a little as he begins to realize that he is (unfairly?) using his recent experience in the tropical rainforest as a point of reference.  There is something to be said for open spaces, too.

“Although this is true, yet there is a charm in the unconfined feeling of walking over the boundless turf plain: Moreover if your view is limited to a small space, many objects possess great beauty.” (July 28)

Map of Montevideo – the flag labeled “A” shows the location of “the Mount” (Google Maps):

Everyone agrees that Cerro de Montevideo is responsible for the “Monte” in the name Montevideo, however, there seems to be some argument over the origin of the full name. These include:

  • A document from Magellan (who passed through the region in 1520 on his fateful trip around the world) that refers to a hat-shaped mountain they call “Montevidi”.
  • Another reference to Magellan which claims the name comes from “monte vide eu” which roughly translates to “I saw a mountain”.
  • A few have suggested that the was a Spanish reference to this being the sixth mountain visible when traveling up the river – the Monte VI de Esta a Oeste (“mountain six from east to west”).  This seems like a longshot.
  • Some have linked the mountain with the Santo Ovidio (Vidio), hence the “mountain of St. Video” – but there seems to be little evidence to support this.

In any case, whatever the source of the name, the “Mount” is certainly a central geographic feature in the city and along the whole southern coast of Uruguay.

Around the time Darwin visited Montevideo there was fort under construction on the “Mount” – Fortaleza del Cerro – which was completed in 1839. The fort, which was used by several ruling factions over the years, has been a National Monument and museum since 1931.

Modern view of Cerro de Montevideo (from http://eldiario.com.uy)

Cerro de Montevideo

Darwin’s entry continued today as he began to appreciate the wildlife of the “Mount”, but as it is a Saturday night, I’ll keep this post short and come back over the next couple of days with a little more on the flora and fauna Darwin discovered while on his short hike. (RJV)

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Responses

  1. […] the 20th Darwin was back out “naturalizing” on the Mount (see Ascending the “Mount”). Both his diary and Zoological Notebook imply that today was all […]

  2. […] the highest point – from Brazil to Tierra del Fuego (for a few examples see Ascending Corcovado, Ascending the “Mount” and “I Can See for Miles”). So maybe this line should read, “How universal is the […]

  3. […] of Darwin’s “peak bagging” include Corcovado and Pedra da Gávea in Brazil, the Mount of Montevideo, an unnamed peak in Tierra del Fuego, and the the Cerro de las Animas in […]

  4. […] “This little hill is about 450 feet high & being by far the most elevated land in the country gives the name Monte Video.— The view from the summit is one of the most uninteresting I ever beheld.— Not a tree or a house or trace of cultivation give cheerfulness to the scene.— An undulating green plain & large herds of cattle has not even the charm of novelty.” (July 28, 1832, see more at Ascending the “Mount”) […]


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