By Peter Mege R.,
Anthropologist, Director Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Studies (CIIR), Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

There are seldom encounters of people so different that due to the circumstances they come together in one place. In this encounter in the southern seas, everything is extraordinary, because they are special people, because the place is impressively awe inspiring and they are all marked to go down in history due to their particular conjunction of lives, for which they lived in a moment, in the twist of history.

What unites them?
First the sea - that great connector of worlds- without him they could not have met; second, the lust for knowledge, mastery, and perhaps the search for the challenging and the dangerous.
¿Quiénes sound?
The sailor is Captain Robert Fitz-Roy, an expeditionary of the British Empire ensuring its expansion and greatness, its consolidation through cartographic survey and geopolitical knowledge. The naturalist, Charles Darwin you need empirical testing of certain dangerous insights from your friend and teacher Alfred Russell Wallace. The sailor and the naturalist travel the world in the brig HMS Beagle. And the hunter is Orundelico, a young yagan who lives in an extremely harsh environment and who sails in his family bark canoe through the channels of the extreme South Pacific. 

Each of these three people represents and is a world, Fitz-Roy the tradition of English colonial expansionism with a moral framework of Anglican religiosity, Darwin positivist science and nascent evolutionism and orundelico to the nomadic life on a canoe gathering and hunting in its territory and backyard.

None of the three wants to give in on their principles, no matter how risky their defenses are, the radicalness of their positions is clearly reflected in their unmistakable exteriority, which is very well outlined in the illustrations of the two books: Fitz-roy of correct uniform of the Royal Navy, signifying its adherence to the ideas of the Empire, in its convictions and ways; Darwin in bourgeois civilian with a somewhat disheveled clothing (from Albert Einstein - "that disheveled and dirty old man" in the words of Hannah Arendt- everyone must be wise), his dizziness and consequent vomiting adds the indication that he is a subject of ideas and not of the body; Orundelico, completely naked, subject of nature for a mind civilized, which is only covered with layers of otters.

For Fitz-Roy and Darwin it is about change, Darwin sees that everything is mutable and in movement, the world and its beings; Fitz-Roy the moralist wants to change Orundelico and save him from his savage life, transform him into a civilized man, extirpate his abominable and pagan practices; Orundelico appears to us unfathomable, unpredictable, we only see his nudity, it comes from what Joseph Conrad called the Heart of Darkness, that place the cultural "horror" as Darwin described it well in The origin of the man and selection in relation to sex *.

What is a trip?
These two wonderful books in their stories and their illustrations reveal to us in their titles the direction of the senses that must be adopted, in Darwin a trip to the end of the world  y The unusual journey of Jemmy Button, they speak to us of displacement, of “journey”. What is a trip? It is leaving your environment, your Lebensraum,  to go into a different one, exotic. Obviously both trips are unusual, unusual from Latin in, denial and lonely, of the habit that one has, that is, of the suppression of what one has by habit.

Obviously the three heroes on their respective journeys face other forms of customs. What is remarkable about the two books is that they are complementary opposites from a travel perspective:

  1. (Fitz-Roy-Darwin): move = [(Great Britain) > (Tierra del Fuego- Austral Channels - Beagle Channel)]
  2. (Jemmy Button): moves [(Tierra del Fuego-Austral Channels- Beagle Channel) (Britain)]

But it is not a simple physical displacement, but a fundamentally symbolic cultural one. In both trips those involved are subjected to the otherness of the other, to the strangeness of cultures. The experiences are deep, in his psychoanalytic sense, the three undergo a change in the process, which perhaps led to Fitz-Roy suicide, Darwin was definitely shocked with the experience reflected in the story he left us, “I prefer to descend from that heroic monkey when I was little size ... that of a barbarian who finds pleasure in torturing his enemies, who offers bloody sacrifices, who without remorse practices infanticide, who treats his wives as slaves, who ignores shame and is dominated by the grossest superstitions ”. To Jemmy, we are not sure that the murder of the Anglican missionaries where he supposedly participated, would it be an act of revenge or sacrificial purification?


Another central issue to the text is naming. If naming defines the subject in community, it makes him a social being, the Fuegians were killed by their social being by re-naming them, arbitrarily, playing. The arbitrary names of Fueguia, York Minster and Jemmy Button tell us a lot. It is a criminal act that threatens the basic identity of every person. A macabre game that tells us about the characteristic arrogance of European colonialism.

Jemmy Button, image when the child gets on the Beagle and the other indigenous person looks at the button

English ways

In the illustrations of The unusual journey of Jemmy Button The English manners, the tea time, the clothes, the spaces ... to which the Fuegians are subjected are beautifully displayed. They are exhibited as a successful enterprise of civilization. Both publications illustrate very well the contrast between dresses and nudes, yagan minimalism and the gimmicky paraphernalia of Europeans..

Jemmy Button, image the indigenous people drinking tea

Who laughs

In the illustrations we discover a possible slip, only the Fuegians laugh, never Darwin and only once Fitz-Roy, the cartoonist unintentionally (or willingly?) Fixes the laughter mainly in the Fuegians. It will be that joy is exclusive to them. Jemmy is dying of laughter, Fueguia enjoys ... What do the images want to show us? Europe would show us a serious and bitter mask. When Jemmy returned to his life, to his maritorrio, did he want to regain his smile?

The illustrations also show us that horror ** is installed in the yagán world by Europeans, women are indigenous, mothers too ... I hope these powerful images remain deeply engraved in the minds of our children.

Jemmy Button, image of Fuegia dressed as an Englishwoman and with an indigenous woman from the other pag laughing

* The Origin of Man and selection in relation to sexpublished in 1871,is the second book on the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin, after his 1859 book, The origin of species

** "The horror, the horror", are the last words of Kurtz in the novel by Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness. These words represent the European sentiment regarding otherness in the context of XNUMXth and XNUMXth century colonialism. Otherness that managed to bring together all those considered inferior: indigenous people, women, mothers.