MOZINO, Jose Mariano (1757-1820)




Author Tags: 1700-1800, Essentials 2010, Spanish

“One of the most conspicuous scientific personalities that New Spain produced in the eighteenth century”
—MEXICAN HISTORIAN ALBERTO M. CARREÑO

“We are indebted to Mosiño for almost all the knowledge and accounts that we possess in regard to the inhabitants of Nootka.”
—LIEUTENANT ALCALÁ GALIANO

PHOTO: José Mariano Moziño

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

The first important anthropological work about British Columbia is Noticias de Nutka by José Mariano Moziño, a botanist who accompanied Captain Bodega y Quadra to Nootka Sound in 1792. Moziño was sufficiently adept at languages to glean verification of Pérez’s visit to San Lorenzo (Nootka Sound) in 1774.

Moziño frankly describes the nature of relations between the Spanish and the Nuu-chah-nulth. His comrades “insulted them at various times, crippled some and wounded others, and did not fail to kill several.” Moziño also noted that aboriginals were consumed by venereal diseases, “which the sailors of our ships have spread among them.”
Moziño was the first of many to mention the practice of polygamy among Northwest Coast aboriginals and to report on birth practices, fertility and sexuality. “As soon as they throw off the afterbirth, they run into the sea and swim with great resolution. What is strange is that after a son is born, if his father is a tais [meaning “chief”], he has to enclose himself in the lodge, seeing neither the sun nor the waves. He is fearful of gravely offending Qua-utz, who would leave both him and his son without life in punishment of his sin. . . . Names are changed according to one’s age, and in this matter each new one is solemnized with greater luxury and magnificence than the first one. . . . As soon as the menstrual flow appears in a girl for the first time, they celebrate in the same manner, and her name is also changed. If by chance she is the daughter of the principal chief of the taises, this proclamation occurs on the same day. We were present to congratulate Maquinna for that of his daughter Izto-coti-clemot, who before this time was called Apenas.”

Born of Spanish-born parents in Temascaltepec, Mexico, in 1757, Moziño was at Nootka Sound in 1792 from April 29 to September 21. Moziño’s study was augmented by the first Nootkan-Spanish dictionary, catalogues of plants and animals, and paintings by Atanasio Echeverría.

A copy of his manuscript—not the missing original—was recovered from a Mexican library in 1880, without drawings, and was republished in 1913 with a minimal print run of perhaps 100 copies. It remained long ignored by scholars in English. A few other copies are now known to exist in Paris, Madrid, Yale University Library and a private collection. The 1913 version from Mexico City was later translated and edited by Iris Higbie Wilson, a San Diego historian.


FULL ENTRY:

The first important scientist in B.C. was the botanist José Mariano Moziño. He accompanied the expedition of Captain Bodega y Quadra to meet Captain George Vancouver at Nootka Sound and wrote the most comprehensive Spanish book pertaining to B.C. in the 18th century, Noticias de Nutka: An Account of Nootka Sound in 1792, completed in 1793. It is the first work of anthropology pertaining to British Columbia, written after almost five months at Nootka Sound.

“Our residence of more than four months on that island,” he wrote, “enabled me to learn about the various customs of the natives, their religion, and their system of government. I believe I am the first person who has been able to gather such information, and this was because I learned their language sufficiently to converse with them.”

Although Moziño probably exaggerated his ability to learn the language in a matter of months, his immersion in Nuu-chah-nulth culture greatly assisted the Spanish in gaining the upper hand in their dealings with Chief Maquinna during the period of the Nootka Crisis.

Moziño was sufficiently adept at languages to glean the following verification of Pérez’s preceding visit to San Lorenzo (Nootka Sound) in 1774. “The sight of the ship at first filled the natives with terror, and even now they testify that they were seized with fright from the moment they saw on the horizon the giant “machine” which little by little approached their coasts. They believed that Qua-utz [the creator] was coming to make a second visit, and were fearful that it was in order to punish the misdeeds of the people. As many as were able hid themselves in the mountains, others closed themselves up in their lodges, and the most daring took their canoes out to examine more closely the huge mass that had come out of the ocean. They approached it timorously, without sufficient courage to go aboard, until after awhile, attracted by the friendly signs by which the Spanish crew called them, they boarded the ship and inspected with wonder all the new and extraordinary objects that were presented to them. They received a number of gifts and in return gave the captain some otter skins.”

Moziño noted that Nootka was not an Indian word and supposed Captain Cook had misinterpreted the word Nut-chi, meaning mountain. He was also the first of many to mention the practice of polygamy among Northwest Coast Indians and to report on birth practices, fertility and sexuality. “As soon as they throw off the afterbirth, they run into the sea and swim with great resolution. What is strange is that after a son is born, if his father is a tais [meaning chief], he has to enclose himself in the lodge, seeing neither the sun nor the waves. He is fearful of gravely offending Qua-utz, who would leave both him and his son without life in punishment of his sin…. Names are changed according to one’s age, and in this matter each new one is solemnized with greater luxury and magnificence than the first one.... As soon as the menstrual flow appears in a girl for the first time, they celebrate in the same manner, and her name is also changed. If by chance she is the daughter of the principal chief of the taises, this proclamation occurs on the same day. We were present to congratulate Maquinna for that of his daughter Izto-coti-clemot, who before this time was called Apenas.”

Moziño was born of Spanish-born parents in Temascaltepec, Mexico in 1757. He was admitted to the Seminario Tridentino in Mexico City in 1774. He received his degree in scholastic theology and ethics at age twenty and married Doña Rita Rivera y Melo Montaño in 1778. He moved to Oaxaca as a professor at the seminary. Dissatisfied with teaching in a provincial atmosphere, he returned Mexico City to complete his studies in medicine at the Pontifical University, simultaneously studying mathematics at the Royal Academy of San Carlos. He excelled in all fields, first earning a Bachelor of Medicine in 1787, then enrolling in courses in botany at the Royal Botanical Garden where he became the outstanding student of the year. With his classmate José Maldonado, he collected and named hundreds of species of plants for Martín Sessé, director of the Royal Scientific Expedition to New Spain. He and Maldonado and the artist Atanasio Echeverria were selected to join the expedition of Captain Bodega y Quadra that reached Nootka Sound on April 29, 1792 and departed in late September.

Moziño frankly described the nature of relations between the Spanish and the Nuu-chah-nulth, recording the Spanish “insulted them at various times, crippled some and wounded others, and did not fail to kill several.” He also noted that Aboriginals in the Nootka Sound region were "consumed by the raging syphilis which the sailors of our ships have spread among them."

Treatment of sex workers, usually slaves was sometimes brutal, as claimed by Ahousat Nuu-chah-nulth elder Peter Webster. “They used to pull them into the blacksmith’s without any romance,” he said. “The blacksmith had that red-hot iron always ready for those who refused.” The Spanish astronomer reported by 1792 that “the natives are already beginning to experience the terrible ravages of syphillis, which threatens them with the appalling fate which overtook the ancient inhabitants of California, a race which has become almost extinct owing to this disease.”

Based on his visit to Vancouver Island until September 21, 1792, Moziño’s study was augmented by the first Nootkan-Spanish dictionary, catalogues of plants and animals, and paintings by Atanasion Echeverría.

A copy of his manuscript—not the missing original—was recovered from the Sociedad Mexicana’s library in 1880, without drawings, and was republished in 1913 with a minimal print run of perhaps 100 copies. It remained long ignored by scholars in English. A few other copies are now known to exist in Paris, Madrid, Yale University Library and a private collection. The Yale manuscript version is entitled Relación de la Isla de Mazarredo and has been footnoted and altered by a scribe. The published 1913 version from Mexico City was translated and edited by Iris Higbie Wilson, a San Diego historian, with various illustrations added.

Formally trained in medicine, theology and botany, José Mariano Moziño Suarez de Figueroa also wrote on medical and philosophical subjects. Co-written with his mentor Martín Sessé, Moziña’s Flora Mexicana (1885) and Plantae Novae Hispaniae (1889) were published by the Sociedad Mexicana de Historia Natural.

Moziño was employed by the Royal Scientific Expedition in Mexico, Guatemala and the West Indies until 1803, at which time he travelled to Madrid with Sessé. Unfortunately King Carlos IV lacked his father’s regard for the importance of natural history. France invaded Spain in 1808, forcing Carlos IV to abdicate in favour of his son. When the French took Madrid, Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte appointed the hitherto under-appreciated Moziño as the director of the Royal Museum of Natural History as well as professor of zoology at the Royal Academy of Medicine. These favours were short-lived.

Upon the French withdrawal from Spain, Moziño was arrested by patriots as a traitor. He fled on foot to the French border. His precious manuscripts, drawings and herbaria were transferred to a handcart. He eventually reached Montpellier where Swiss scientist Augustin-Pyramus de Candolle recognized the value of his 1400 drawings of plants and animals. In 1816 Moziño had to refuse the Swiss offer to go to Geneva and classify the work together, saying, “No, I am too old and sick; I am too unfortunate; take them to Geneva; I give them to you, and I entrust to your care my future glory.”

Moziño was granted permission to return to Spain in 1817. He contacted Candolle and asked for the return of his work. The Swiss botanist quickly hired artists to copy 860 sketches in eight days, plus to make 119 rough drafts. This proved providential. Moziño died in Barcelona in May of 1820. His original drawings have long since disappeared, but the precise copies made in Switzerland remain.

BOOKS:

Noticias de Nutka (Gazeta de Guatemala, 1803 Volume VII, 1804 Volume VIII)

Noticias de Nutka (Sociedad Mexicana de Geografía, 1913). Edited by Alberto M. Carreño.

or

NOTICIAS DE NUTKA. DICCONARIO DE LA LENGUA DE LOS NUTKESES, Y DESCRIPCION DEL VOLCAN DE TUXTLA. PRECEDIDOS DE UNA NOTICIA BACERC
Mexico Sociedad Mexicana de Geografia y Estadistica 1913

Noticias de Nutka: An Account of Nootka Sound in 1792 (McClelland & Stewart, 1970; reprinted by University of Washington Press in 1991). Translated and edited by Iris Higbie Wilson

[BCBW 2010] "Science"