CUBA ON MY MIND: An Editorial Tour of the Island

Cuba Map: Editorial revisions on a section of the Final Correction copy. Twenty correction copies with over 800 revisions were made to the map before it was cleared to go on press.


When I tell people that my profession is that of a map editor at National Geographic, I oftentimes get “What does that mean?” Maps, just like books, need to be edited for accuracy, consistency, and style.

How exactly does one go about editing a map? Well, I compare the process to peeling an onion—editing in layers, one element at a time. For a complicated map, such as our new political map of Cuba, there are many elements that need to be edited: shorelines, rivers and canals, lakes and reservoirs, administrative boundaries, national parks, grid lines, scales, and spelling and placement of type. Basically, everything you see on the map has to be reviewed. Working closely with GIS, research, and production colleagues, I used several official maps and online sources to edit the map—the first National Geographic map of this Caribbean island nation since 1906.

As with many of my colleagues, I am interested in the creation of National Geographic maps, from original ideas to the final product. It is satisfying to see an early layout of a map and then, several months later, the printed version. Being a map researcher at NG Maps was a dream of mine since late in my college career. I came to National Geographic Society and worked my way up to my current position of map editor, a position that scared me at first (“What if I make a mistake?,” ran through my mind on every project). As I have grown into this position, I find it satisfying to review all aspects of a map and to make sure it adheres to NG Maps and standard cartographic policies. From years of editing, what really gets my juices flowing is consistency: if a word is spelled more than once on a map, it had better be spelled the same way in all places; if we label country names on a map, we had better be using the same font for all of them; if the design calls for river line work to be 100% cyan (blue), the spec had better be followed everywhere.

One of my favorite pastimes is to travel, and having a career as a mapmaker feeds my passion to see the world. Working on this specific project has in fact put “Cuba on My Mind.” Although I doubt the political relationship between the two nations will allow me to visit there any time soon, I can say that on so many levels I have visited Cuba on a daily basis for the past six months.

~Maureen J. Flynn, Senior Maps Researcher/Editor, NG Maps


Read All Posts in This Series


CUBA ON MY MIND: Hitting the Cartographic Jackpot

CUBA ON MY MIND: Armchair Traveling

CUBA ON MY MIND: Creating a New Classic Map

CUBA ON MY MIND: An Editorial Tour of the Island

CUBA ON MY MIND: “At the corner of Yield and One Way”


Changing Planet

Meet the Author
Juan José Valdés is The Geographer and National Geographic Maps' Director of Editorial and Research. He guides and assists the Map Policy Committee in setting border representations, disputed territories, and naming conventions for National Geographic. As NG Map's Director of Editorial and Research, he is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of its maps and map products.