Mission Culture on the Upper Amazon: Native Tradition, Jesuit Enterprise & Secular Policy in Moxos, 1660-1880

Mission Culture on the Upper Amazon: Native Tradition, Jesuit Enterprise & Secular Policy in Moxos, 1660-1880

Mission Culture on the Upper Amazon: Native Tradition, Jesuit Enterprise & Secular Policy in Moxos, 1660-1880

Mission Culture on the Upper Amazon: Native Tradition, Jesuit Enterprise & Secular Policy in Moxos, 1660-1880

Synopsis

Until recently, historians of the Christian missions in the New World have seen Missionaries either as saints and martyrs or as brutal disrupters and oppressors. Both the apologists and detractors of mission enterprise have concentrated solely on the missionaries, regarding the native populations either as childlike beneficiaries or as mutely suffering victims. With the growth of ethnohistory as a field of research, new research has sought to reconstruct the situations, the reactions, and the strategies of native groups, thereby seeing the native peoples of the Americas as active agents in their own history.

In Mission Culture on the Upper Amazon, David Block describes the formation of a new society in the Moxos region of the Amazon Basin, in what is now northern, or lowland, Bolivia. This society began with the arrival of the Jesuits in the region. The mutual synthesis that became Jesuit mission culture followed, with Moxos Indian cultural survival and adaptation continuing after the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. With the cataclysmic onset of the rubber boom, the entire region was plunged into a period of severe exploitation and conflict that persists to this day. Block's nuanced treatment of the mission encounter- one extending over a large time period- permits a balanced understanding of the mission enterprise, native response, and the cultural synthesis that ensued.

Excerpt

Fleeing retribution for crimes of passion committed in Europe, Candide visits the Jesuit missions of Paraguay. Through the voice of his satirical alter ego, Voltaire expresses a fascination with these outposts of Western civilization located on the edge of El Dorado. and his sentiments resonate through generations of treatments of the tropical missionary enterprise, whose titles -- A Vanished Arcadia and the Lost Paradise to mention two of the most illustrative -- reflect the often millenarian character of their messages. Perhaps the most accessible example of this imagery is a recent film, The Mission, which offers its viewers soft-focused images of tropical scenery, noble savages, heroic priests, and corrupt Europeans. the work you have before you explores the mission from another perspective, stressing process over personality and daily life over heroism. It examines the role of the encounters between Europeans and native Americans in establishing new societies.

The region of Moxos, lying on the upper Amazon in what is modern Bolivia, forms the basis of this study. Jesuits reached Moxos in the mid- seventeenth century and began missionary activities that would fundamentally change the area and its inhabitants. Here, as they did in Paraguay, missionaries and Indians established centers that became the focus of economic, social, and spiritual life for two centuries. Also as in Paraguay, these centers became the focus of rivalries between the Society of Jesus and secular governors. and as a final parallel to the Paraguayan saga, Jesuit operatives were forced to leave Moxos when the Society's fortunes declined after 1767. But the departure of the missionaries did not spell the end of the centers they had helped to establish. For in the hundred years of Jesuit presence, Moxos witnessed the evolution of new systems -- biological, techno-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.