The Jesuits in Latin America: Legacy and Current Emphases

By Klaiber, Jeffrey | International Bulletin of Mission Research, April 2004 | Go to article overview

The Jesuits in Latin America: Legacy and Current Emphases


Klaiber, Jeffrey, International Bulletin of Mission Research


The murder of six Jesuits in El Salvador in 1989 dramatically reminded the world that the Jesuits are still in Latin America and, as usual, in the center of the storm. For more than 400 years the Jesuits have been present in the region as educators and missionaries. Their colonial legacy is well known. Less well known is what they have been doing since they returned in the nineteenth century after their expulsion in 1767.

Early Service in Latin America, 1549-1767

The Jesuits were founded in 1540. Only nine short years later they sent their first missionaries to Latin America, to Brazil. In fact, they arrived on the ship carrying the first governor-general, Tome de Souza. As such, the Jesuits were founders of Portugal's most important New World colony. Manoel da Nobrega and Jose de Anchieta, two of the first Jesuits, evangelized the Indians, founded mission towns (one of which was Sao Paulo), and defended the Indians from the white colonists. But they also founded schools and parishes for the colonists. By the eighteenth century the Society of Jesus was the most important educational and missionary order in Brazil.

The Jesuits arrived in Mexico and Peru in 1568. By coincidence, they arrived on the ship bearing Peru's most important viceroy, Francisco de Toledo. But these were more than coincidences: de Souza in Brazil and Toledo in Peru looked upon the Jesuits as key advisers and collaborators in establishing their respective empires in the New World. As a newly founded order, untainted by the abuses that had affected older orders in the Catholic Church and fired with the enthusiasm of fresh troops, the Jesuits built schools and founded missions everywhere, from Mexico to Chile, from Brazil to Paraguay.

By the late eighteenth century the Jesuits were clearly the most influential order in Latin America. Their schools flourished, and their missions prospered. The Paraguay missions in particular were already being romanticized in Europe as a sort of New World utopia. A little over 100,000 Guarani Indians in Paraguay and another 100,000 Indians in Bolivia (the Chiquitos and the Mojos) lived in neatly organized towns, with their own Indian militia. Scarcity and hunger were unknown. Peru's leading Marxist, Jose Carlos Mariategui (1894-1930), observed in admiration that these Indian societies were the only places where the Indians were actually better off after the conquest. In the rest of Latin America the Indians were exploited in the mines or forced to perform menial services for the colonists.

Contemporary critics of the Jesuits accuse them of paternalism in their treatment of the Indians. That may be so, but it was certainly a bland paternalism, because the Indians were allowed to bear arms and to make their own decisions affecting the daily life of each mission.

In 1750 Spain and Portugal made a treaty by which seven missions were transferred to Portuguese territory. That incident was the background of the 1986 award-winning movie The Mission. The Jesuits told the Indians that they, the padres, had to leave, but the Indians were free to accompany them or to remain. The Indians chose to remain and to tight. For two years (1754-56) Jesuit-trained Indian armies held off two European armies, the Portuguese and the Spanish. (The Spanish king felt obliged to join the war in order to keep his word to the Portuguese king.)

Less defensible was the Jesuits' use of black slaves to run their sugar estates and other properties, which the Jesuits acquired in order to finance their schools. Contemporary historians debate whether or not the Jesuits were modern capitalists. They were certainly efficient, and their haciendas prospered. They were not really modern capitalists, however, for they did not aim to expand their wealth beyond what they strictly needed to support the schools. Also, not all Jesuits accepted slavery. In fact, they were repeatedly warned by the general in Rome to end the practice. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Jesuits in Latin America: Legacy and Current Emphases
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.