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

By David Block | Go to book overview

1 THE SETTING

NATURAL LANDSCAPE

Moxos lies along a geographical frontier, its head in the Andes, its body and feet in the Amazon. It is separated from the highland centers that nominally govern it by both distance and difficult terrain. This isolation and Moxos' peculiar environment, a combination of tropical forest and savanna, had as much to do with its development as did the patterns of native life or the trajectory of its European contact.

The geographical expression Moxos, as used in this work, subsumes some 200,000 square kilometers in what is now the Beni Department of Bolivia. Three-quarters of this extension is tropical savanna, the llanos de Mojos in local argot, which stretches from the last escarpments of the Andes to the Brazilian border. The remaining 50,000 square kilometers consist of forested lands in the lower Andean slopes and the northern Chiquitos Uplands.

The most prominent topographical features of the area are its bodies of water. Four large lakes -- Rogagua, Rogoaguado, Yachaja, and San Luís -- dot the north central savanna. They provide year-round sources of water on the open grasslands and serve as a major focus of life in the areas they drain. Three river systems, all major tributaries of the Amazon, incise Moxos' landscape. The Beni River, with headwaters near La Paz, plunges down the steep valleys or yungas of the eastern Andes before entering the savanna at its southwestern margin. From there it flows directly north to enter the Madre de Dios-Madeira near present-day Riberalta. A second major network, the Guaporé or Itenez, rises in the Brazilian highlands and delimits the northern boundary of Moxos. At a point near San Joaquín, the Guaporé receives the waters of a series of streams that drain the Chiquitos Uplands and eastern savanna. The Mamoré and its principal tributaries rise in the

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • I The Setting 11
  • II The Jesuit Century 33
  • III The Missions 55
  • IV Mission Indians: Gentiles and Neophytes 78
  • V The Missionaries: Fathers and Brothers 103
  • VI Mission Culture Under Spanish Rule 125
  • VII Moxos to Beni: the Dissolution of Mission Culture 149
  • CONCLUSIONS 174
  • APPENDIX: - Sources of Demographic Data on Moxos Settlements, 1683-1882 183
  • Notes 185
  • Bibliography 215
  • Index 227
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