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

By David Block | Go to book overview

IV MISSION INDIANS: GENTILES AND NEOPHYTES

The Jesuits' stated purpose for the development of the mission system in Moxos was nothing less than to transform those ignorant of laws and government into communities that reflected European conceptions of orderly society.1 Such a metamorphosis, in the missionaries' argot, entailed the transformation of Indians from gentiles into neophytes. The inadvertent release of new pathogens and the systematic introduction of European ritual, political, and economic systems produced significant changes in Moxos' tropical forest culture. But adopting the missionaries' terminology does not imply accepting their view of cultural change, for the Indians played an active role in the formation of distinctive mission cultural patterns. In Moxos, mission culture often preserved and enriched native modes rather than transforming them.


DEMOGRAPHY

The most dramatic change of the Jesuit age was biological. Spanish entry into Moxos in the sixteenth century initiated a cycle of population decline, and the concentration of formerly dispersed peoples into large settlements increased their vulnerability to the lethal effects of Old World diseases. Studies of the demographic disaster that followed European contact with nuclear America offer a model for Moxos population history. Sherburne Cook and Woodrow Borah, identifying trends in Mexico and South America, delineate a three-stage process: an initial sharp decline in the number of native peoples, a period of stabilization, and finally a gradual recovery.2

Because the following reconstruction of Moxos' native population begins a century after the region's initial contact with Spanish intruders, it is

-78-

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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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