Between 1796 and 1809, an array of pro- and anti-mining discourses unfolded in response to a proposal to mine gold in the former Jesuit mission territories of Chiquitos. In the last years of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries, Chiquitos, in addition to being a region formerly known for its network of Jesuit missions, was a frontier of colonial settlement on a transimperial boundary characterized by an ambiguous jurisdictional status. These geographical particularities molded in significant ways the arguments presented by supporters as well as detractors of gold mining. Whether they inclined to the negative or positive, colonial discourses relating to mines and mineral extraction were tethered to geography and shaped in relation to ideas and beliefs about the characteristics of particular territories.
Stretching from modern-day southern Venezuela to northern Bolivia, Spanish-controlled Amazonia represented the ultimate frontier to colonial officials. Home to hundreds of native cultures, Crown authorities consistently struggled to extend hegemony to most of the region. Barriers to entry were both physical and motivational. In the shadow of the Andes, the thick vegetation, constant rains, and lack of navigable rivers from Spanish-controlled regions meant that only the most motivated could reach its most valuable natural resources. As a result, only the most intrepid, and perhaps delusional, adventurers tried. For the most part, it was religious devotion that brought Spanish subjects to the region. Therefore, Spanish colonization in Amazonia was represented largely by the mission church than any other organ of the empire. These religious enterprises fluoresced in some places, but in most others they floundered. While the difficulties of colonization meant fewer colonizers than in other parts of the Americas, the native population suffered under colonial impositions that forced changes in their traditional lifestyle, imposed coercive labor regimes, and brought disease. The native population did not accept this passively, resulting in some of the most successful uprisings in the colonial period, including the Juan Santos Atahualpa rebellion.