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The Guaraní Missions in the Jesuit Province of Paraguay, 1609–1800  

Eduardo Neumann

The establishment of the Jesuit Province of Paraguay in 1609 expanded upon the “spiritual conquest” of the Guaranís of South America. The liminal position of this territory, located between the southern boundaries of the dominions of the Iberian monarchies in America, conditioned the policy of conversion applied to the indigenous peoples who inhabited this region. Missionaries sought to attract the attention of indigenous leaders to catechesis to ensure evangelization, but much of their positive results stemmed from a convergence of mythical and historical motivations. Along with the use of firearms, used to repel the attacks of the bandeirantes from the captaincy of São Paulo, these factors contributed to a political alliance forming between the Jesuits and the catechized Guaraní. This alliance, in turn, allowed for the creation of a successful social, political, and cultural arrangement. The foundation of these Christian Indian settlements—known as missions—was one of the variants of the “Republic of Indians,” a framework for limited indigenous self-government codified in Spanish law, which enabled the Guaranís to overcome increasing social fragmentation and reorient their cultural activities. Since teaching “arts and crafts” was a leading vehicle for evangelization, many indigenous people also became literate. Lessons in reading and writing taught in the Guaraní language, through seminars, catechisms, and dictionaries, familiarized the population of the missions with written culture. Daily life in these Christian communities allowed the natives, under the tutelage of the Jesuits, to overcome the precariousness of the conditions to which they were subjected as exploited workers. It also afforded them an opportunity to recreate a semblance of their way of life (ñande reko) adjusted to colonial parameters.

Article

Paraguayan Science and the Environment: A Historical Survey  

Robert W. Wilcox

Much of environmental knowledge understood by an evolving scientific world from the early explorations of Europeans to the 21st century has originated in colonial possessions or developing nations. Observations by explorers, colonial officials, and visiting scientists to Latin America stimulated considerable interest in North Atlantic scientific circles, yet the contributions of Indigenous peoples, clergymen, and local scientists in furthering natural science/environmental knowledge often have received little attention from the historical community. This has begun to change in the 21st century, and roles of small nations are beginning to be recognized, including Paraguay. From the early colonial period, Paraguay was considered something of a promised land with abundant natural life and resources and, as such, a focus of interest for many aspiring practitioners of natural science, including members of the Catholic Church. By the late 18th century, traditional observational approaches conflicted with evolving European scientific rationalism, while political independence in the early 19th century generated attempts across the Americas to understand nature and environmental conditions through the imperative of economic growth. In Paraguay, this was delayed by national politics and war, but later in the century, the country embarked on a tentative path of economic development. While many observers criticized the impact of development practices, environmental science gradually transformed into a “scientific nationalism,” defined through the concept of a national nature. This evolved into developmentalist imperatives by the mid-20th century, leading to rapid degradation of the natural world. In the 21st century, the country is facing an environmental crisis, suffering some of the most extensive deforestation and related ecological destruction in the world. The convoluted path Paraguayan environmental science followed from early awed impressions to today’s critical concerns provides some insight into how scientists in poor and remote regions engaged with their natural worlds and attempted to understand nature in the face of multiple pressures: economic, political, and scientific.

Article

Jesuit Missions and Private Property, Commerce, and Guaraní Economic Initiative  

Julia Sarreal

The mission economy supported tens of thousands of Guaraní Indians and made the Jesuit reducciones (1609 to 1767) the most populous and financially prosperous of all the missions among native peoples of the Americas. The communal structure of collective labor, shared ownership, and redistribution of communal property formed the basis of the mission economy and seemed to leave little room for the possession of private property, independent trade, and economic initiative on the part of the resident Guaraní. Late 18th century Jesuit authors reinforced such an understanding in an attempt to defend their order and its actions in Paraguay. They argued that the Guaraní were incapable of managing their own affairs and that Jesuit management of the communally structured economy was indispensible for the wellbeing of both the missions and the Guaraní. Such accounts overlook evidence to the contrary. Mission Guaraní did in fact own private property—yerba mate, horses, clothing, and jewelry—and Jesuit leaders repeatedly issued orders for the missionaries to allow the Guaraní to independently trade yerba mate. Furthermore, although Jesuit authors repeatedly denied that they paid mission Guaraní wages—to do so would go against the communal structure that they so vehemently defended—the missionaries acknowledged that they paid mission Guaraní bonuses as a reward for their skills or extra labor. These bonuses served as a way to motivate individual economic initiative or agency within the framework of the missions’ communal structure. In sum, the communal structure allowed for more flexibility in the ownership of private property, independent commerce, and economic initiative by the Guaraní than has been portrayed in both the 18th century writings of Jesuit authors and much of the current literature.

Article

Liberation Psychology and the Salvadoran Civil War  

Alexandra Puerto

Liberation psychology emerged in Cold War Central America with roots in the intellectual foundations of post-1960s Latin American social sciences. Jesuit priest, theologian, and social psychologist Ignacio Martín-Baró pioneered the field of liberation psychology. He critiqued the epistemological limitations of mainstream Western psychology for Central Americans and encouraged the development of new ways to approach mental health as a collective community need with specific historical and social conditions. Spanish-born, but based in El Salvador at the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) José Simeón Cañas, and influenced by the social ideas of critical pedagogy and dependency theory, the process of participatory action research, and, above all, the religious ideas of liberation theology, Martín-Baró proposed a new psychology that did not abstract individuals from their social context and incorporated a “preferential option for the poor” into its conceptual model. In Catholic social teaching, the fundamental principle of the “preferential option for the poor,” to prioritize care for the poor and vulnerable, originates in the Bible, but the phrase was coined in 1968 by Spanish Jesuit priest, Pedro Arrupe, and fully articulated as a central tenet within Latin American liberation theology by Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest, Gustavo Gutiérrez, in 1972.Rethinking psychology from the perspective of the poor and marginalized became a priority for Martín-Baró who called upon Latin American psychologists to reject intellectual neocolonialism and build a new epistemology from below, as well as a new praxis to transform reality for the oppressed. He also set the recovery of historical memory, deideologizing everyday experience and uncompromising solidarity with war survivors as essential practices for Central American psychologists. The realities of El Salvador’s civil war (1980–1992) served as the inspiration for Martín-Baró’s conceptualization of liberation psychology, his understanding of the psychosocial impact of political violence and the creation of the Instituto Universitario de Opinión Pública. Unfortunately, Martín-Baró’s work is unfinished, as he was assassinated by the elite Atlacatl Batallion of the Salvadoran army on November 16, 1989, in his UCA campus residence alongside five Jesuit colleagues, as well as a UCA employee and her daughter. Nonetheless, Martín-Baró’s psychological research and practice not only exposed the profound economic structures that limited Salvadoran liberation but also contributed to the emancipatory ideologies of anticolonial movements.

Article

Brazilian Colonial Art and the Decolonization of Art History  

Maria Berbara

There are at least two ways to think about the term “Brazilian colonial art.” It can refer, in general, to the art produced in the region presently known as Brazil between 1500, when navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral claimed the coastal territory for the Lusitanian crown, and the country’s independence in the early 19th century. It can also refer, more specifically, to the artistic manifestations produced in certain Brazilian regions—most notably Bahia, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro—over the 18th century and first decades of the 19th century. In other words, while denotatively it corresponds to the art produced in the period during which Brazil was a colony, it can also work as a metonym valid to indicate particular temporal and geographical arcs within this period. The reasons for its widespread metonymical use are related, on the one hand, to the survival of a relatively large number of art objects and buildings produced in these arcs, but also to a judicative value: at least since the 1920s, artists, historians, and cultivated Brazilians have tended to regard Brazilian colonial art—in its more specific meaning—as the greatest cultural product of those centuries. In this sense, Brazilian colonial art is often identified with the Baroque—to the extent that the terms “Brazilian Baroque,” “Brazilian colonial art,” and even “barroco mineiro” (i.e., Baroque produced in the province of Minas Gerais) may be used interchangeably by some scholars and, even more so, the general public. The study of Brazilian colonial art is currently intermingled with the question of what should be understood as Brazil in the early modern period. Just like some 20th- and 21st-century scholars have been questioning, for example, the term “Italian Renaissance”—given the fact that Italy, as a political entity, did not exist until the 19th century—so have researchers problematized the concept of a unified term to designate the whole artistic production of the territory that would later become the Federative Republic of Brazil between the 16th and 19th centuries. This territory, moreover, encompassed a myriad of very different societies and languages originating from at least three different continents. Should the production, for example, of Tupi or Yoruba artworks be considered colonial? Or should they, instead, be understood as belonging to a distinctive path and independent art historical process? Is it viable to propose a transcultural academic approach without, at the same time, flattening the specificities and richness of the various societies that inhabited the territory? Recent scholarly work has been bringing together traditional historiographical references in Brazilian colonial art and perspectives from so-called “global art history.” These efforts have not only internationalized the field, but also made it multidisciplinary by combining researches in anthropology, ethnography, archaeology, history, and art history.

Article

Spanish and Portuguese Commerce and Contraband in the Amazonian Borderlands  

Juan Sebastián Gómez-González

Legal, illicit, and clandestine trade was fundamental for the social, political, and economic development of the Amazon basin during the colonial period. Since the second half of the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese establishments in this tropical region needed agriculture, livestock, and mining, but also exchanges of goods to ensure the stability and growth of missions and cities founded in their vast jurisdictions. Encomenderos, Indians, slaves, soldiers, bandeirantes, and Jesuits invigorated the illegal trade by establishing contacts through roads and tributary rivers of the Amazon River that linked different spaces through navigation. The scarce military presence in the border jurisdictions, especially between the province of Maynas and the captaincy of Rio Negro, in addition to the existence of gold mines, trafficking of manufactured goods, food, firearms, and other trade goods coming from both domestic and Atlantic markets, served as constant stimuli to strengthen the fraudulent business until the last decades of the 18th century. The prohibitions and monopolies decreed in the Luso-Hispanic laws, especially those stipulated in the treaties of limits, peace, and friendship verified in Tordesillas, Lisbon, Madrid, San Ildefonso, and Badajoz (from 1494 to 1802), were decisive to try to ensure the sovereignty and sociopolitical control in the Amazonian domains. However, the persistence of smuggling, as a complement to authorized trade and an indispensable resource for the Luso-Hispanic economies, would not have been possible without the complicity of governors, military, and astute Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries who took advantage of corruption by encouraging participation in the illegal trade. This demonstrates that trade, smuggling, and fraud in those imperial margins were inseparable aspects of settlement and the defense of territories mutually stalked by Spanish and Portuguese vassals to the first decades of the 19th century.

Article

Cartography and Environment in Colonial Latin American History  

Karl Offen

Maps and their makers have long influenced and documented Latin American history. By the late 20th century, scholars have reconsidered the historical significance of maps and mapmaking, and the methodological approaches to both. Four historical periods are important in this regard: the early mapping of the New World and the representation of its peoples and environments; Indigenous mapping traditions and the Relaciones Geográficas of New Spain; the middle colonial period, coinciding with Jesuit mapping and the expansion of Northern Europeans into the hemisphere; and the late colonial period, defined by Bourbon reforms, cartographic professionalism, scientific and military mapping, and the Enlightenment. There is no single or generalizable relationship between cartography and the environment; instead, there are trends and developments that emerged over time that reflect geographical knowledge, intent and purpose, audience and expectation, politics and power.