The early history of the city of San Carlos de Bariloche (Argentina) in the northern Patagonian Andes serves as a window into national endeavors to settle a frontier space. Initial colonial attempts to establish a colony on the shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi (Argentina) can be traced to Jesuit missionary efforts from the Island of Chiloé (Chile). After their independences, Chile and Argentina sought to claim Patagonia as their own. Embedded in this nationalizing mission was the negotiation of the international borderline as well as the violent removal of Mapuche and Tehuelche from territories in the south. In Argentina, the government launched a genocidal campaign (1879–1884) in northern Patagonia. Behind the soldiers followed explorers gathering data about the Andes, in the hopes that nature would reveal the boundary. As border negotiations unfolded in the 1890s, non-Indigenous settlers came to Nahuel Huapi. One of them, Chilean Carlos Wiederhold, established a store in 1895 on the southeastern shore of the lake and sold imported goods from Chile and exported cattle on the hoof across a trans-Andean pass. Business grew, as did the village around it. In 1902, a presidential decree officially founded the colony of Nahuel Huapi and the town of San Carlos, pinpointing the reach of the national government on the frontier. While authorities imagined the cordillera as a space devoid of social tension (presumably because land was available), violence in the form of feuds and crime sprinkled frontier life. Local elites soon depicted Nahuel Huapi as a dangerous space and blamed Chileans and Indigenous people for such violence. In the 1930s, the creation of a national park in Nahuel Huapi sought to resolve this by portraying Bariloche as a tourist site by transforming the Bariloche space through a specific aesthetic that would evoke an idyllic Argentine landscape.
Settling Bariloche: Explorations, Violence, and Tourism in the Argentine Frontier
María de los Ángeles Picone
The Rubber Economy in the Ecuadorian Amazon
The demand for rubber in the global north had severe impacts on Amazonia—its extractive origin—and irreparably transformed the economic and social landscape. Although the scholarly literature on rubber’s impact on Amazonian Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia is rich, the historiography on Ecuadorian Amazonia (known locally as the Oriente) remains underdeveloped. Yet the rubber economy had lasting impacts on the Oriente and shaped how the Liberal state interacted with its eastern frontier. The chains of debt, credit, rubber, and people integrated the Oriente into an expansive economic circuit—with its local hub in Iquitos—that cut deep scars into the region and ultimately undercut state-building efforts. Caucheros used a coercive system of debt peonage to gain control over the indigenous population, leaving frontier civil authorities with limited access to a labor force that was necessary for state building. In the larger context of Liberal export-oriented development—whereby state capacity in formerly isolated regions was often strengthened by integration into the global economy—the rubber economy in the Oriente stands out for having the opposite effect.
Cartography in the Administration of Portuguese America from the 16th to 18th Centuries
Júnia Ferreira Furtado
Cartography in the administration of Portuguese America can be related to three major processes—first, to allow the exploration and occupation of territory from the coast to the interior; second, to improve the organization of the colonial administration system; and third, as a basis for diplomatic negotiations of territory with other European nations. Between the 16th and 17th centuries, during the Atlantic maritime expansion through which new lands and new worlds were unveiled to Europeans, the Portuguese constructed a solid cartographic mapping of Brazil—a process in which they were the pioneers. The objective was to allow their vessels to cross the ocean and afterward to guarantee their dominion over the newly discovered lands, which resulted in a progressive increase of geographic knowledge of the world that was being unveiled to the Europeans. For these reasons, maps produced during these two centuries showed the increasing expectations and knowledge of the New World and reflected the manner of how the Americas, particularly Brazil, were gaining visibility among the European public; the maps satisfied the public’s curiosity about the recently discovered lands, with information related to geography and nature. Initially, as Spanish, Portuguese, and even French explorers began to reach the west coast of the continent, parts of the coastline began to appear on Portolan charts, which were used at that time for maritime sailing and are very rare today. Later the cartographers started portraying the interior of Brazil. Representations of local geography began to progressively replace images of natives and local flora and fauna. It became common on 17th-century maps to design a chain of rivers that allowed Brazil to be portrayed as an island. It was not by chance that this representation appeared in Portuguese maps at the same time as the Spanish and Portuguese crowns were unified, from 1580 to 1640. In the 17th and 18th centuries administrative cartography was mostly performed and supervised from Portugal by the Portuguese Crown or the Overseas Council, which handled all colonial policy. Two features characterized this activity: the impact of Portuguese colonization as it moved toward the western and central regions of the continent; and technical changes to cartographic practice that began at this time, characterized by Enlightenment rationality. The discovery of gold in the southeastern and central-west regions of Brazil, the Portuguese exploration of the Amazon basin, and the incessant disputes between the Spanish and Portuguese over Colonia del Sacramento in the south demanded better definition of both internal and external frontiers. Internal frontiers included divisions between captaincies, comarcas (a subdivision of captaincies originally of an ecclesiastical nature), bishoprics, and various other administrative divisions. External frontiers, by contrast, usually represented borders with Spanish American colonies.
The Promise and Peril of Gold Mining on Spanish and Portuguese Imperial Frontiers
Heidi V. Scott
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.
José de San Martín and Indigenous Relations in the South Andean Borderlands
Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1807 invasion of Spain and Portugal set in motion a transatlantic imperial crisis that, within two decades, resulted in Spain’s losing nearly all of its American possessions. Typically, the founding of most Spanish South American nations is attributed to the heroic leadership of the great liberators: Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín. While San Martín is most famous for organizing the Army of the Andes that carried out the liberation of Chile, parts of Peru, and eventually, in 1822, reunited with Bolívar in Ecuador, his time in western Río de la Plata building his army is less understood. From 1814 until 1817, General San Martín took up residence in the western Río de la Plata (Argentina) city of Mendoza to build an army capable of defeating Spanish rule in Chile and Peru. To receive permission to cross the Andes westward into Chile, San Martín needed more than soldiers well trained in European military style and horses: he needed to negotiate with the local Pehuenche people—part of the broader Mapuche peoples of southern Chile and western Río de la Plata—who had successfully resisted Spanish conquest for centuries. Before San Martín could cross the Andes to invade Chile, he participated in two interethnic diplomatic rituals known as parlamentos in Spanish and koyang in Mapudungun, with the Pehuenche. Nearly forty recorded Spanish–Mapuche parlamentos had taken place in Chile and near Mendoza since 1593. In the two 1816 parlamentos, interpreters translated the negotiations between Pehuenche representatives and San Martín over the exchange of horses, the giving of gifts, the recognition of Pehuenche dominion, and permission for the Army of the Andes to cross the mountains west to Chile. While San Martín chose to spread news of this agreement to confuse the Spanish forces in Chile as to the location of their crossing, opting not to cross Pehuenche lands, these parlamentos nevertheless speak to the power and importance of Pehuenche political traditions during the Age of Revolution.
Labor, Territory, and Economy in the Colonial North
The Portuguese occupied the northern region of South America in the early 17th century. It constituted a separate province of the Portuguese possessions in South America. This province comprised several landscapes, including the vast Amazonian forest in the west and plains in the east. It bordered the other administrative province in Portuguese America, the State of Brazil and also the Dutch, French, and Spanish colonies in the Amazon region. For most of the colonial period, the region became heavily dependent on Indian labor force for agriculture and especially for the exploitation of forest products gathered in the vast Amazonian backlands (the sertão). The role played by Indian laborers (both free and slave), by forest products (known as drogas do sertão), and by the expansion of agriculture and grazing in the eastern plains shaped a centrifugal society and economy. Moreover, the fact that the region bordered Dutch, Spanish, and French colonies transformed the frontier into a central issue of Portuguese policies towards the region.
The Colonial Amazon
Rafael Chambouleyron and Pablo Ibáñez-Bonillo
The region known as the Amazon represents approximately forty percent of the territory of the South American continent. Today, it spreads through the territory of eight countries and one European overseas territory. In the colonial period, this vast area, which stretched from the piedmont of the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean, was an essential space for European imperial conflict in the Americas. The Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French struggled for the possession of the region from the 16th century onward. However, the history of this vast region begins much earlier. A multiplicity of ethnically and linguistically distinct peoples occupied this territory, and their social, political, and economic arrangements were crucial for European conquest and colonization. Many of these peoples were directly affected by the arrival and settlement of the Europeans, especially by disease and wars. Others integrated into colonial society through religious missions, voluntary settlement, and forced labor. The Indian labor force was crucial for the development of the colonial economy in the Amazon. However, European dominion over this territory was limited to the banks of the main rivers, and most of the Amazonian lands remained indigenous.
Frontier, Backlands, and Indigenous Presence in Colonial São Paulo
José Carlos Vilardaga
The residents of the Captaincy of São Vicente, which would become São Paulo in the 18th century, were known in the late 17th century as “Paulistas.” Their reputation in the colonial period was ambiguous: on the one hand, they were viewed as crude and unruly enslavers of Indigenous people; on the other, they were known as skilled backwoodsmen and soldiers. This image derived mainly from a character that would later come to be known as the bandeirante, a member of the expeditions that forged into remote backlands mainly to capture Indigenous people for their own use, without waiting for orders from the Crown or church. This source of labor enabled the internal reproduction of enslaved labor in a region whose economy was based on subsistence and supplying other regions in the high plateau where São Paulo de Piratininga was established in 1554, first as a school, later as a town. As the occupation of the region advanced over the following decades, a network of chapels, parishes, and towns linked by river and overland routes grew up, forming the geographical area of the colonial captaincy. This occupation, which extended to the remote edges of the regions that would eventually make up Brazil and even into frontier lands contested by both Iberian empires, was motivated by a search for Indigenous peoples, a quest for precious metals, a demand for land, and the dictates of political disputes. In this sense, the backwoodsmen were not acting out of a strategic geopolitical motivation, as a certain school of self-congratulatory historiography would have it. In any event, the Paulistas played a role in shaping the internal and external frontiers of colonial Brazil through the 18th century in the context of the boundary treaties. The society formed under these circumstances was intrinsically tied to the Indigenous world, to the backlands, and to frontier living, and resulted in varied forms of crossbreeding and cultural interactions embodied in the mestizo type that became known as mameluco; the violent practices inherent in colonization, however, cannot be overlooked.
Amazonian Frontiers: Borderlines, Internal Frontiers, and Political Ecology of Amazonia
In dealing with the intersection between Amazonia and frontiers, Amazonia, understood as a region, is a recent construction that cannot be confused with the Amazon as river. Its meaning is related to the idea of Panamazonia, a multinational region. In terms of frontiers, there is a distinction between borderlines with their main ramifications, borderlands, and internal frontiers. From a historical point of view, both, borderlines and “internal frontiers” approaches must be taken into account simultaneously when dealing with the Amazonian frontiers. From a chronological point of view, in brief, a borderline was traced in the late 15th century in a contest between the Portuguese and the Castile and Aragon crowns over the Atlantic. At the beginning of the 16th century, Iberian people arrived at Pará, what today is part of Brazil. They found transformed lowlands landscapes by indigenous people of several linguistic and ethnic origins. The British, Dutch, and French crowns were able to settle in the “Caribbean” Amazonia, the Guianas. Later on, during the second part of the 17th century, Portuguese people started to expand successfully from the east to the west following up the Big River. The Spanish crown only decided to deal with Portuguese expansion in the middle of the 18th century through diplomatic negotiations. Well into the 19th century definitive demarcations in the framework of nation-state building became evident, and this becomes a priority for these independent nation-states, particularly due to the economic importance of two highly valued commodities: quinine, and rubber. The process of establishing borderlines became firmly decided around the middle of the 20th century, and with few exceptions. While the process of establishing borders has almost concluded, the material appropriation of frontier landscapes is still taking place. The current appropriation of Amazonian lands is, probably, in its last stage. It is extremely conflictive in some cases, such as in Peru and Colombia, because of internal armed conflict, illegal extractivism, and drug dealing. It also involves a dispute between forces associated with development projects and forces of conservation during the late 20th century and the turning of this new century, all in a context of the environmental globalization of the Amazonia. This has implied a redefinition of the territorial role of the Amazonian nation-states. Therefore, it is more proper to analyze this last stage as a political ecology of the appropriation of Amazonian frontiers.
Alberto Santos-Dumont and Brazilian Aviation
Felipe Fernandes Cruz
Aviation has played a unique role in the history of Brazil, beginning with the life of Alberto Santos-Dumont. Most Brazilians consider him to be the true inventor of the airplane over the North American brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright. Born in the province of Minas Gerais in 1873, he became a global celebrity in the early 1900s when he designed, built, and piloted several of his dirigibles and airplanes in Paris. He won major prizes for his aeronautical feats, such as the Deutsch de La Meurthe prize for an aerial circumnavigation of the Eiffel Tower. Santos-Dumont is a beloved national hero in Brazil. The potent symbolism of his life was often invoked in calls for the development of Brazilian aviation. Throughout the 20th century, aviation was hailed as a technological panacea for Brazil’s problems. Many Brazilians thought its development could boost homegrown industry and technology, and that aviation would in turn enable Brazil to conquer its frontiers by air. The potential to connect vast and often inaccessible territories by air was very attractive to a state with a weak grip on its frontiers. The dictatorial government of Getúlio Vargas, for instance, used propaganda and cultural programs to engender great excitement among Brazilians for the mass development of national aviation. This notion of frontier conquest by air played a major role in the development of aeronautical technology in Brazil, creating a unique history of frontier expansion and interaction with indigenous peoples. Starting in 1969, Brazil also became a major exporter of airplanes. Originally a state-owned company, the now privatized EMBRAER is one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, selling military, airline and private jet aircraft around the world.
Border Wars in South America during the 19th Century
Peter V. N. Henderson
While Europeans basked in the glory of their so-called century of peace between the end of the Napoleonic wars (1815) and the onset of World War I (1914), Latin Americans knew no such luxury. Conflict became a way of life for Latin Americans attempting to construct nation-states. Liberals and Conservatives dueled with one another for political power, while caudillos (military strongmen) added their unique twisted logic to the political process. Historians have spilled considerable ink detailing these internal conflicts that complicated Latin America’s struggle for effective state formation in the early national period but have paid much less attention to the external wars over disputed boundaries that involved every South American nation during the 19th century. As historian Robert Burr described it: boundary conflicts were the “congenital international disease of Spain’s former colonies.”
The Guaraní Missions in the Jesuit Province of Paraguay, 1609–1800
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.