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date: 03 December 2022

Spanish and Portuguese Commerce and Contraband in the Amazonian Borderlandsfree

Spanish and Portuguese Commerce and Contraband in the Amazonian Borderlandsfree

  • Juan Sebastián Gómez-GonzálezJuan Sebastián Gómez-GonzálezUniversidad de Antioquia


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.


  • History of Brazil
  • History of Southern Spanish America
  • 1492 and Before

Indigenous Commerce, Rescates, and Slavery

Although not as widespread or frequent as in the port cities of the Greater Caribbean, the Atlantic, or other overseas provinces, the social and economic phenomena associated with commerce, contraband, and tax evasion has existed in the Amazon basin since the 16th century. The slow and fragmented processes of exploration, in addition to the difficulties of settling this vast tropical region, led to disputes over territorial occupation, the exploitation of natural resources, commerce, and, above all, the use of Indigenous peoples as forced labor for the productive activities implemented by the Europeans.1

Geopolitically, the Amazon can be understood as a border. It is an isolated, remote, and disputed region, whose imprecise and unstable interior borders provoked political and military confrontations during the centuries of Iberian rule.2 However, legal and illegal commerce in the Amazon basin were not the result solely of European competition for the expansion of imperial hegemony in the region. For centuries, for the nomadic societies that lived there, commerce was an integral factor that strengthened interethnic contact and bonds between the peoples living in the highlands of the Andes and the lowlands of the equatorial Pacific. Sailing the rivers allowed them to maintain contact and exchange goods with societies in very distant regions, from the Andean Piedmont to the Caribbean coast (by crossing Guyana). The slave trade among Tupi-speaking Indigenous peoples of the Amazon is a good example of the extensive trade networks between the lower basins of rivers such as the Napo, Putumayo, and Caquetá, and the highlands of the Andes, which existed even before Incan rule.3

More than four centuries before contact with the Europeans, the trading of objects, textiles, seeds, animals, wood, food, precious metals, and other material goods was, in large part, the economic foundation that linked these societies. A 16th-century observer explained that in the past, the Indigenous peoples of the Huallaga River basin bartered parrots, hammocks, and feathered garments in exchange for knives and other tools.4 It would be difficult to understand the rules, traditions, and rituals that governed trade, agreements, and all sorts of exchanges of goods among these demographically large societies. It would also be anachronistic and misleading to speak of “pre-Colombian illegal commerce” or the “illicit economy during the Postclassic Period” in the region, as if they were concrete facts, and therefore punishable, according to the Indigenous customs and traditions of political organization that prevailed over the economic life of the eight to ten million people who inhabited the Amazon around the year 1500.5

In the mid-16th century, in reference to the Indigenous people of the upper Amazon, a member of Pedro de Ursúa’s army observed that “All of their routes are traveled by canoe in the river, where all their trading is done.” This comment referenced their nautical travel customs, on which the exchange of their goods depended.6 Another witness of the period commented that business between the Spanish and Indigenous peoples was vital for rescate, or the practice of obtaining gold in exchange for tin and pewter plates and pots, which were common European items accepted by the Indigenous peoples.7 Rescate was one of the Spaniards’ preferred trading methods.8 This type of trade was advantageous for the Iberians and their desire for profit, and also for combating hunger during expeditions. Moreover, such exchanges demonstrated how intense, complex, and geographically widespread the commercial activities of the Amazonian economies could be. In fact, the exchange of raw materials and manufactured products, as well as the diversification of markets, was possible thanks to the level of interethnic communication via extensive land and river routes traditionally used by the Indigenous peoples.9 The well-known historian and chronicler Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo explained that true cinnamon (Laurus cinnamomum), which is an Amazonian variety similar to the one found on the island of Sri Lanka, was a product that the Indigenous peoples of the lower basin of the Napo River traded in Quito. This exchange put the highlands and lowlands of the northwest in contact with one another. It is not surprising that the Spaniards saw the financial benefits that the trade of this aromatic bark would bring to the empire. As such, it was transported on the Amazon River, where it was then taken to and sold in Europe.10

Because this long-established Indigenous trade network had been running smoothly for centuries, the Iberians got a simplified idea of how it worked and of its relationship to the waterways that connected the region, even beyond its borders.11 During the first decades of the 16th century, Ulrich Schmidl, a Bavarian soldier and chronicler who participated in an expedition to Río de la Plata, confirmed that the Indigenous peoples of that region were in contact with the Amazonian peoples to the north, who were rumored to be rich in gold. It is possible that they lived in what is known in the 21st century as the state of Mato Grosso.12 In that regard, considering their trade experience, activities, and travel abilities, the people who lived in the Amazon constructed a complex economic system about which there are still no satisfactory academic interpretations.13

As a result of their expeditions, the Spanish and Portuguese had contact with different Indigenous ethnic groups that traveled around the extensive Amazon River region. Inland waterway travel also facilitated contact between the Spanish and Portuguese, especially in the southernmost regions of the basin, where the geographical borders with Portuguese territories were not easy to locate. As a result, the situation on this border was observed with suspicion from Lima, capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru. In 1595, a governor from Santa Cruz de la Sierra claimed that the Spanish expeditions had even gone as far as the westernmost regions of Brazil. This suggests that there were routes that were easy to travel on. Therefore, the Portuguese were able to illegally trade their products and slaves in exchange for the region’s gold and wealth.14

As they did in other regions of the New World, the Europeans looked for gold in the riverbeds of the Amazon. Indigenous labor was vital to do so, because of the Indigenous peoples’ knowledge of and experience with the mining of this metal. For example, around 1582, Spaniards traveled from the Andes to sell merchandise as well as meat, wine, flour, and oil in the mines of cities like San Francisco de Borja, Santiago de las Montañas, Jaén, and Loja. There, the twenty-three-carat gold the Indigenous peoples mined from the riverbeds could be used for any commercial transaction. In an economic sense, gold, in all of its manifestations, had become the ideal trading means for all business the Spanish conducted in the mining regions.15

In spite of the laws that prohibited slavery, for the Spaniards the Indigenous peoples became goods to be bought and sold. A common justification for the slave trade was that it prevented cannibalism.16 Carried out in secret, this type of business ignored the legal and canonical mechanisms that protected the Indigenous peoples as subjects of the Spanish monarchs.17 Portuguese commercial activities developed more intensely and over a longer span of time, in keeping with the workforce needed to grow and harvest sugar cane, cacao, tobacco, and the highly valued drogas do sertão. These were essential products for intraregional trade in the captaincies of Grão Pará and Maranhão. They were intensely mined for more than two hundred years, between 1640 and 1850, approximately.18 The territories of that part of Portuguese America were closely linked to Atlantic trade administered by the Brazilian captaincies. In these regions, the slave trade was not only limited to the Indigenous labor force. Enslaved Africans, taken directly from Angola, Guinea, and the Cape Verde Islands to Belém, were also fundamental to the transactions needed to provide labor in the agricultural, livestock, mining, and personal services sectors in the Amazonian settlements.19

The idea that the abundance of precious metals would stimulate trade and commerce was used as justification for future settlement initiatives.20 During the initial years of European presence in the region, the middle basin of the Amazon River, at times known as the Omaguas province and later as Gran Omagua, began to be considered a border zone. This was due not only to the fact that it was far from cities like Lima, Quito, Santa Fe, Cuzco, Charcas, Belém, and São Luis, but also because of its foreign geographic and social characteristics. It was also different because of the way trade with the Indigenous peoples was conducted. At the end of the 1630s, due to the recent influx of missionaries and nonmissionaries, both from the Andes and the Atlantic, this region of imprecise geopolitical borders became important to the legal and illegal trade conducted by the subjects of the Spanish and Portuguese monarchies. However, outsiders also participated in these commercial activities, thereby connecting the Amazon with the growing networks of the Atlantic.

The Enemies of the Catholic Monarchy and Its Businesses in the Amazon

The Portuguese and Spanish were not the only Europeans who benefitted from the possibilities the Amazon offered. Starting at the end of the 16th century, there were non-Iberian initiatives that led to the occupation of some eastern regions of the Amazon for a short time.21 Because of the lack of protection and scarce security that the monarchy provided to that region of Portuguese America, it did not take long for small English and Dutch settlements to pop up in the vast Amazon River Delta. They were founded for both agricultural and commercial purposes. In 1628, Feliciano Coelho, a son of the governor of Grão Pará, visited the mouth of the Amazon River to wage war on the English and the Dutch. Determined to do business with the Indigenous peoples with whom they had made alliances, they were also intent on growing and exporting tobacco to Europe. Their businesses were detrimental to the Fazenda Real and the commercial monopoly that the Portuguese had in the region.22

Around twenty Englishmen, commanded by the renowned Sir Thomas Roe, led the occupation of a small settlement between 1611 and 1613. Trading with the Indigenous peoples that lived by the river, growing tobacco, and mining gold were their main economic activities during the short time that the settlement lasted. Shortly after, it became known that five survivors of this business had returned back to Europe as “rich” men. They took back a considerable amount of tobacco and gold bars that were later sold in England and the Netherlands. Obtaining these riches inspired Roe’s former subordinates to consider returning to the Amazon to continue their commercial activities. It was perhaps thanks to this type of news that many in The Hague claimed that, in time, their commercial activities in the Amazon would be much more important for the Dutch than their businesses in the East Indies.23

During the same decade, a group of French Capuchins had also taken significant steps toward the geographical reconnaissance and missionary occupation of that region. Father Claude d’Abbeville eloquently spoke of the riches and abundance of the Indigenous peoples, plants, and animals on l’isle de Maragnan. He argued that the neighboring regions were a part of South America yet to be fully discovered.24 However, the French and English initiatives were not as successful as they anticipated, which surely reassured the authorities of the Spanish Empire. In fact, during the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns under the Spanish Habsburgs, known as the Iberian Union (1580–1640), the Portuguese founded the city of Belém in 1616 to respond to French threats in the Amazon River Delta. The settlements and commercial activities demanded increased military presence and logistics, a fact that the Dutch had understood for more than a decade. Around 1626, a scholar from Antwerp named Jean de Laet confirmed that his “countrymen” had long traveled the river doing business according to their commercial customs.25 In fact, in 1600, the Dutch built impressive fortifications at the mouth of the Xingú River and in the Oyapoc River basin. From the stronghold at the Oyapoc River, two Dutchmen named Pieter Lodewyck and Jan Pieterse, father and son, conducted business with the Indigenous people. According to a Dutch witness, Lodewyck had also sailed upstream on the Amazon River approximately “one hundred leagues” before reaching the spot where he contacted a few Indigenous individuals with whom he traded red dyes, tobacco, and some spices. The Indigenous people had informed him that in the area there were “many inhabitants and peoples with much greater profits for businessmen.” This witness also claimed that his countrymen planned to establish a large settlement for the benefit of Dutch commerce in that part of America, and, in order to do so, the United Provinces of the Netherlands needed reconnaissance information on the entire Amazon River.26

The Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) had a procedural and business model for different commercial strongholds in the basins of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, especially with China. In line with this model, Dutch commercial efforts in certain zones in the far east of the Amazon were quickly recognized as important achievements in the expansionist and mercantile context of the Western Hemisphere. These efforts had started a few years prior with the foundation of one of the most prestigious, wealthy, and active enterprises in the seas and ports of the Americas: the West-Indische Compagnie (WIC).27 Dutch adventurers and merchants were able to make deals with the Indigenous people of the captaincy of Maranhão during the first decades of the 17th century thanks to the advantages afforded by their strong occupational presence in North America, Northeast Brasil (Pernambuco), and the Caribbean. In 1616, a member of the Portuguese military named André Pereira confirmed that a group of Flemish individuals had settled in region to learn the language of the Indigenous peoples and to more easily do business with them.28

Around 1623, for example, WIC ships sailed the Amazon Delta to establish trading posts with the societies who lived by the river. They were very economically successful in this endeavor.29 The Spanish abhorred the Dutch for being, in their opinion, Jews, heretics, and Calvinists. As a result, the Dutch presence in the Amazon was a complete affront to the Spanish Empire’s desires for sovereignty and commercial exclusivity. The Dutch commercial activities in King Phillip IV’s territories were clearly detrimental to the monopolies promoted by the court in Madrid as radical measures for the administration of Portuguese America, especially in the borderlands made up of the Grão Pará and Maranhão territories, which had been annexed to the Spanish Crown during the Iberian Union.30 Around 1626, Simão Estacio da Silveira, a Portuguese subject at the service of the Catholic monarchy who experienced the Amazon firsthand, stated that in addition to having built a strong fortification on the banks of the Amazon, the Dutch were doing business with different inland Indigenous peoples, including with the Guarijòòs. To him, this suggested that the Dutch could decide to stay more permanently in the area.31 Indeed, these adversaries of the Catholic monarchy had earned significant profits from the sugar grown in that border region.32 A short time later, after a Portuguese revolt dissolved the Iberian Union, the Dutch were thrown out of Brazil. All trace of them in the Amazon captaincies would also disappear.33 Europeans that challenged the Catholic monarchy stopped being a constant political, economic, and religious threat. However, trade dynamics in the Amazon, in addition to the small number of European settlers and the weak military presence in the regions’ settlements, had demonstrated that commerce and contraband and legality and illegality could coexist and continue being highly functional in the economies that were taking shape in the Amazon borderlands.

Legal and Illicit Commerce on the Amazon Border in the 17th Century

The political and legal context of the Iberian Union led to disputes that caused territorial invasions, robberies, plundering, and the kidnapping of Indigenous peoples. Demographic information on the Indigenous populations of the Amazon is imprecise, particularly regarding the river basins of the Portuguese captaincies during the second half of the 17th century. However, Martín de Saavedra y Guzmán, the President of the Real Audiencia de Santa Fe, claimed that around 1639 there were possibly more than one million Indigenous people in the Portuguese territories.34 Commercial activity in the Amazon was based on agriculture and mining, as well as the trade networks used previously by Indigenous societies. This activity was part of the reason why Portuguese settlements were established in the captaincies of Grão Pará and Maranhão starting in 1640. The region’s original inhabitants, as well as gold and the drogas do sertão, were coveted by civilians, members of the military, and religious figures for their use as a source of labor. They were an indispensable resource for the system of exploitation developed in the haciendas and missions.35

During the expedition led by the explorer Pedro Teixeira in 1639, a voyage that followed the Amazon River upstream from Belém to Reino de Quito, Mauricio de Heriarte, one of his literate subordinates, observed that material goods like woods, cacao, and some handcrafted objects made with clay, like plates and pots, were part of the traditional trading networks of different Indigenous communities. These networks were also used to trade with the Portuguese. As a result, small businesses emerged that stimulated the circulation of products from the rainforest in the markets of port cities in Northeast Brazil, like Recife and São Salvador da Bahía. Furthermore, Cristóbal de Acuña, a Burgos Jesuit who was on the same expedition, suggested that the fertility of the Amazon lands and the possibility of “magnificent harvests” had to be taken advantage of to increase commerce and profits for the monarchy. In his estimation, agricultural and forestry opportunities would increase the fortunes of the Spanish Crown, especially at a time in which sugar production in Brazilian captaincies was going through a difficult economic period.36

Similarly, the trade of enslaved Indigenous peoples captured in remote places, like the regions of the Orinoco and Madeira Rivers, was a decisive factor that inspired the Portuguese to create a kind of “Amazon empire” in which the production of sugar, tobacco, cacao, sarsaparilla, sassafras, and other jungle spices would be the foundation of land and sea trade with Spanish America and all of Europe.37 That type of project never materialized, mainly because neither Iberian metrople paid enough attention to its Amazon territories, but also because the Lisbon courts outlawed the enslavement of Indigenous people in 1680.38 However, interregional commerce remained integral to the establishment of the civil and missionary settlements. Manuel Rodríguez, a well-known Jesuit who had served in the vice-province of Quito, explained that trade between civilians and missionaries and the Indigenous peoples had been fundamental to the founding of San Francisco de Borja, the capital of Maynas province.39

Although trade was not a priority for the Jesuits priests, in keeping with their apostolic duties, they had to become involved in this activity in order to sustain the economies of the Amazon missions. Obviously, in most cases these transactions were not subject to any government tariff. In the context of these missions, especially on the Amazon border, Real Hacienda (royal treasury) officials did not collect any sales tax, and, consequently, the royal treasury did not receive any tax contributions. There were usually violent disputes for territorial occupation against the subjects of the Portuguese Empire living in the far east region of the Amazon. In that context, the priests who administered the extensive missionary network of Maynas province, which stretched from the Napo River Valley to the mouth of the Negro River, saw trade as a direct way to financially support the missions and as a lucrative opportunity for the Jesuits. In a letter dated June 1686, the Jesuit Samuel Fritz explained that in the San Joaquín de Omaguas mission, finding objects like axes, machetes, knives, and needles was only possible thanks to trade with the closest Andean cities. Fritz wrote that he had asked a Spaniard living in Omaguas province to travel to the Napo River basin and sell some salt, and then continue to Quito to sell salted manatee meat. Salt and meat were goods that the Jesuits had traded since the 1640s. The paltry profits they made in the markets of Quito were indicative of the commercial hardships faced by non-Indigenous inhabitants of the Spanish Amazon.40

At the end of the 16th century, the Europeans realized that the commercial networks that connected San Francisco de Borja with cities like Santa María de Nieva and Santiago de las Montañas were riverways that the Indigenous peoples had controlled for years. From these waterways, “they obtained all necessary items, from food, to clothing, to war supplies.”41 In fact, between 1640 and 1650 sailing the Napo River was the most common way to reach the missionary territories, whose thirteen settlements needed to exchange clothing, jewels, tools, and other vital objects, not just to support the daily life of the Jesuits and their religious rituals, but also for the trade that these missionaries engaged in with the Indigenous peoples.42 These transactions in turn were part of the strategy of attracting Indigenous people in order to convert and subdue them in the missions. Commerce linked to river travel was also a determining factor in the success of the Jesuits as an institution in service of the Church and the Spanish government along that border. The Jesuits understood the importance of trade for the future of new settlements, although there were never more than twelve missionaries present during the 17th century. This figure makes sense when considering the size of the missionary territories and the sheer number of Indigenous peoples that inhabited them. In fact, around 1623, it was said that “there were more Indigenous people living by these rivers than in all the Indies,” although this affirmation may have been said as part of a strategy to persuade the Crown.43 Additionally, as travel on the Amazon River tributaries through Maynas province increased, so did trade opportunities. Perhaps for this reason, Father Manuel Rodríguez was certain that, thanks to these exchanges, trade had incentivized demographic growth and cohesion in the missions of the upper basins of the Curaray and Pastaza Rivers.44

Imperial Conflicts, Commerce, and Contraband

Secular and missionary settlements and the strengthening of interregional commerce in the eastern and western regions of the Amazon basin were key to Iberian expansionism throughout the 18th century.45 These processes were linked to the gradual opening of new mining regions that had started at the end of the 17th century, both in the provinces of the Andean-Amazon Piedmont in the Viceroyalty of Peru and in the Portuguese territories that bordered the Amazon captaincies. Two specific examples of this were the Portuguese captaincy of Goiás and Quixos region controlled by Spain. Both regions, geographically linked to the Amazon basin through commerce, contraband, mining, and exploitation of Indigenous and African labor, ceased to be the exclusive focus of local government until the mid-18th century, when other expansion and exploitation initiatives were directed toward the Portuguese-Spanish border regions crossed by the Amazon River.46

In the mid-18th century, Father João Daniel, a Portuguese Jesuit with extensive knowledge of the Amazon, suggested the establishment of “fairs and markets” in order to connect commerce with inland waterway navigation and the agricultural production of the Portuguese captaincies (see figure 1). In his opinion, this project would stimulate economic growth in the region, which would in turn make the Portuguese Amazon the “richest empire in the world.”47 In fact, the idea of obtaining wealth from products of the rainforest like cacao, sarsaparilla, Amazon cloves, resins, nuts, and turtle and manatee meat was common among the Portuguese that lived in captaincies like Rio Negro and Grão Pará. However, such ideas never manifested in any of the Iberian Amazon territories due to a key factor: the scarce availability of the Indigenous knowledge and labor necessary to achieve those economic goals on a profitable scale.48 This task was also difficult to accomplish because in these borderlands, contraband had become one of the most effective foundations of the economy and of the interaction between settlements. Additionally, it became one of the most pressing concerns for the Spanish-Portuguese governments at local and mainland levels. Since the beginning of the 18th century, the Portuguese sporadically invaded the Maynas missions. Jesuits from Quito also secretly visited the Portuguese captaincies. At the same time, practices like illegal trading occurred.49 The Indigenous populations were still of great interest to the missionaries. Through the trade of European beads and tools, they were able to draw them to the reductions (settlements) to convert them, but mostly to force them to work. This workforce was one of the causes of the economic development of the missions and their accumulation of wealth. The Portuguese used a similar strategy, in addition to force and violence, to enslave the Indigenous people and force them to work in the haciendas.50

Figure 1. The Amazon River basin and its main Spanish and Portuguese settlements, c. 16th–18th centuries.

Source: Author.

In 1736, the Jesuit Nicolás Schindler argued that in the town of La Laguna, the Portuguese invaders exchanged not only cloth and garments with the Indigenous people but also shotguns. In that way, they satisfied the Indigenous demand for that type of article. These common exchanges carried out in the borderlands of the Americas, which were illegal under Spanish law, were part of daily life in Maynas province. The Jesuits of Quito argued that drunkenness, nomadism, superstitions, polygamy, and “trade with the common enemy,” in other words, economic exchanges with the Portuguese from Grão Pará, were obstacles to the establishment and stability of the missions.51

As in other border regions in the 18th century, in the Amazon illegal commerce was directly linked to the traffic of goods that usually came from foreign markets. The Indigenous peoples and their ancestral knowledge of the inland waterways also greatly increased the circulation and trade of goods. The regions drained by the Negro and Madeira Rivers and these rivers’ confluence in the Amazon River were connected to the Andes and the continental provinces of the Caribbean, or the Orinoco River basin, through canoe routes. The hydrographic connections used in the Indigenous trade networks also allowed people from the Manao confederation to participate in the slave trade with the Dutch from Guyana and the Portuguese from the Rio Negro and Grão Pará captaincies, making illegal commerce in the Amazon a diverse economic alternative.52 The Portuguese and Spanish knew that these exchanges were considered crimes according to colonial law. The Jesuits, members of the military, and laypeople living in the Spanish Amazon provinces knew that obtaining products from Portuguese merchants and participating in the Indigenous slave trade had serious legal consequences. However, the conditions in this border region for this type of business made it clear that monarchical powers were not very effective from a distance. Andrés de Zárate, a Jesuit missionary from Maynas, argued that his fellow Jesuits were the only defense that the King of Spain had in that province, especially to prevent Portuguese contraband.53 According to observations made by the Jesuits and some officials from Quito, the perseverance the Portuguese showed in establishing settlements and businesses in the Spanish Amazon was explained by the supposed poverty of the Grão Pará captaincy. Undoubtedly exaggerated, this assessment was reinforced by the fact that in rivers such as the Napo and Negro, and in cities of the Andean foothills such as Ávila and San Miguel de Sucumbíos, it was said, and even confirmed in an extensive poem of the time, that there were abundant gold mines.54

As one of the strongest forces behind the development of contraband, gold extracted from alluvial mines in the Spanish Amazon was not coveted only by Portuguese merchants. For Peruvian criollos and people from Quito and New Kingdom of Granada, obtaining the precious metal had also become a goal of illegal commerce. There were cases like that of Jerónimo Barahona, a mestizo from the city of Cali (governorate of Popayán) who frequently did business in the province of Maynas. By 1736, Barahona was linked to the Portuguese from Grão Pará, and his extensive knowledge of the rainforest routes made him both a guide and business partner for Portuguese traffickers, who, with his help, went as far as to Sucumbíos to sell their goods. The Jesuits accused Barahona of helping the Portuguese build a large ship on which they sailed again to Sucumbíos with their goods to exchange in the Franciscan missions for gold.55 Buying goods from the Portuguese and later selling them in the Andean provinces of Reino de Quito (Kingdom of Quito) or Nuevo Reino de Granada (New Kingdom of Granada) was a profitable type of contraband in the Amazon. Transporting goods like textiles, provisions, and other Asian objects (like rugs, for example) from the markets of Lisbon to Grão Pará, shipping them to one of various small ports on the Napo River, and then taking them across the jungle and part of the Andes to cities like Popayán or Santa Fe in Nuevo Reino de Granada was an arduous task that was clearly considered to be fraud by the Real Hacienda.

Because this was a clandestine business, it is impossible to know how much, in overall figures, the treasury of the monarchy was defrauded at any given time. It is even harder given that this secret business started in a border region like the Amazon. In fact, due to contact between the Spanish and Portuguese in places as remote as the Mato Grosso captaincy, in 1749 orders were given from Lisbon to stop contraband trading in the border region between the Viceroyalty of Peru and Portuguese America.56 At the same time, this situation demonstrated the common concerns of Spain (under Bourbon rule) and Portugal (under Pombal) that they sought to address with policies justified by Enlightenment rationality, as was the case with Article XIX of the Treaty of Madrid of 1750 in which the topic of illegal commerce at the border was considered a matter of utmost importance.57 In fact, there were also reformist laws strictly aimed at intervening in the Amazonian economies. For example, the Diretório dos Índios, a law with many articles, had a decisive influence on the administration of Indigenous populations, regional trade, and fiscal control of the settlements in Portuguese America. In force from 1757 to 1798, the Diretório also sought to contain the illegal commerce present in all of the captaincies. It paid special attention to the fraud happening in the expedições de coleta, in which Indigenous people living in the missions were obligated to participate. They also actively participated in the trading of contraband.58

Bourbon officials considered contraband a problem that needed to be solved, while the Jesuits and other residents of the Amazon territories benefitted from this type of trade. The markets of cities like San Francisco de Borja, Archidona, Ávila, Baeza, and the more than thirty Jesuit missions were not sufficiently supplied by the economic networks of the Reino de Quito. Contraband controlled by the Portuguese, on the other hand, was able to supply these markets, even if only partially. The Jesuits of Maynas were accused of supporting contraband and of being clients of the Portuguese traffickers, whom they even protected in the missions. This situation was not unfamiliar to their coreligionists in Grão Pará. In 1757, these missionaries were accused of forcing the Indigenous people to produce salted fish and turtle lard and of having warehouses in their seminary in Belém full of drogas do sertão for sale. They were also accused of participating in the contraband trading with the Spanish Jesuits on the Javari River.59 From the mid-18th century on, the Portuguese that sailed the rivers of Maynas province continued trading illegally with the Spanish settlements. It was even reported that in the course of these operations, Portuguese ships full of merchandise sank in the Napo River.60

As a consequence of this illegal commerce, the Amazon markets, particularly in the missions, become dependent, to an extent, on the goods that the Portuguese could provide. This situation, in different manifestations, continued until 1767, when the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish territories. This same decision was previously made by the Portuguese Monarchy in 1759. The eviction of the Jesuits resulted in the abandonment of the missions, which clearly impacted the development of illegal commerce. Indeed, the almost nonexistent presence of Spanish officials meant that the Portuguese subjects did not hesitate to infringe on neighboring territories. In general, illegal commerce, river travel, and business with the Indigenous people continued to be essential to the economic life of the region during the following decades.61 In 1773, for example, a Franciscan friar who officiated on the banks of the upper Putumayo River claimed that the Indigenous people traded with the Portuguese by offering other enslaved Indigenous individuals in exchange for arquebuses, ammunition, and gunpowder. These Indigenous people were usually sold in Belém, where they were then sent to work on the plantations. This work reinforced these economic networks that were illegal under Spanish and Portuguese law.62

The signing of the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1777 was a key factor in the mediation of conflicts in the Amazon and throughout South America, in general. The void left by the Jesuits had been taken advantage of by Portuguese merchants who were still interested in obtaining the gold extracted from the minerals of the upper Amazon, in addition to maintaining trade with the independent Indigenous groups of Rio Negro and Grão Pará.63 Francisco Requena y Herrera, a military engineer who did demarcation work in the Amazon for the empire, gave accounts that indicated the prevalence of illegal commerce on the border. Although he was also accused of being a smuggler and of having business dealings with the Portuguese, Requena stated that the constant official disregard for the clandestine enemy occupations and advances in Spanish lands over the course of a century could lead to the Portuguese gradually taking over all Andean and Amazonian trade, usurping land and resources, enslaving Indigenous people, and making Quito a marketplace for the sale of their goods.64

In fact, the Portuguese had advanced so far as to occupy the mouths of the Putumayo and Caquetá Rivers, which allowed them to reach the Andean Piedmont inhabited by Franciscan missionaries and pursue their commercial interests. These actions were supported by political decisions made in Lisbon and followed in Belém. Around 1790, it was said that thanks to contraband trading with the Portuguese, the missionaries trafficked clothing that was then sold in Pasto, Popayán, and other markets in the Andes. More than a decade later, in 1807, civilian and religious reports claimed that clandestine trade continued to exist on the border not only because of the Portuguese, who lived and traded in different regions of the Spanish Amazon without many difficulties, but also due to corrupt officials and members of the military. Supposedly loyal to the monarchy, they were also eager to amass small and medium-sized fortunes through businesses that openly flouted the monopolistic precepts of the Real Hacienda.65 These economic realities, which in no way complimented the administration of the empires, especially due to the critical fiscal and financial situation of that time, eventually left their mark on the entire Amazon border.

Discussion of the Literature

Research aimed at interpreting the history of the Amazon during the colonial era (from approximately 1499 to 1830) has not paid significant nor exclusive attention to the economic realities that conditioned the models of occupation, subjection, war, and exploitation in this rugged region and its original societies. However, since this is a vast geographical region, whose subregions have experienced different human influences since pre-Colombian times, any analysis that sought to cover interpretations of legal and illegal commerce during the Iberian period would be complex because of how spread out the primary sources are. Although incomplete, historiographical efforts to present interpretations that allow us to understand the past beyond hackneyed conceptions of this rainforest region, that is, those that have insisted that the Amazon was an “empty space,” or even a “virgin forest,” have managed to analyze aspects that are increasingly relevant, but above all novel for the understanding of societies and economies within the legal and political framework of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires. In this sense, the Amazon has been characterized as a border region in which different interests of the Iberian empires clashed by way of their subjects.

That the Amazon has been an “interimperial European region” during the last five centuries implies that understanding its past cannot be limited exclusively to regional and local perspectives that, although interesting and in many cases necessary, narratively isolate spaces based on limited chronologies. They present uninspiring narratives that obscure the region’s social and economic diversity, as well as its Atlantic and global ties during the colonial era. Because commerce and contraband on the Amazon border is a very specific historical topic, there have been many research findings that connect, interweave, and cross-reference information from different empirical sources to analyze these dynamics in the context of their economic, commercial, and trade realities as elements that in themselves structure the conflictive nature of this border region. It is important to mention the work of Rafael Chambouleyron, especially his book Povoamento, Ocupação e Agricultura na Amazônia Colonial (1640–1706), in addition to the articles published in specialized journals in different countries, as the most serious and thought-provoking work on the different economic realities of the Portuguese Amazon and its interregional ties and Atlantic connections between the 17th and 18th centuries. In terms of conceptual soundness and interpretative creativity, this work on the colonial era in the Spanish Amazon is unmatched.

It is worth noting that Brazilian and Portuguese historiographies, in addition to some contributions from other regions (especially Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela), are an academic force that has traditionally been interested in the region’s past, although not completely disconnected from the subregional perspectives that, ultimately, support national perspectives by virtue of their historical specificities. Works such as those of Arthur Cezar Ferreira Reis, Marcio Souza, Ângela Domingues, Waldemar Espinoza Soriano, John Hemming, Stuart Schwartz, Jean Soublin, Maria Elena Porras, and Lorenzo García are fundamental contributions for identifying, among other topics, the significance that legal and illegal commerce had for the colonial economy of the Amazon.66 There have been books published in recent years, however, that critically engage in dialogue with the less recent historiography on the colonial Amazon. They also address research topics on commerce and contraband without losing sight of the perspective of the region as a shared colonial space and border that is geographically and politically interconnected. Authors such as Tamar Herzog, Heather F. Roller, Barbara A. Sommer, Carlos Augusto Bastos, Alirio Cardoso, and Sebastián Gómez-González have conducted research on the Spanish-Portuguese Amazon as a region where commerce, especially its illicit forms, was one of the fundamental elements in the range of conflicts caused by the political and military rivalries between the Iberian empires.67 Furthermore, these studies are noteworthy because their methodologies include interpretations based on careful reading and analysis of local and mainland primary and secondary sources, that, when critically compared and cross-referenced, reveal valuable nuances and details about the past.

We also must keep in mind that this topic has been examined in studies that have not been published as books. Mainly doctoral and master’s dissertations, as well as articles in specialized journals, these research findings have identified important avenues of reflection, understanding, and interpretation for new approaches to the issues inherent to commerce and contraband on the Amazon border. The studies partially published by Adilson Brito, André José Santos Pompeu and, above all, by Francismar Alex Lopes de Carvalho on the colonial history of the region are an important example of the research possibilities that the societies, economies, environmental contexts, and political, religious, and military conflicts, considered from the analysis of primary sources, can contribute to the renewal of historical studies on the social and economic events in the Amazon region throughout the colonial era.68


Translated from Spanish by Sydney Kaiserman.

Primary Sources

The collections of primary sources that make it possible to carry out studies on licit and illicit commerce and all economic illegality in the Amazon basin are varied and spread out among different archives in countries in the Americas and Europe. It should be noted that there are important sources published between the 16th and 18th centuries that comprise an entire narrative landscape, such as stories, accounts, and reports. Among these, the most important are those written in the 16th century by Gaspar de Carvajal, Francisco Vázquez, Philipp von Hutten, Gonzalo de Zúñiga, Toribio de Ortiguera, and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo; and in the 17th and 18th centuries by Mauricio de Heriarte, Jean de Laet, Francisco Xavier Ribeiro de Sampaio, Vitoriano Pimentel, and the Jesuits António Vieira, Cristóbal de Acuña, Manuel Rodríguez, Samuel Fritz, João Daniel, João Felipe Bettendorff, Pedro de Mercado, Manuel Uriarte, Pablo Maroni, Jean Magnin, and Bernardo Recio. The main unpublished collections for research on the subject are the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (Lisbon, Portugal), especially the collections related to the Conselho Ultramarino for the Amazon captaincies, such as Brasil-Pará, Brasil-Maranhão, Brasil-Rio Negro, and Brasil-Mato Grosso. The Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies, Seville, Spain) has an absolutely critical collection for the study of the subject. The Estado, Quito, Lima, Santa Fe, Patronato, and Indiferente General collections are archives that contain valuable records of the civil and military administration of the Spanish Amazon between the 16th and 18th centuries. Similarly, the Archivo Histórico Nacional (National Historical Archives, Madrid, Spain) also houses important documents, especially those related to the administrative policies issued from the metropole, in its Consejos collection. The Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu (Roman Archives on the Society of Jesus, Rome, Italy) has an extraordinarily rich collection on the subject, especially for the period from 1638 to 1767 in the Novum Regnum et Quit collection. The Archivo Nacional de Ecuador (National Archives of Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador) in its Presidencial de Quito, Milicias, Indígenas, and Religiosos collections; as well as the Aurelio Espinosa Polit library of Ecuador (Quito, Ecuador) in its Mártires del Marañón, Documentos Varios, and Cartas de los Padres Generales collections; and the Archivo del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Quito, Ecuador), hold essential information for research on clandestine commerce in the upper Amazon. Also of vital importance for this type of research are the Arquivo Público do Estado do Pará (Public Archives of the State of Pará, Belém, Brazil) and the Primeira Comissão Demarcadora de Límites (Belém, Brazil). These institutions house manuscripts and printed material with information on the colonial administrations of the Spanish-Portuguese border. Additional archives that also have very detailed information are the Archivo General de la Nación (General Archives of the Nation, Bogotá, Colombia), especially in the Límites, Contrabandos, and Miscelánea de la Colonia collections, as well as the Archivo del Centro de Investigaciones Históricas José María Arboleda Llorente (Archives of the José María Arboleda Llorente Historical Research Center), better known as the Archivo Central del Cauca (Central Archives of Cauca, Popayán, Colombia). The latter’s Misiones collection is particularly valuable for any sort of historical research on the geographical shortening and expansion of the Spanish-Portuguese border in the Andean-Amazonian Piedmont. Finally, an important collection of printed sources to explore the subject directly are the three volumes edited by Marcos Carneiro de Mendonça, Amazônia na era pombalina: Correspondência do governador e capitão-general do estado do Grão Pará e Maranhão Francisco Xavier de Mendonça Furtado, 1751–1759; also Annaes da Bibliotheca e Archivo Publico do Pará (especially volumes 1–12); and the volume edited by Juan B. Bueno Medina, Cartas del Amazonas: Escritas por los misioneros de la Compañía de Jesús, 1705–1754.69 José María Quijano Otero’s expert study, Memoria histórica sobre límites entre la República de Colombia y el Imperio del Brasil, as well as the outstanding annotated and published transcriptions by Jean-Pierre Goulard, El nor-oeste amazónico en 1776: Expediente sobre cumplimiento de la Real Cedula dada en San Ildefonso a 2 de septiembre de 1772, and by Alfonso Zawadzki, Viajes misioneros del R. P. Fr. Fernando de Jesús Larrea, Franciscano, are also significant.70


  • 1. João Pacheco de Oliveira, O nascimento do Brasil e outros ensaios: “Pacificação,” regime tutelar e formação de alteridades (Rio de Janeiro, Brasil: Contra Capa, 2016), 169–170.

  • 2. For an adequate and up-to-date definition of the historiographical significance of the borderlands in the colonial Iberian context, see Danna A. Levin Rojo and Cynthia Radding, “Introduction: Borderlands, a Working Definition,” in The Oxford Handbook of Borderland of the Iberian World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 2–3.

  • 3. David Cleary, “Towards an Environmental History of the Amazon: From Prehistory to the Nineteenth Century,” Latin American Research Review 36, no. 2 (2001): 66; David Block, La cultura reduccional en los llanos de Mojos: Tradición autóctona, empresa jesuítica y política civil, 1660–1880 (Sucre, Bolivia: Historia Boliviana, 1997), 58–59; Jean-Pierre Goulard, “El noroccidente amazónico en perspectiva: una lectura desde los siglos V–VI hasta 1767,” Mundo Amazónico 1 (2010): 189; and Mary-Elizabeth Reeve, “Regional Interaction in the Western Amazon: The Early Colonial Encounter and the Jesuit Years, 1538–1767,” Ethnohistory 41, no. 1 (1993): 107–108.

  • 4. Francisco de Figueroa, Relación de las misiones de la Compañía de Jesús en el país de los Maynas: Colección de libros y documentos referentes a la historia de América, Tomo 1 (Madrid: Librería General de Victoriano Suárez, 1904), 112–113.

  • 5. Warren M. Hern, “Health and Demography of Native Amazonians: Historical Perspective and Current Status,” in Amazonian Indians: From Prehistory to the Present, ed. Anna Roosevelt (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1994), 124–126.

  • 6. Francisco Vázquez, Relación de todo lo que sucedió en la jornada de Omagua y Dorado hecho por el gobernador Pedro de Orsúa (Madrid: Sociedad de Bibliófilos Españoles, 1881), 20.

  • 7. Pedro de Monguía, “Relación breve fecha por Pedro de Monguía, capitán que fue de Lope de Aguirre, de lo más sustancial que ha acontecido, según lo que se me acuerda, de la jornada del gobernador Pedro de Orsúa,” in Colección de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y organización de las antiguas posesiones españolas en América y Oceanía, Tomo 4, ed. Luis Torres de Mendoza (Madrid: Imprenta de Frías y Compañía, 1865), 226.

  • 8. This type of economic exchange should not be confused with resgate, a Portuguese term used to justify the kidnapping and enslavement of Indigenous peoples during the same period. See Pacheco de Oliveira, O nascimento do Brasil e outros ensaios, 170–171.

  • 9. Antonio Porro, O povo das águas: Ensaios de etno-história amazônica (Petrópolis, Brasil: Editora Vozes, 1996), 126–128; and Barbara A. Sommer, “Conflict, Alliance, Mobility, and Place in the Evolution of Identity in Portuguese Amazonia,” in Oxford Handbook of Borderland, ed. Levin Rojo and Radding, 614.

  • 10. Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdez, Historia general y natural de las indias, islas y tierra firme del Mar Océano, Tercera Parte, Tomo 4 (Madrid: Imprenta de la Real Academia de la Historia, 1855), 215–227, 387; and Marcelo Frías and Andrés Galera, eds., Pedro Fernández de Cevallos: La ruta de la canela americana (Madrid: Historia 16, 1992), 201–212.

  • 11. Mark Harris, “Finding Connections along the River in the Lower Amazon, Brazil,” in Knowledge in Motion: Constellations of Learning across Time and Place, ed. Andrew P. Rodick and Ann B. Stahl (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2016), 155–165.

  • 12. Ulrico Schmidl, Viaje al Río de la Plata, 1534–1554 (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Cabaut y Cia Editores, 1903), 174–175; Raúl Mandrini, La Argentina aborigen: De los primeros pobladores a 1910 (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Siglo XXI Editores, 2008), 172–177; and Massimo Livi Bacci, El Dorado en el pantano: Oro, esclavos y almas entre los Andes y la Amazonia (Madrid: Marcial Pons, 2012), 15–39.

  • 13. Anna Roosevelt, “Arqueologia Amazônica,” in História dos indios no Brasil, ed. Manuela Carneiro da Cunha (São Paulo, Brasil: Companhia das Letras, 1992), 74–77; and Ann Golob, “The Upper Amazon in Historical Perspective” (PhD diss., City University of New York, 1982), 9–11.

  • 14. Martín de Saavedra y Guzmán, “Descubrimiento del río de las Amazonas y sus dilatadas províncias,” (Madrid: Biblioteca Nacional de España (BNE), 1639), Manuscritos, Mss/5859, f. 5r.

  • 15. Marcos Jiménez de la Espada, ed., Relaciones geográficas de indias: Peru, Tomo 4 (Madrid: Tipografía de los Hijos de M. G. Hernández, 1897), 37; and María Soledad Castro Ponce, Yaguarzongos y Pacamoros (Quito, Ecuador: Abya-Yala, 2002), 34–35.

  • 16. Cristóbal de Acuña, Nuevo descubrimiento del gran río de las Amazonas (Madrid: Imprenta del Reyno, 1641), 24–25.

  • 17. France Marie Renard Casevitz, Thierry Saignes, and Anne Christine Taylor, L’inca, l’espagnol et les sauvages: Rapports entre les sociétés amazoniennes et andines du XVe au XVIIe siècle (Paris: Editions Rechercher sur les Civilisations, 1986), 103; and Décio de Alencar Guzmán, “A colonização nas Amazônias: guerras, comércio e escravidão nos séculos XVII e XVIII,” Revista Estudos Amazônicos 3, no. 2 (2008): 124–125.

  • 18. Pacheco de Oliveira, O nascimento do Brasil e outros ensaios, 131.

  • 19. Rafael Chambouleyron, Povoamento, ocupação e agricultura na Amazônia colonial, 1640–1706 (Belém, Brasil: Editora Açaí, 2010), 20–24.

  • 20. Francismar Alex Lopes de Carvalho, “A Amazônia imaginada nos memoriais enviados ao Consejo de Indias no século XVII,” Revista Tempo 23, no. 2 (2017): 206–238.

  • 21. Alirio Cardoso, “Maranhão na Monarquía Hispanica: Intercâmbios, guerra e navegação nas fronteiras das Indias de Castela, 1580–1655” (PhD diss., Universidad de Salamanca, 2012), 73–79.

  • 22. Bernardo Pereira de Berredo, Annaes historicos do estado do Maranhão, em que se dá noticia do seu descobrimento, e tudo o mais que nelle tem succedido desde o anno em que foy descuberto até o de 1718 (Lisboa, Portugal: Oficina de Francisco Luiz Amenno, 1749), 250–255.

  • 23. James A. Williamson, English Colonies in Guiana and on the Amazon, 1604–1688 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923), 57–59; and “Aviso tocante a la India Occidental en 1615,” The Hague, 1615, AGI, Patronato, t. 272, doc. 3, f. 42v.

  • 24. Cardoso, “Maranhão na Monarquía Hispanica,” 141; and Claude d’Abbeville, Histoire de la mision des peres capucins en l’isle de Maragnan et terres circonuoisines (Paris: Imprimerie de François Hvby, 1614), 209–210.

  • 25. Jean de Laet, L’histoire du Nouveau Monde ou description des Indes Occidentales (Leiden, The Netherlands: Bonaventure et Abraham Elseviers, 1640), 570.

  • 26. “Aviso tocante a la India Occidental en 1615,” f. 42r; for information on Dutch projects to establish settlements and do business in the Amazon basin, see George Edmundson, “The Dutch on the Amazon and Negro in the Seventeenth Century,” The English Historical Review 18, no. 72 (1903): 643–644; and Danny L. Noorlander, Heaven’s Wrath: The Protestant Reformation and the Dutch West India Company in the Atlantic World (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2019), 87.

  • 27. Wim Klooster, Illicit Riches: Dutch Trade in the Caribbean, 1648–1795 (Leiden, The Netherlands: KITLV Press, 1998), 18–21.

  • 28. Economic dealings of this type were frequently carried out by the Dutch in their Atlantic ventures. As a result, and to the detriment of the Iberian powers, they gained the trust and friendship of the Indigenous peoples. See André Pereira, “Relação do que ha no grande rio das Amazonas novamente descoberto,” Annaes da Bibliotheca e Archivo Publico do Pará 1 (1902): 6; and Mark Meuwese, Brothers in Arms, Partners in Trade: Dutch Indigenous Alliances in the Atlantic World, 1595–1674 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011), 56–57.

  • 29. Charles Ralph Boxer, The Dutch in Brazil, 1624–1654 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957), 13–14.

  • 30. Guida Marques, “L’invention du Brèsil entre deux monarchies: Gouvernement et practiques de l'Amerique portugaise dans l'union iberique, 1580–1640” (PhD diss., École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 2009), 284–302.

  • 31. Simão Estacio da Silveira, “El Capitan Simon Estacio da Silueira, Procurador general de la cõquista del Marañon. Dize, que la plata y riquezas del Pirù vienē a España cõducidas por tierra a Arica,” in Impresos, R/17270(13) (Madrid: Biblioteca Nacional de España [BNE], 1626), ff. 1–2.

  • 32. Décio de Alencar Guzmán and Lodewijk A. H. C. Hulsman, eds., Holandeses na Amazônia, 1620–1650: Documentos inéditos (Belém, Brasil: Imprensa Oficial, 2016), 71.

  • 33. Evaldo Cabral de Mello, O negocio do Brasil: Portugal, os Países Baixos e o Nordeste, 1641–1669 (São Paulo, Brasil: Companhia das Letras, 1998), 19–24.

  • 34. Saavedra y Guzmán, “Descubrimiento del río de las Amazonas,” f. 17r.

  • 35. Chambouleyron, Povoamento, 79–81.

  • 36. Acuña, Nuevo descubrimiento, 14–15.

  • 37. Mauricio de Heriarte, Descripção do Estado do Maranhão, Pará, Corupá e rio das Amazonas (Viena, Austria: Imprensa do filho de Carlos Gerold, 1874), 47.

  • 38. Rafael Chambouleyron, Monique da Silva Bonifácio, and Vanice Siqueira de Melo, “Pelos sertões ‘estão todas as utilidades’: Trocas e conflitos no sertão amazônico, século XVII,” Revista de Historia 162 (2010): 19–20; and Camila Loureiro Dias, “O comércio de escravos indígenas na Amazônia visto pelos regimentos de entradas e tropas de resgate (séculos XVII e XVIII),” Revista Territórios & Fronteiras 10, no. 1 (2017): 240–243.

  • 39. Manuel Rodríguez, El Marañon, y Amazonas: Historia de los descubrimientos, entradas, y reduccion de naciones, trabajos malogrados de algunos conquistadores, y dichosos de otros, assi temporales como espirituales, en las dilatadas montañas y mayores rios de la America (Madrid: Imprenta de Antonio González de Reyes, 1684), 10.

  • 40. Samuel Fritz, “Noticia de las misiones de Omaguas” (San Joaquín de Omaguas, 1686), Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu (ARSI), Roma, Novum Regni et Quit, Historia 15, Tomo 2, Part 1, f. 117r; and Jose Jouanen, Historia de la Compañía de Jesús en la antigua provincia de Quito, 1570–1774, Tomo 1 (Quito, Ecuador: Editorial Ecuatoriana, 1941), 358.

  • 41. Francisco de Torres, “Causa fecha a pedimento de la ciudad de Jaén,” Revista de Archivos y Bibliotecas Nacionales 2, no. 3 (1899): 267.

  • 42. Francismar Alex Lopes de Carvalho, “Disputas territoriais e o financiamento da empresa missionária jesuítica na Amazônia espanhola,” Revista Complutense de Historia de América 44 (2018): 127–128.

  • 43. Saavedra and Guzmán, “Descubrimiento del río de las Amazonas,” 19r.

  • 44. Rodríguez, El Marañon, y Amazonas, 336–337; and Golob, “The Upper Amazon,” 75.

  • 45. Tamar Herzog, Frontiers of Possession: Spain and Portugal in Europe and the Americas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015), 31–36.

  • 46. There are two suggested studies on the aforementioned cases. See Udo Oberem, Los Quijos: Historia de la transculturación de un grupo indígena en el oriente ecuatoriano (Otavalo, Ecuador: Instituto Otavaleño de Antropología, 1980), 96–97; and Mary C. Karasch, Before Brasília: Frontier Life in Central Brazil (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2016), 81–84.

  • 47. João Daniel, Quinta parte do thesouro descoberto no rio maximo Amazonas: Contem hum novo methodo para a sua agricultura, utilissima praxe para a sua povoação, navegação, augmento, e commercio, assim dos indios como dos europêos (Rio de Janeiro, Brasil: Impressão Regia, 1820), 135–141.

  • 48. Heather F. Roller, Amazonian Routes: Indigenous Mobility and Colonial Communities in Northern Brazil (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014), 59–60.

  • 49. Joel Santos Dias, “Os ‘verdadeiros conservadores’ do Estado do Maranhão: poder local, redes de clientela e cultura política na Amazônia colonial (primeira metade do século XVIII)” (MA diss., Universidade Federal do Pará, 2008), 93–94.

  • 50. Francismar Alex Lopes de Carvalho, “Between Captivity and Conversion: Spanish Jesuits, Portuguese Carmelites, and Indigenous Peoples in Eighteenth-Century Amazonia,” in Rivers and Shores: “Fluviality” and the Occupation of Colonial Amazonia, ed. Rafael Chambouleyron and Luis Costa e Souza (Peterborough, ON: Baywolf Press, 2019), 145–148.

  • 51. “Carta del padre Nicolás Schindler,” La Laguna, 1736, AGI, Quito 158, f. 560v; Andrés de Zárate, “Relación de la Mission Apostólica que tiene a su cargo la provincia de Quito de la Compañía de JHS en el gran río Marañón. [Reference is made to what happened from 1725–1735],” Quito, 1735, AGI, Quito 158, f. 254r; and David J. Weber, Bárbaros: The Spaniards and Their Savages in the Age of Enlightenment (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005), 178–182.

  • 52. For information on the Manao Confederacy and its commercial activities, see Sommer, “Conflict, Alliance, Mobility,” 615–620; and Silvia M. Vidal, “Kuwe Duwakalumi: The Arawak Sacred Routes of Migration, Trade, and Resistance,” Ethnohistory 47, no. 3–4 (2000): 650–651.

  • 53. “Expediente del Gran Pará,” Quito, 1740, AGI, Quito 158, f. 271r.

  • 54. Father Pedro de Santo Eliseu wrote the following about the Negro River: “Este río que venimos dibujando, dicen que grandes minas en sí oculta, áureas arenas dicen venir lavando, desde el Diluvio ya en la edad adulta.” See Milton Torres, ed., A Epopeia Amazônica de Frei Pedro de Santo Eliseu: Viagem, 1746 (São Paulo, Brasil: Edusp, 2015), 207; Zárate, “Relación de la Mission Apostólica,” f. 256v; and Pablo Maroni, “Carta al presidente de la Real Audiencia de Quito,” Quito, 1733, AGI, Quito 158, f. 543v.

  • 55. “Carta del padre Nicolás Schindler,” f. 561v.

  • 56. “Instruções dadas pela rainha D. Mariana d’Austria, mulher de d. João V, ao gobernador da nova capitanía de Mato Grosso dom Antônio Rolim de Moura em 19 de janeiro de 1749,” in Mendonça, Amazônia na era pombalina, 59–60.

  • 57. Kenneth Maxwell, “The Spark: Pombal, the Amazon and the Jesuits,” Portuguese Studies 17 (2001): 173–174; Article XIX of the Treaty of Madrid stipulated the following: “En toda la frontera será vedado y de contrabando el comercio entre las dos naciones; quedando en su fuerza y vigor las leyes promulgadas por ambas Coronas que de esto tratan. Y además de esta prohibición, ninguna persona podrá pasar del territorio de una nación al de la otra por tierra, ni por agua; ni navegar en el todo o parte de los ríos que no sean privativos de su nación, o comunes, con pretexto ni motivo alguno, sin sacar primero licencia del Gobernador, o del superior del terreno donde ha de ir, o que vaya, enviado del Gobernador de su territorio a solicitar algún negocio.” See Tratado firmado en Madrid, 13 de enero de 1750, para determinar los límites de los estados pertenecientes a las coronas de España y Portugal, en Asia y América (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Imprenta del Estado, 1836), 10.

  • 58. Roller, Amazonian Routes, 86–87.

  • 59. Thomé Joaquim da Costa e Corte Real, “Tiveram sempre os jesuitas a argucia de se fazer devedores de grandes e imaginarios emprestimos,” Annaes da Bibliotheca e Archivo Publico do Estado do Pará 4, no. 1 (1905): 214–215.

  • 60. José Chantré y Herrera, Historia de las misiones de la Compañía de Jesús en el Marañón español (Madrid: Imprenta de A. Avrial, 1901), 419.

  • 61. Richard James Goulet, “Trade and Conversion: Indians, Franciscans and Spaniards on the Upper Amazon Frontier, 1693–1790” (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2003), 261–262.

  • 62. Fray Bonifacio de San Agustín Castillo, Fay Simón de San José Menéndez, Fray Roque de Sacramento Amaya, and Fray Manuel Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Suárez, “Informe de los padres misioneros,” in Colección de documentos inéditos sobre la geografía y la historia de Colombia, Tomo 4, ed. Antonio B. Cuervo (Bogotá, Colombia: Imprenta de Vapor de Zalamea Hermanos, 1892), 262.

  • 63. Roller, Amazonian Routes, 198–199.

  • 64. Manuel de Nestares, “Dirigido al presidente y audiencia de Quito. Para que informen sobre varios puntos interesantes a la Real Hacienda en la provincia de Maynas, distrito de esa audiencia,” Madrid, 1790, Archivo Nacional del Ecuador (ANE), Gobierno 44, Doc. 13, f. 1r; and Francisco Requena y Herrera, “Señor presidente y capitán general del ejército para el Marañón,” Quito, 1777, AGI, Quito 400, f. 135.v.

  • 65. “Informe del obispo de Maynas,” Lima, 1807, AGI, Estado 73, no. 124, doc. 1, f. 5r.

  • 66. The main publications of the aforementioned authors are the following: Arthur Cezar Ferreira Reis, A política de Portugal no vale amazônico (Belém, Brasil: Officinas Graphicas da Revista Novidade, 1940); Márcio Souza, Breve história da Amazônia (Rio de Janeiro, Brasil: Agir, 2001); Daniel Ortega Ricaurte, La hoya del Amazonas (Bogotá, Colombia: Editorial Centro, 1940); Ângela Domingues, Quando os índios eram vassalos: Colonização e relações do poder no norte do Brasil na segunda metade do século XVIII (Lisboa, Portugal: Comissão Nacional para as Commemorações dos Descobrimentos Portugueses, 2000); Waldemar Espinoza Soriano, Amazonía del Perú: Historia de la gobernación y comandancia general de Maynas (Hoy regiones de Loreto, San Martin, Ucayali y Provincia de Condorcanqui) (Lima, Peru: Fondo Editorial del Congreso del Perú/Banco Central de Reserva del Perú/Promperú, 2006); John Hemming, Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon (London: Thames & Hudson, 2008); John Hemming, Fronteira Amazônica: A derrota dos indios brasileiros (São Paulo, Brasil: Universidade de São Paulo, 2009); Jean Soublin, Histoire de l’Amazonie (Paris: Payot, 2000); María Elena Porras, Gobernación y obispado de Mainas: Siglos XVII y XVIII (Quito, Ecuador: Abya-Yala, 1987); and Lorenzo García, Historia de las misiones de la Amazonia ecuatoriana (Quito, Ecuador: Abya-Yala, 1985).

  • 67. Roller, Amazonian Routes; Alirio Cardoso, Amazônia na Monarquía Hispánica: Maranhão e Grão Pará nos tempos da União Ibérica, 1580–1655 (São Paulo, Brasil: Alameda, 2017); Carlos Augusto Bastos, No limiar dos impérios: A fronteira entre a Capitania do Rio Negro e a Província de Maynas; Projetos, circulações e experiências, c. 1780–c. 1820 (São Paulo, Brasil: Hucitec, 2017); Herzog, Frontiers of Possession; Sebastián Gómez-González, Frontera selvática: Españoles, portugueses y su disputa por el noroccidente amazónico, siglo XVIII (Bogotá, Colombia: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, 2014).

  • 68. Adilson Brito, “Insubordinados sertões: O Império português entre guerras e fronteiras no norte da América do Sul—Estado do Grão-Pará, 1750–1820” (PhD diss., Universidade de São Paulo, 2016); André José Santos Pompeu, “Monções Amazônicas: Avanço e ocupação da fronteira noroeste, 1683–1706” (MA diss., Universidade Federal do Pará, 2016); de Carvalho, “Disputas territoriais e o financiamento da empresa missionária jesuítica na Amazônia espanhola,”; and Francismar Alex Lopes de Carvalho, “Entradas missionárias e processos étnicos na Amazônia: O caso das missões jesuíticas de Maynas, c. 1638–1767,” Revista Anos 90 23, no. 43 (2016), 321–366.

  • 69. Marcos Carneiro de Mendonça, Amazônia na era pombalina; Annaes da Bibliotheca e Archivo Publico do Pará, Tomos 1–12 (Belém, Brasil: Imprensa de Alfredo Augusta Silva, 1902–1910); and Juan B. Bueno Medina, Cartas del Amazonas: Escritas por los misioneros de la Compañía de Jesús, 1705–1754 (Bogotá, Colombia: Prensas de la Biblioteca Nacional, 1942).

  • 70. José María Quijano, Memoria histórica sobre límites entre la República de Colombia y el Imperio del Brasil (Bogotá, Colombia: Imprenta de Gaitán, 1869); Jean-Pierre Goulard, ed., El Nor-Oeste Amazónico en 1776: Expediente sobre cumplimiento de la Real Cedula dada en San Ildefonso a 2 de septiembre de 1772 (Leticia, Colombia: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, sede Amazonia/Instituto Amazónico de Investigaciones, 2011); and Alfonso Zawadzki, Viajes misioneros del R. P. Fr. Fernando de Jesús Larrea, Franciscano (Cali, Colombia: Imprenta Bolivariana, 1947).