- 1. Students
should recognize the initial effects of the arrival of the Catholic
Church on aboriginal cultures in the new world.
2. Students should realize that the history of Latin America and the
history of the Catholic Church are inextricable.
- 3. Students
must understand the relationship between the history of the Church in
Latin America and the present day liberation theology.
- 4. Students
should understand the involvement of the Church in social action in
the twentieth century.
- 5. Students
should understand the upheaval following Vatican II.
- 6. Students
should understand how various religious orders have influenced present
day liberation movements.
Jesuit Order was founded in 1540 and came to Spanish America during the
term of Thomas de Souza as governor between 1549 and 1553. At that time
the Franciscan and Dominican monks were already established in the New
World, but these orders were not destined to have the significant impact
that the Company of Jesus or the Jesuit Order was to have on the indigenous
peoples of Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Paraguay, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala
and Haiti. Through their successes with the Indians taken into their care
and the resulting conflicts, the Jesuits were finally expelled from South
America in 1767.
were inspired to establish their own social order by St. Thomas More who
published his Utopia in 1516. The fundamental idea of Utopia
was to “restore society to its Christian bases, adopting as supreme guide
the norms of natural rights.” The Jesuits saw themselves as fulfilling
Thomas More’s prophesy, and to carry out this work they chose the impenetrable
jungles of the New World as their home and workshop. Here they felt that
they could do their work undisturbed, armed with a self government grant
from the king which protected them from other Spaniards.
granted to the Jesuit priests as well as to other religious orders. What
mattered, really, was not so much the land itself, but rather the number
of Indians, or souls, that lived upon it. Agriculture was important in
1650, and the Jesuits eventually counted themselves among the wealthiest
wrote that the Jesuits formed a link between the baroque age and the prerevolutionary
period, indicating their pre-eminence among several religious communities
active in the Spanish holdings in the New World at that time. By the Seventeenth
Century the Jesuit Order was the foremost cultural organization and one
of the strongest economic and political forces in the entire colonial
were international in character and brought clergymen into South America
from many foreign nations. Father Kino organized Hungarians, Poles and
Germans into Jesuit missions in Paraguay. These foreign priests brought
new currents of thought to the Spanish Company of Jesus.
were students of the geography and natural history of the areas in which
they worked. Father Jose Gumilla’s The Enlightened Orinoco, published
in 1791, was “an excellent monograph on the Guianas that describes climatic
phenomena flora, fauna and the ethnography of the interior.”
By the eighteenth
century the intellectual standards, economic power and social influence
of the Jesuits was unmatched. Their economic power derived from enormous
plantaions in the central valley of Chile, ranches in the River Plate
region and large city and rural estates in Peru and Mexico. There were
Jesuit owned workshops in Paraguay, Peru and Ecuador, and mining interests
in the Chaco area of New Granada, now Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and
holdings comprised the material aspect of what German Arciniegas calls
the “largest Utopian experiment ever attempted.” The Jesuits established
this “utopian empire” under adverse conditions. The first step was to
pacify the local Indians. Father Gonzalez de Santa Cruz and Rodriguez
y del Castillo were martyred in 1628 and were beatified by Pius XI. After
the Indians were pacified the missions were often attacked by groups who
were searching for Indians to use as slaves.
of these hardships the Jesuit Fathers set up model communities of indigenous
peoples in the wilderness of Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay. These communities
reflected the Jesuits’ sense of organization and self-discipline.12
These “reductions” as they were called, were actually communal farms.
The word, “reduction,” derives from the Latin word meaning “to lead back”
or “to reduce.” The Jesuits were convinced that the Guarani people of
Paraguay had once known the true faith, but had been led astray by Satan.
These missions then, were to “lead back” or “reduce” the Guarani to Christianity.
This feeling derived from observed surface similarities in Guarani and
Christian symbols and practices.
found that the Indians often accepted conversion, sometimes by the thousands,
but they tended to lapse into heathen practices, especially polygamy and
cannibalism. The Jesuits were only partially successful in eliminating
these “twin abominations” outside the missions for both were deeply rooted
in Indian culture. For this reason only converted Indians were allowed
inside the missions. The Jesuits felt that segregation was the only way
to insure that the converted Indians would not be tempted by the pagan
practices of the uninitiated.
the Jesuits gathered up to one hundred thousand Guarani into the reductions.
By 1607 the number had grown to one hundred and five thousand. The Jesuits,
by necessity felt that they had to isolate their community from the neighboring
Spanish and Portuguese colonies. As long as the Crown sponsored them,
the Jesuits avoided interference from the Spanish authorities but protecting
the Indians from the encroachments of white laymen was another matter.
John A. Crow,
author of The Epic of Latin America, believes that the priests
failed to take into account the “unworthy yet natural reactions of the
society which surrounded them.” For example, the Paulistas and Mamelucos
of Brazil viewed the pacified Indians merely as a slave “labor pool” for
their own use and consequently destroyed several communities of converts.
The Paulista and Mameluco attacks began in 1629 and continued until 1631
when the entire community escaped into the jungle.
or “Mameluke” was a term coined by the Jesuits for the Portuguese. The
word is a corruption of an Indian word, “Mamaruca,” which was a term coined
by the Indians to designate half-breed children. To confuse the issue
more, the Jesuits called the Paulistas “mamelukes” because their atrocities
reminded them of those committed by the Mohammedans. The Paulistas were
actually a giant clan descended from a man named Joano Ramalho and legend
claims that this clan was the product of Ramalho and a harem of several
hundred captive, Indian women.
after Portugal won independence from Spain, Philip IV granted the Jesuits’
request to arm the Indians. Under the command of the Jesuits the Indians
became a formidable fighting force. In fact, in the ensuing struggle between
Portugal and Spain, the Indian force often became the determining factor
in Spanish victories. Without this force, great parts of Uruguay, Bolivia
and Paraguay might even now belong to Brazil.
Paulista and Mameluco threat removed, the Jesuits were able to return
with their Indian converts, but they were to encounter a series of new
difficulties which grew, ironically, out of the success of the reduction
missions and the tendency of the priests to overprotect their native wards.
of the communal reductions resulted from tight organization. Each mission
was under the rule of two priests who were responsible for discipline,
development and welfare. There was no capital punishment although flogging
inflicted for such offenses as drunkeness. The was worst punishment at
these missions was life imprisonment, meted out only in the severest cases.
were divided into the Fields of God and the Fields of Man. The Fields
of God were worked by all of the Indians together. The Fields of Man,
however, were parceled out for individual use by the Indians. The crops
produced in the Fields of God were owned by the commune, whereas the crops
gathered in the Fields of Man were kept by the individual farmers.
on the reductions received pots and pans, needles, clothing and other
necessities. The quantity of these goods increased as the collective wealth
of the community grew.
of the reduction was carried out by elected representatives. Again, this
limited democracy did not stir admiration, but rather jealousy of the
privileged Creoles. The Creole haciendas tended to be poorly managed,
relying on slave labor. The reductions were perceived as political and
economic threat and eventually were outlawed and the Jesuits were forced
to leave New Granada.
Jesuits gathered the Indians into the relative security and isolation
of the reductions, the process of conversion and reinforcement of Christian
Doctrine took place. Sometimes the Jesuits resorted to trickery and appealed
to the Indians’ idolatry to reinforce Christianity. In Paraguay, the priests
exploited the Indian’s idolatry by standing inside of a wooden statue
and shouting orders to them.
also used the theater, already developed by Franciscan and Dominican monks.
At that time the theater was an integral part of European religious festivals.
It was used to attract and amuse the Indians. Dances of Indian and African
origins were blended into the mysteries of the new religion. The purely
African communities instantly accepted the school of the Jesuit theater
and learned from it.
which the Jesuit Fathers used to make religion more believable to the
Guaranis was to use yerba-mate, a tea brewed from the leaves of the yerba
tree. The Guarani believed that the yerba had magical powers since the
yerba is actually a stimulant. Since the Jesuits could not persuade the
Guaranis that yerba-mate did not have magical powers, they fabricated
the story that St. Thomas had conveyed supernatural powers to the yerba
and brewed it as a tea for his converts. The Jesuits eventually exported
the yerba cultivated by the Guarani.
used their wealth, amassed from the workings of the reductions, by investing
it in land, tools and draft animals. They were free with technical and
scientific advice and allowed the Indians a voice in decision making.
Jesuits used their wealth to direct and control seminaries and missions
of great importance to the economic life of the colonies. They provided
intellectual centers in small, provincial towns, providing banking facilities
and forums for the resolution of local political problems.
the Jesuit press printed books in the Guarani language. These were printed
from wooden fonts carved by the Indians, themselves. Although Guarani
was the spoken language, prayers and hymns were written down in Latin.
In the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries the Jesuits began to defend their Indian charges
and their rights against the authority of Spain. This authority was present
in the new elite and the landlords and the Jesuits were forced out of
one city after another. Finally, after a last stand at Ilano, the Jesuits
were forced out of New Granad altogether when Pope Clement XIV dissolved
the order in 1773.
Once in exile
the Jesuits turned to writing. They wrote truthfully and objectively since
writing was all that was left to them. The Catholic monarchy which had
been effectively administered by the Jesuits then began to disintegrate.
By the early eighteenth century the Jesuits’ Paraguayan community was
the most peaceful and prosperous unit of government in Latin America.
point of view of the royal government, this was most beneficial. The Crown
had allowed the missionaries to convert and pacify the Indians. After
this was accomplished, royal officers and members of the secular ecclesiastical
hier archy replaced them. This was economical for imperial territory was
expanded with a minimum of risk. The Crown government was ready to assume
control after Indian hostility was past and before the missionaries could
assume positions of power. The equilibrium between diminishing Indian
strife and expanding missionary organization was carefully watched by
royal and ecclesiastical authorities. The time designated between pacification
and conversion and the time when the secular clergy would take charge
was ten years. The period, however, was usually more than a decade and
on the frontier lasted until the end of colonial times.
of the Jesuit influence brought on a series of local uprisings. The revolt
at Asuncion grew into the Antequera revolution. Antequera wanted local
control of local institutions in Buenos Aires and Peru. The execution
of Antequera became the rallying point for both the upper classes and
commoners and their new South American political conciousness which began
an attitude of belligerence toward the Spanish monarchy. Without the Jesuits,
dissatisfaction over military recruitment, ever-increasing taxes and the
Indians’ hatred for their Spanish magistrates came to the surface. In
1749 Juan francisco Leon led a revolt of small cocao planters in Venezuela
and in 1752 rebellions at LaRioja and Catamarca in North Argentina protested
arbitrary military conscription of peasants. These were followed by large
scale uprisings between 1749 and 1782.
Clavijero and other exiled Jesuits saw miscegenation as the only answer
to the problem of the races. Other members of the order, however, disagreed
strongly. Clavijero wrote in his Storia Anitca del Mexico. “There
is no doubt at all that the policy of the Spaniards would have been wiser
if, instead of fetching wives from Europe and slaves from Africa...they
had insisted on making a single people out of themselves and the Mexican
Indians.” Clavijero attempted to remove erroneous concepts of the Europeans
regarding the Indians and bestow a universal character upon them. For
example, he compared the Mexican word “Teotl” to the “Theos” of the Greeks.
He then used “Teotl” to express a Christian-like monotheism, reflecting
a widespread eighteenth century interest in creating a universal cu1ture.
believed that the Jesuits actually wanted to prevent the mingling of blood
of the whites and the Indians. Their motivation was not racial, but rather
they wanted to prevent “the uprooting and debasement that were taking
place in Latin America.”
expulsion of the Jesuits, many of them were beginning to take a “benevolent
attitude toward the ideas of separation and independence from Spain, which
began to be bruited about in the eighteenth century. The interests of the
order began to coincide “with those of the regional burgeois that considered
its rise in the economic scale as handicapped by Spanish monopolistic practices
and by the excessive, French style centralization that the Bourbon dynasty
states that the Catholic Church grew rich and decadent in America. In
fact, Paraguay became practically a Jesuit colony. “Nowhere did the clergy,
secular or regular, bestow upon the people anything like proper recompense
for their inordinate position, though an effort was made in education.”
with Gunther is Mariano Picon-Salas who wrote that even long before the
expulsion the generally bad relations between Spain and the order were
at their worst in Paraguay “where they held a virtual fiefdom.”
In 1754 the
Paraguayan Fathers led their Indians in a revolt against a Spanish-Portuguese
boundary treaty, and in Peru, Jesuits were accused of terrorizing Indians
and depriving them of land, wages, women, children and personal freedom.
The Bourbons also cited widespread smuggling, graft, cheating of Indians
and a general tendency to ignore orders from Spain. This weakening of the
bonds between the Old World and the new invited intervention by rival powers
and this, too, became a factor in the expulsion of the Jesuits.
of the Jesuits in 1767 was part of a whole pattern of administrative reform
both foreign and domestic under the Bourbons. As an official explanation,
the monarchy cited the need to “bring local Jesuit power to an end and
assert royal power in their stead.” This explanation was related to the
Bourbon attack upon the Jesuit society in Europe and the result of Enlightenment
ideas, religious nationalism and resistance to papal authority.
Some of the
Bourbon reforms in the New World rang somewhat hollow. In Ecuador, for
example, the expulsion of the Jesuits was linked to the abolition of slavery.
This affected only a small minority of Negroes. The Indians were never
technically slaves and therefore could not be freed.
probably numbered the expulsion of the Jesuits (1767) among their reforms;
but whatever the virtues of this drastic measuer . . . it was, so far
as the colonies were concerned, perhaps an erroneous readjustment. The
expulsion of hundreds of these padres from all parts of Spanish America
may have pleased many of their rivals and enemies, but it could not
fail to grieve thousands of Indians whom they had protected and served.
In 1767 there
were barely twenty two hundred Jesuits in all of Spanish America, but
there were some seven hundred thousand Indians under their care. They
owned schools, hospitals, dockyards, workshops where Indians were trained
to spin, tan and make pottery. They had built roads which led spokewise
from the hub in Candilaria to all parts of mission territory. Jesuits
established eighty postal centers complete with messengers, guards and
constantly maintained horses. A large fleet of canoes and river boats
carried goods to points where they could be sold. By 1767, the mission
territory was exporting thirty thousand green hides and six thousand cured
ones as well as eight thousand, five hundred pounds of horsehair, seventy
five thousand pounds of tobacco, two hundred thousand pounds of yerba-mate
and wood valued at twenty five thousand dollars per year. The missions
owned seven hundred and nineteen thousand, seven hundred and sixty-one
head of cattle, forty four thousand, one hundred and eighty-three oxen,
twenty four thousand, two hundred and four horses and one hundred and
thirty-eight thousand, eight hundred and twenty-seven sheep. Within two
years after the expulsion, virtually all of this wealth disappeared.
the accomplishments of the Jesuit fathers in Spanish America, it would be
fair to state that the actions taken against the Jesuits were outgrowths
of actions and changes of attitude on the continent. The Company had fallen
into disgrace with monarchies and had lost the favor of the papacy in Europe.
Other orders, jealous of the wealth and power of the Jesuits and physically
closer to the papal ear conspired to have the Jesuit order suspended throughout
the entire Catholic world.
by an ocean from European influence, Jesuit thought became bolder and
more forthright. Some, like Vizcardo y Guzman and Poza y Sucre “swung
far over to what we would call today the revolutionary left by participating
in conspiracies to win independence fomented by Francisco de Miranda.”
Miranda lead Venezuela’s struggle for independence from Spain. He became
a dictator, but was unsuccessful and in the end surrendered to the royalists.
It was inevitable
that a static, medieval theocracy would come into conflict with the forward-looking
empire of Charles III. John A. Crow believed that there was no possibility
of compromise and that Charles felt that the missions were “at least a
challenge” to his authority as he strove to devest the Church of its strong
for the native peoples under the Jesuits’ care, the theocracy actually
may have paved the way for authoritarian dictatorship. The expulsion deprived
the colonies of their best teachers and missionaries and furthermore left
the colonies in a desloyal mood. The Jesuits tended to overprotect their
communities and when they were expelled the missions could not govern
German. “The Jesuit Experiment,” in Latin America: Yesterday
and Today, ed. John Rothchild. New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1973.
German. Latin America: A Cultural History trans. Joan MacLean.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967.
A. The Epic of Latin America. Garden City, New York: Doubleday
and Company, Inc. 1971.
Spain in America. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1966.
Ann. The New Latins: Fateful Change in South and Central
America. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1970.
John. Inside Latin America. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1941.
The Land and People of Colombia. New York: J. B. Lippencott Company,
Ecuador: Country of Contrasts. New York: Oxford University
The Lands and Peoples of Paraguay and Uruguay. New York: The MacMillan
Mariano. A Cultural History of Spanish America, trans. Irving A.
Leonard. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966.
Rollie E. Brazil: The Land and People. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1968.
Fred. Latin America: A Modern History. eds. Allan Nevins
and Howard M. Ehrmann. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1958.
The Red, White and Black Continent. trans. Richard and Clara Winston.
New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1966.