A South American Frontier: The Tri-border Region (Arbitrary by Daniel K. Lewis

By Daniel K. Lewis

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In 1628, an army of 3,000 attacked mission after mission. The raiders destroyed the compounds and killed all those who were too old to be sold profitably as slaves. In 1631, raiders attacked Spanish towns as well as missions. To avoid a total disaster, the Jesuits decided to flee with the surviving mission population. Forcing the neophytes to travel with them, the missionaries moved south and west. Stopping between the Paraná and Uruguay rivers, the Jesuits selected sites for a new string of missions.

The training helped teach the neophytes European ways of living and working. The mission operations revealed the Jesuit ambitions: They had promised to civilize the natives and to make the border between Spanish and Portuguese territories clear and secure. The missionaries, however, worked to isolate their charges. Mission fathers provided religious instruction and vocational training in Guaraní, not Spanish. Although the requirements of the faith forced the neophytes to change many of their customs and habits, the missionaries wanted to protect the Guaranís from the corrupting aspects of European society.

Spanish invaders fit into the cultural, social, and material lines that separated the area from the Atlantic and the Pacific. Within European Settlement generations, isolation encouraged autonomy, and a practical political boundary joined the borders already set by the merging of Spanish and American worlds. The locals assumed authority over what would one day be the tri-border region. 31 4 Jesuits and the Guaranís Jesuits and the Guaranís he borders that defined the Triple Frontier after the first generation of the colonial era came as a result of arbitrary imposition and local realities.

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