The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Francisco Javier Eder, 2018. "Settlement and Landscape Transformation in the Amazonian Lowlands", The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Sinclair Thomson, Rossana Barragán, Xavier Albó, Seemin Qayum, Mark Goodale
Download citation file:
The account of the native Baure people penned by the Jesuit missionary Francisco Javier Eder (1727–72) expressed a conventional scorn for the presumed indolence of the natives with whom he met. Yet Eder was also impressed by the evidence he saw of their capacity for ingenuity, organization, and industry. The extensive linear causeways (which he deemed “bridges”) and adjacent canals were huge environmental engineering efforts that allowed the transportation of goods and people despite the challenges of seasonal flooding. Eder marveled that the massive and numerous earthworks and palisades for military defenses of settlements were on a scale comparable to that of Europe.
But by time of his writing, Eder was a witness to the abandonment of the large-scale constructions, which would have required substantial maintenance from large populations under centralized political authority. The Baure myth recounted by Eder perhaps suggests the inquiries into the natural world undertaken by an earlier indigenous civilization in the region, as well as conflicts between the laboring population and its governors.