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The southeastern borderlands around Tarija were the site of sustained tensions between Spanish settlers, who slowly encroached on Indian territory, and Chiriguano tribes, which were not averse to military counteroffensives of their own. In the turbulent late-colonial period, the Chiriguano leader Cumbay both negotiated and warred with Spanish authorities as well as with patriot creole armies over some fifteen years in order to defend Chiriguano autonomy. On two occasions, in 1799 and 1801, Cumbay went to the Audiencia of Charcas to solicit territorial rights. The remarkable account that follows, attributed to an Argentine military oӽcial, describes Cumbay as a proud “barbarian prince” when he was ostentatiously received in Potosí in 1813 by Manuel Belgrano, commander of the invading army from the Río de La Plata. The report shows the prestige Belgrano enjoyed, not only with the mass of Indians, but also with their legendary leader. Yet it is important to remember the interests that the creoles themselves had in obtaining the support of indigenous groups. This would have implied pragmatic deal making. Cumbay promised, for example, to send more than two thousand Indians to Belgrano. Besides his symbolic gifts, what was the commitment of the Argentine commander?

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