Both the Crown and Catholic missionaries believed that frontier Indians needed to practice settled agriculture and animal husbandry in order to become civilized. For over a century Jesuit missionaries among the Guaraní Indians of South America tried to Europeanize mission inhabitants. Scholarship about the Guaraní missions portrays the Jesuits as imposing a rigid work schedule based on settled agriculture and instituting reforms so that the missions relied on domesticated rather than hunted cattle. This essay reexamines the roles of both cultivated agriculture and domesticated livestock in the Guaraní missions. A critical reading of Jesuit documents and analysis of mission production and consumption levels reveal that the Jesuits failed to fully institute the rigorous schedule associated with settled agriculture and domesticated livestock, and thus the economic aspect of their civilizing agenda remained unfulfilled.

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