Despite its many weaknesses, this study of colonial Corrientes will prove useful to students of the Río de la Plata region during the colonial period. Although Labougle does not make the point explicitly in the study, he provides ample evidence of the growth of competitive political and economic tendencies in the Río de la Plata region that gave meaning to the Brazilian border in the colonial period and ultimately divided the Spanish-speaking area into the modern nations of Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. The author also generates a wealth of material, some of it new, that illuminates the steady, often rapid, extension of political and economic control over the Indian societies of the region by the European and Europeanized population. The role of the Jesuits in this process has been studied by others, but Labougle does broaden our knowledge of this important topic by providing new insights into the rivalries and conflicts that embittered the relationship between the Jesuits and the creole landowning elite of Corrientes.
The most interesting and useful section of the book details the background to the series of military mutinies, riots, assassinations, attacks on royal officials, and efforts to establish local autonomy that afflicted Corrientes between 1763 and 1765. Although tangentially related to the Comunero revolt in Paraguay, the events in Corrientes owed their origin to creole resentment of economic domination by the local Spanish merchant class and political subordination to the colonial capital of Buenos Aires.
This book’s many weaknesses, however, limit its usefulness. There is virtually no analysis. The author’s major contribution is the selection and paraphrasing of the documentation. When Labougle does go beyond the documents he demonstrates a level of ethnocentrism and prejudice that rightly deserves the name racism. Throughout the book all Indians are referred to as savages and the Guaranís are stereotyped as “thieves and assassins” (p. 108) and later as “incapable and cowardly” (p. 151). Certainly Indian labor, Indian skills and technology (particularly in the production of products like yerba), and Indian culture played some positive role in the development of colonial society in Comentes. It can only be hoped that this book will encourage additional research that will illuminate the contribution of Indians and other nonwhites to the history of Corrientes.