Hostilities between Guaycuruans of the Gran Chaco and Spaniards complicated life in the Upper Plata region for three centuries. The relationship between the two cultures, never static, was radically altered in the eighteenth century, as missions were founded. This article will analyze the mission on the Chaco frontier to discover what role it played in the larger history of Spanish-Guaycuruan relations. The focus will be on relations between two Guaycuruan groups who requested missions, Abipones and Mocobíes, and the city of Santa Fe. In the mid-eighteenth century, Abipones numbered 5,000 and Mocobíes possibly 15-18,000.1 The city of Santa Fe had 1,076 residents in 1662, about 1,500 in 1698, and between 4,000 and 5,000 in 1793.2

Since Charles III’s expulsion of the Jesuits, observers have debated the reasons for the ensuing “failure” of their Chaco reductions. These missions, settled from 1743 to 1765, were established to convert “non-sedentary”3 Guaycuruan peoples of the eastern Chaco to Christianity and to persuade them to lead sedentary lives subordinate to Spanish control. Two explanations have emerged.

One advanced by Jesuits and others who accept Jesuit accounts maintains that the ultimate failure of these missions can be traced directly to the Jesuits’ expulsion. This argument holds that between the 1740s and 1767, the priests created thriving Christian enterprises. Absent the Society’s warriors for Christ, the less able clerics and laymen who succeeded them were unequal to the challenge; the mission endeavor succumbed; and the Indians returned to “barbarism.”4 Since most Jesuit works on the reductions end on a pessimistic note in 1767, they leave the erroneous impression that the missions then disappeared.

The other principal contention attributes the supposed failure of the Chaco enterprises mainly to the magnitude of the challenge: the Guaycuruans’ culture. This caused the Guaycuruans to resist leading lives of peasant horticulturalists and herdsmen, preferring their traditional nonsedentary, predatory ways. Proponents of this argument say the results of the missions were ephemeral. Guaycuruans settled in missions only for immediate material gain, with little enthusiasm for Christianity. Just as missionaries succeeded among the semisedentary Guarani because they were culturally prepared to accept Hispanic society, so did they fail among Guaycuruans because these latter were so resistant.5

Yet from the crown’s vantage point, the outlook was different; and Spanish inhabitants of the region agreed that the missions were not failures. Although they never assumed the character that early imperial ideology deemed desirable, the missions were successes, though limited successes. The test of success or failure here will be simply whether missions provided for the essential security and social and economic needs of both cultures.

The eastern Gran Chaco, where Guaycuruans lived, is a low-lying region of forest, scrub forest, and marshes, interspersed with plains and numerous small, mostly non-navigable rivers. It is bounded on the east by the Paraná and Paraguay rivers and runs from the Salado River in the south past the Bermejo, over the Pilcomayo, north to an area some 50 miles beyond the present Paraguayan-Bolivian border. This region was home to the Guaycuruans, warlike nonsedentary peoples with a nearly homogeneous culture and similar languages. They included the Abipones, Mocobíes, Tobas, Pilagás and Mbayás. These people were known collectively as “Guaycurú,” a Guarani word that Spaniards adopted.6 Population figures for Guaycuruans are available only after the middle of the eighteenth century; then they numbered between 35,000 and 45,000, out of an eastern Chaco aboriginal population of possibly 80,000.7

About a half century after Spanish settlement of the region in the 1540s, Guaycuruans acquired horses strayed from Spanish herds. The horse complemented the Guaycuruans’ warrior ethos, and Mocobíes, Abipones, and others developed a “horse culture” similar to that of the Plains Indians of North America. Among the many influences of Hispanic derivation altering Guaycuruan life-styles, the horse was the most important. It caused revolutionary changes. It let them imagine military equality with Spaniards and tribal superiority in the Chaco. It allowed them vastly greater mobility, increased their range of economic alternatives, and favored their bellicosity. The horse heightened the level of conflict among Indian groups and between Guaycuruan and white society. Their new military potential enabled them to raid and pillage on a scale sufficient to dominate other Indian peoples and attack Spanish estancias and cities. The horse also allowed Guaycuruans to exploit the rapidly growing cattle herds adjacent to the Chaco.8

Before contact with whites, Guaycuruans lived by hunting wild game, fishing, and gathering fruits and vegetables; most continued these pursuits during the colonial period. The hunt was a collective endeavor undertaken exclusively by men; its significance was economic and ritual. The few Guaycuruan industries—spinning, weaving, and preparing wild honey and carob beans for fermentation into intoxicants—were the province of Guaycuruan women and captives of both sexes. Guaycuruans lived in reed and grass huts, which could be quickly set up and disassembled. Their form of government was a hereditary chieftainship. Chiefs, however, had little real authority and were often abandoned by followers who chose another leader. Men whose prestige came from past tests of valor and ability led war parties and hunting expeditions but had no authority to command others. Thus expeditions for plunder and war were highly democratic—or disorganized—affairs. In religion, Guaycuruans recognized a superior being but rendered no cult to him. They said that sickness and death were spiritual in origin, usually the result of a malevolent sorcerer. Personalization of misfortune contributed to intertribal and intratribal hostilities, and to a continuous cycle of reprisals. Guaycuruans lived in small bands; the economic potential of the Chaco was insufficient to allow large groups of people to congregate very long. Guaycuruan bands periodically gathered to trade, to exchange ideas, and, for men, to enjoy occasions of ritual drunkenness or for plunder and war. Then they dispersed again into small groups.9

The growth of Spanish society, centered on Asunción, Corrientes, and Santa Fe in the east and the cities of Tucumán in the west, caused important changes in the Guaycuruan economy and society by the seventeenth century. Trade with Spaniards became intensive10 and changed the Guaycuruan economy from a subsistence-to a barter-based one. Horsemeat and beef began to supplement game, fish, and wild plants in the Indians’ diet. Animals of Spanish origin became staples, as Guaycuruans depended on quadrupeds for food and for commerce with Spaniards. Other trade goods included Spanish and Indian captives, horses, honey, wax, and skins. These were bartered for Guaycuruans taken by Spaniards, knives, fishhooks, iron for projectile points, beads, hatchets, and clothing.

Economic changes produced a new scale of values and important social alterations. Owing to the increased value of skins and hides, the status of the hunter-warrior in Guaycuruan society rose. Competition for scarce Chaco resources intensified the warrior ethos, and warlike expansionism and conflict over tribal areas grew. Caciques took on a more important role in Guaycuruan society, and factionalism among caciques increased. Caciques, selectively interpreting new cultural models, patterned their behavior on Spanish capitanes.11 Because the Chaco was overpopulated, considering the environment, warlike expansionism was a consequence of violent migratory pressures, to which Spanish encirclement of the Chaco contributed heavily. Guaycuruans’ limitation of family size by infanticide, abortion, and easy divorce was an integral part of their social organization.

After 1600, Guaycuruans increasingly raided Spanish settlements. Usually profits from a raid in one jurisdiction, for example, Córdoba or Asunción, were bartered in another, Santa Fe or Corrientes. Everywhere periods of hostility alternated with periods of relatively peaceful coexistence between Guaycuruans and Spaniards. Although trade between Guaycuruans and Spaniards was often officially prohibited, relations between individual settlers and the Chaco peoples were often close.12

Beginning around 1660, Guaycuruans increasingly pressed against Santa Fe and other settlements. The end of the Calchaquí wars at this time allowed Spaniards moving east from La Rioja, Salta, and Jujuy to encroach on Indian lands, and the displaced Indians pushed against the hunting areas of the eastern Chaco.13

As Abipones and Mocobíes intensified their attacks, Spanish efforts to eliminate or reduce the Guaycuruan threat were unavailing. Spanish arms seldom achieved more than limited, temporary success. Missionary efforts to preach Guaycuruans into Spanish society failed. Treaties, too, were of a transitory nature. Even while the pacts were in force, Guaycuruans perceived them only in local terms, and Spaniards (in practice) accepted this view. Agreements with Santa Fe seldom prevented Abipones or Mocobíes from raiding around Asunción. Treaties never caused Spaniards anywhere to refrain from purchasing stolen livestock. The period of greatest Guaycuruan danger to Santa Fe was from about 1675 to 1732, increasing especially after 1710-11, when Governor Esteban Urizar y Arespacochaga led a large punitive expedition from Tucumán, pushing that frontier farther into the Chaco. This caused increased intertribal warfare in the eastern Chaco and greater pressure from Chaqueños against Santa Fe.14

Typical Guaycuruan hostilities with Santa Fe included two kinds of encounters. In one, the Indians’ primary objective was profit, not warfare, and they approached Santa Fe to acquire livestock, trade goods from cart trains, and women and children as captives.15 The city’s slow-moving forces would pursue until their mobile adversaries lost themselves in the vast expanses of the Chaco. Usually on these raids Guaycuruans fought only when cornered, and casualties on both sides were few. The second type of clash was for military and symbolic purposes. The Indians might, as they did in March 1732, attack and kill isolated male civilians in the countryside. They taunted the residents of Santa Fe by showing themselves and then ambushed the militia as it moved out.16 Large Guaycuruan groups sometimes attacked Spanish patrols.17 These occasional combats with the Spanish military were of secondary, but not negligible, importance. They enabled Guaycuruan men to boast of their valor and thus to enhance their prestige. As the most famous Jesuit chronicler of Guaycuruan life said, “Military fame is the principal object of the ambition of the Abipones. ”18 Seldom, however, did they initiate fights with numerically equal Spanish forces. Guaycuruan lack of command authority, discipline, and combat organization meant that they could not win such encounters unless their numbers were truly overwhelming.

Nevertheless, Guaycuruan forays had a depressing effect on Santa Fe as hostilities climaxed in 1732. Whether raids were for profit or warfare was an unimportant distinction for Spaniards, who feared for their lives. Pilfering from estancias was continual. Livestock had to be enclosed and lacked access to adequate pasture. Merchants, on whose cart trains Santa Fe’s economy depended, could neither feed their livestock nor travel in safety. Normal economic activity was close to paralysis.19

Leaders of Santa Fe proposed numerous military remedies. They built new forts and relocated exisiting ones to deter raids. They asked for more troops and better mounts for the cavalry. They hoped to send an army to the Chaco on a general entrada, a major campaign.20 These measures were of little consequence.

By 1732, vecinos of Santa Fe feared that they would be overwhelmed. In March and April, Abipones killed four Spaniards and four Indian servants of the Dominican convent. They despoiled houses of God, sacred relics, and images of saints. They endangered priests the most. A measles epidemic was afflicting residents; clerics had to go about comforting the sick and administering last rites.21

The Indian danger to Santa Fe, however, reached its apogee in 1732. Such measles epidemics as the 1732 disaster always spread from the settlers to the remotest corners of the Chaco. Epidemic disease, variously reported as measles and smallpox, spread throughout the upper Plata region from 1732 to 1734. In the Guarani missions alone 30,000 people died. Epidemics continued to ravage the region until the early 1740s, and food shortages followed.22 These events caused great dislocations in Guaycuruan society,23 and help explain why Abipones and Mocobíes concurred in a peace treaty with Santa Fe in 173424 and why they observed it. Another explanation was that Guaycuruan society was beginning to unravel.

By the 1730s, the Abipones’ and Mocobíes’ aboriginal ways were radically altered by Spanish influences, and their cultural patterns distorted by dependence on Spanish society. Their society was losing cohesion. The booty-based economy had created rising Guaycuruan ambitions, which caused more peaceful contacts, as caciques visited Santa Fe.25 Status distinctions among men were now important. Spanish artifacts were now economic necessities, and Spanish staffs, clothing, and jewelry to display rank, social necessities. The increased bartering of horses to Spaniards to acquire these goods, however, caused a decline in Guaycuruan wealth and a diminished military capability. Chaqueño dependence on Spanish society had been an antagonistic one, but it was dependence nevertheless. Cattle, now Guaycuruans’ most important source of food and a major trade item, were increasingly domesticated. Moreover, intertribal strife had reached intolerable levels. Guaycuruan tribes were achieving maximum territorial limits; the formerly loosely defined hunting areas in the Chaco became limited by true frontiers.26

Uniform hostility to Spanish society was finished. Guaycuruan tribes were dividing politically. Peace parties in each tribe now sought amicable relations with chosen Spanish localities, like Santa Fe, while reserving the right—which Santafecinos tacitly recognized—to raid elsewhere. War party advocates protested that such a relationship would rob them of opportunities to demonstrate their valor and would steal their manhood.27

Many Abipones and Mocobíes began requesting missions, where they settled and renounced attacks on Santa Fe. They now reserved their aggression for other Spanish provinces and for intertribal and intratribal warfare.28 The first rupture occurred in 1741-43, when a group of Mocobíes, represented by their cacique, Ariacaiquin, agreed to live in peace with Santa Fe and to stay in the reduction of San Javier, ultimately located about 40 leagues north of Santa Fe. Five years later, led by Ychamenraikin, the plains-dwelling Riikahés, one of three Abipón subtribes, did the same, settling at the mission of San Jerónimo del Rey,29 38 leagues north of the Mocobí mission. Jesuits were chosen to head the missions because of their influence in local politics. In Santa Fe, they were favored by the cabildo.30

Why did the Guaycuruans begin their fifty-year quest for missions? They principally wanted a more secure existence, and a mission ensured subsistence. Social and economic changes meant that their military capacity was diminished; they wanted peace. A mission symbolized the ratification of peace with Spaniards. Moreover, because Guaycuruan and Spanish societies feared one another, they each lacked an understanding of the other culture. Guaycuruans sought missionary priests to act as intermediaries with the Spanish world.31

The Indians’ most immediate short-term goal was access to cattle. For decades before the 1740s, their increasing dependence on cattle produced gradual changes in their way of life. As late as 1700, the plains of the northern Plata region were covered with wild animals, and Guaycuruans easily acquired them for food and hides, which they bartered to whites. Uncontrolled exploitation, however, “being continued for a whole century, exhausted almost all the plains of wild cattle.”32 Most animals were now protected by Spanish hands, and their acquisition by Guaycuruans was increasingly difficult. Mission life promised the Indians easier access to cattle.

Guaycuruan requests for missions were also part of a larger phenomenon, the gradual crumbling of the barriers between the two cultures. By the 1730s, Guaycuruan bands included renegade whites, “españoles de mal vivir.”33 In the 1740s, Mocobíes were doing wage work for Spaniards.34 When a group of Abipones in the 1740s asked Santiago del Estero officials for a mission, one adviser was Cristóbal Almaraz, a Spaniard captured as a boy who had become a leader in Abipón society. Almaraz later returned to the Spanish world and practiced folk medicine among “the lower order of Spaniards.”35 In the missions, Abipón women returned from captivity among Spaniards caused great trouble for Jesuits by warning against baptism and for abandonment of the mission experiment.36 Around 1780, José Ramón Quiroga, a Santafecino of good family, left his wife to live with an Abipón woman at San Jerónimo; there he was an adviser to Cacique Miguel Benavides.37

From establishment to exile, results of the Jesuits’ efforts in the Guaycuruan missions were mixed. Bolton’s classic article38 delineates missionary aims, and Evelyn Hu-DeHart’s recent book39 on the Jesuits’ Yaqui missions in northwestern Mexico identifies a number of the Society’s objectives, identical to those in the Chaco. The initial goal was to provide sufficient food to make life in missions more attractive to Indians than aboriginal ways; thereafter economic security through self-sufficiency of the mission was sought. Jesuits proposed to abolish what they identified as heathen customs and to introduce Catholic ideas and practices through education. Paternalistically seeking to be “cultural brokers” between white and Indian worlds, they hoped to restrict Indians’ contact with Spaniards. They never aimed at Indian assimilation into Hispanic society and failed to place widespread instruction in the Spanish language on their agenda.40

Although the Platine Jesuits long-range objective was to make Guaycuruans model Christians, the fathers initially concentrated on economic and social matters. Their first task was to see that Guaycuruans traded their vagabond ways for fixed residences in villages.41 Next they tried to convince Guaycuruans to renounce military exploits against Christians and Guaycuruans alike.42 Indians were supposed to adopt Hispanic dress to symbolize their acceptance of new customs. They were lectured about the evils of rustling cattle.43 A further Jesuit aim was to abolish shamanism, symbolized by ceremonies the Jesuits thought “ridiculous,” including singing and dancing at funerals and the ritual curing of the sick.44 Jesuits especially hoped to eliminate the drunken festivals at which Guaycuruan men celebrated important events. Efforts were made to convince Guaycuruans to accept the communal economic and social practices that Jesuits had instituted elsewhere. The priests tried to prevent contact between Guaycuruans and all Spaniards except those approved by the missionaries.45 Instruction in the faith was a long-term chore, and the sacraments were introduced gradually.

Some clerical efforts were more successful than others, and those that succeeded did so usually because Indians welcomed them. Priestly attempts to abolish shamanism were so successful that Mocobí hechiceros tried to cast a death spell on Father Paucke.46 The reduced status of shamans, however, was probably more a result of the efforts of caciques, who were also competing for influence. Mission Indians readily accepted Spanish modes of dress and the small houses built for them. Mocobíes seem to have accepted communal practices more readily than Abipones; but even the former grumbled when the priest of San Javier ordered that every six families must eat only one cow a week and bring the hide to him, and at least six private Indian estancias supplemented the village’s communal herd.47

Abipones were truly interested in private economic initiatives. Abipón leader Ychoalay sought personal profit; he shunned no labour conducive to his own advantage,” and became a prudent estanciero.48 Other Abipones demanded that missionaries pay them wages.49 In 1759, Abipón Cacique Laberequín’s personal estancia contained 10,000 head of cattle.50

New arrivals from the Chaco reinforced old habits;51 and Indian drinking rituals survived. Preventing frequent and unsettling Spanish-Guaycuruan contacts was difficult. Spaniards told Mocobíes that if they caused no trouble, they could live however they pleased, and the missionaries would still feed them.52 The attempt at cultural separation was impossible. Mocobíes brought Spanish captives fluent in both langauges to San Javier, and they contributed influences of which Jesuits disapproved. One Argentine anthropologist says that most Guaycuruans resisted assimilation into the creole population and remained outside missions.53 This needs revision. The fact is that the priests’ goal was to prevent contact with Spaniards, especially the “lower orders,” who corrupted the Indians.54

Despite these efforts, however, communication between Spanish and Guaycuruan communities was frequent even while the Jesuits were in charge. The first Mocobíes to request missions worked for Spaniards as agriculturalists, shepherds, and hunters of wild horses.55 Additionally, a goodly number of Mocobíes and Abipones came to live in missions at one time or another.56

Initially, the Jesuits devoted their major efforts to assuring the missions a stable economic base. They maintained great cattle herds. Convincing Abipones and Mocobíes to work their fields communally was difficult; many preferred working for Spaniards for wages. Others had for centuries scorned “corn eaters,” thinking their old life superior. Jesuits thus brought Guaranis to serve as an example and hired Spanish foremen to supervise livestock on the missions’ estancias. Influential Guaycuruans were initially reluctant to give up other traditional practices. Infanticide was a major challenge. Polygamy, permitted mostly for chiefs, and easy divorce were other problems. Young women often welcomed the Jesuit effort to promote a cultural revolution from above for the added security it gave them, hut most young men and those older women and men who acted as shamans resisted strongly. It reduced the comforts of the one group and the wealth and influence of the other.57 Men had trouble adjusting to the grueling hours of the agriculturalist. For centuries their activities were limited to hunting, fishing, warfare, and, lately, raiding for cattle and horses. Women and captives performed domestic and industrial activities.58 Men, therefore, had much time to devote to seeking pleasure and for hunting and combat. In time, however, Mocobímen became adept at making bricks and candles and learned to be good carpenters and smiths, while women made textiles to sell to Spaniards.59

That the missions never achieved economic self-sufficiency, however, also resulted from the Guaycuruans’ continuing combat60 and their allegedly indiscriminate consumption of cattle.61 Guaycuruan groups within and outside of mission society allied for raids on livestock or for warfare. These alliances were brief and seldom prevented former friends from becoming future enemies. Abipones from San Jerónimo continued to fight other Abipones for reasons ethnic, familial, and personal, as they had for years. At the same time, they fought Mocobíes and Spaniards in areas other than Santa Fe.62 Internecine disputes also characterized Mocobí life.63

Jesuits were not alone in wishing the success of the new reductions. Royal officials and settlers in Santa Fe and Corrientes contributed to the foundation of the Guaycuruan missions. They donated tools and labor for the construction of chapels and dwellings for the priests. In a five-year period in the 1740s, Santafecinos later recalled, they spent 28,000 pesos to purchase cattle for the new settlements. Often they helped militarily, trying to protect Guaycuruans in missions from raids of others in the Chaco and also from rivals in other missions.61

After a time, aid from civil society dwindled. Subventions for the Chaco missions came increasingly from the profits of the Jesuits’ flourishing Guarani enterprises. Santafecinos delivered only a fraction of the cattle pledged to the San Javier mission. Thereafter, Jesuit subsidies ranged from 500 to 3,000 pesos annually.65 Jesuits criticized Spaniards for their lack of charity, but Santafecinos knew that the Guarani missions were profitable ventures, superior in organization and management to those of most vecinos north of Buenos Aires.66 Surplus from the Guarani missions contributed to the Jesuits’ putatively greater success with the Guaycuruan missions than that of the lay administrators and Franciscans and Mercedarians after 1767.

Some Jesuit and Guaycuruan perceptions of Spanish attitudes toward the Chaco missions were accurate. Not only did Santafecinos fail to endow the San Javier mission generously, Mocobíes and missionaries complained, but they also harbored murderous intentions. Spaniards, Paucke said, were unconcerned with the saving of Guaycuruan souls. Mostly they wished to see them kill each other.67 The criticism is overstated, but not totally inaccurate.

Spaniards in Santa Fe knew their chief benefit from the Chaco missions was increased security. When Guaycuruans raided other Guaycuruans for livestock and captives, they often spared Spanish possessions. It was natural for Abipones, Mocobíes, and Tobas to attack each other. Their intertribal, intratribal, and personal animosities retained their cultural significance, as did their warrior ethos. Guaycuruans got the benefits of profits and prestige from raiding other Guaycuruans and few of the disadvantages that followed an attack on Spanish properties. Guaycuruans, moreover, understood each other; they knew how the game of war was played. Combat usually brought death, no matter who fought whom; but when they fought each other, bloodshed was limited. After a few deaths, the fighting was broken off. Sometimes combat was even unnecessary; a show of bravado sufficed. Fighting Europeans, who played by different rules, was another matter. Although the eighteenth century was a century of “limited war,” this was seldom true in America and never true when Europeans fought Indians.68 As best they could, Spaniards conducted wars of annihilation.

The primary military contribution of the Chaco missions to Spanish society was passive. They deflected other marauding Guaycuruans from attacks on Spanish persons and property. Additionally, however, warriors from San Javier and San Jerónimo rendered active service. Since Mocobí strength at times rose above 500 men at arms, this was a major addition to the region’s military. In Paucke’s eighteen years at San Javier, men from the mission went on expeditions alone and with Spaniards thirty-five times and made significant contributions, especially as scouts.69

Mission Mocobíes still welcomed combat. Spaniards marveled at the quickness with which they could kill and decapitate an enemy. After one Abipón rustling expedition, thirty San Javier Mocobíes a month were then posted to reinforce the Spanish picket. On another occasion, during a period of confederation of “savage” Mocobíes with Tobas, Paucke detailed twenty men from San Javier to escort a cart train, and the mission Mocobíes drove off a group of raiders, killing and beheading two.70 The appreciative merchant paid them seven pesos apiece for their services.71

Increased security to Santa Fe resulting from the Guaycuruan missions was evident in other ways. Estancieros hired Abipón “Cacique” Ychoalay (later known as José Benavides) to recover horses stolen by Concepción Abipones, who were mostly rival Nakaiketergehés. The theft of cattle and horses declined, and the frontier was safer, both during the period of Jesuit tutelage and afterwards.72

When the Jesuits were expelled, mission life changed but not as drastically as many readers of Jesuit accounts have assumed. Many historians have concluded from Jesuit assertions that Guaycuruans returned to “savagery” that this represented a real departure. In fact, as careful readers can see from Dobrizhoffer’s and Paucke’s chronicles, Guaycuruan habits changed only a little under Jesuit tutelage. Changes in Guaycuruan culture resulting from Spanish influences preceded Jesuit missions by two centuries and would continue to the present. The Jesuit mission experiment was but one stage in the process.

Into the 1760s, Abipones of San Jerónimo and Mocobíes of San Javier and of the new mission of San Pedro (founded 1765) still came and went mostly as they pleased. They used reductions as headquarters but fought with each other and raided into Paraguay and Santiago del Estero, generally restraining themselves from raiding Santa Fe directly.

The expulsion shocked the departing missionaries, but after minor disturbances, the three towns remained in place to the end of the colonial period. The chief result of the expulsion was that the Jesuit subsidies to the Guaycuruan pueblos stopped. Franciscans and Mercedarians now headed the missions. Since most Spaniards were less willing to underwrite them than the Jesuits had been, Mocobí and Abipón residents intensified their quarrels with each other in times of need. Nevertheless, the Guaycuruan towns were so beneficial that these disputes troubled Santafecinos deeply. The frontier was now safer than before, and no one wished a return of hostilities.

The most serious problem was Abipón-Mocobí enmity. Many Santafecinos believed that the residents of San Jerónimo were the aggressors. Most were still, at best, lukewarm Christians, “enjoying the libertinism of their heathen customs.”73 This was unsettling, especially in view of the continuing Abipón military potential, 500 warriors. They were insubordinate to their new clerical counselors in matters of religion and to their lay administrators in mundane affairs. They traveled to Santa Fe as they wished for pleasure and profit. And they hated the Mocobíes of San Javier and San Pedro.74

Two events of 1775-76 sparked a new Abipón-Mocobí war, which lasted from 1777 to 1782. The first was the killing of Mocobí chief Paiquín by Abipones.75 The second was the pro-Mocobí policy of Santa Fe’s new teniente, Melchor de Echagüe y Andia (served 1776-92). Hostilities between Abipón and Mocobí pueblos were exacerbated by “infidel” Mocobíes from the Bermejo, who often visited San Javier and San Pedro. The year 1778 began with a Mocobí raid on San Jerónimo for livestock and revenge. Soon hostilities expanded, and a Chaco confederation of Mocobíes, Tobas, and Lenguas laid siege to San Jerónimo. This brought troops from Santa Fe to the rescue, and they drove off the besiegers.76

The problems were, of course, the long-standing Abipón-Mocobí enmity and values arising from the Chaqueño cultural complex. Each raid gave its victims an excuse for reprisal. The designations “Infidel” and “Christian” were meaningless. The Abipones of San Jerónimo knew the Chaco Mocobíes were in regular contact with their relatives in the two rival pueblos.77

Santa Fe officials could propose only a military, not a cultural, solution. The viceroy must build another fort, near San Jerónimo, and pay for soldiers to man it. Abipones could then serve as scouts. Should the Abipones prove troublesome, their rivals, the mission Mocobíes, were on hand to right the balance. The major problem was finance. If the viceroy could find the necessary funds, the missions would become “opulent and peaceful.”78

By the spring of 1779, Teniente Echagüe faced another problem. Abipones had left San Jerónimo and attacked people from San Pedro. Mocobíes spread a rumor that Abipones carried off seventy.79 Three days later worse news came from the frontier. Father Julián de Obelar reported a massacre. Obelar wished to retrieve the bodies for a Christian burial, but Mocobíes dissuaded him. They warned that the Abipones were likely to strike again.80

Echagüe reasoned that he would have to make a major effort. Surely, he thought, the Abipones were culpable and must be punished. Their 400 warriors had firearms and could put the Spanish force at risk. No one, Echagüe observed, wanted to see a return of the Indian menace.81 Echagüe identified the real issue as Spaniards saw it: the potential danger to Hispanic society posed by the Guaycuruans’ fighting each other. Indians fighting Indians was tolerable, if kept within bounds; the problem was to keep it restricted to Indian society.

In Buenos Aires, Viceroy Juan José de Vértiz was aware of the problem. He knew that if the three Guaycuruan pueblos disappeared, Santa Fe would again be endangered. The villages currently safeguarded Santa Fe from Guaycuruans still in the Chaco. Officials in Buenos Aires nevertheless advised prudence. Were the “natives” prepared to resist Spanish authority? If not, chastisement might be counterproductive. Peaceful efforts should come first. But the instigators of the bloody business with the Mocobíes should go to Buenos Aires. The rest should get off with a warning. If Abipones threatened Spaniards, the teniente could treat them as “apostates and rebels” and subdue them by force. These gestures, Vértiz hoped, would keep the Indians in their village.82

When Echagüe’s force of 430 reached San Jerónimo, they found 300 Abipones arrayed for battle. They did not want to fight Spaniards, they said; their fear was that Echagüe’s force included Mocobíes, “from whom they expected no quarter.” Assuring them that they had nothing to fear, Echagüe demanded that they return to their homes. Even less willing now after thirty years of mission life to fight a Spanish army than in the old days, they complied.83

Echagüe then investigated the recent Abipón-Mocobí dispute and learned that early reports were exaggerated. The clash with the San Pedro Mocobíes was only a reprisal for an earlier Mocobí attack. The culprits were Christians from San Pedro.84

The San Jerónimo Abipones’ condition was pitiful. They were afraid to leave the village individually. Their livestock was dispersed in the countryside. Fear of Mocobíes prevented them from tilling their fields. Thus they survived on the fruits of war. They stole livestock and sent horses and hides to Corrientes and Santiago del Estero. Echagüe found proof. He had just apprehended Luis Pavón, a Portuguese merchant, and his hide-laden raft. Even as Echagüe was talking to the Abipones, five traders from Santiago del Estero arrived with ponchos to trade for stolen horses and mules.85

Besides problems with mission Guaycuruans, Echagüe faced the problem of war-party Chaqueños, especially Tobas and some Mocobíes. Their detestation of Spaniards had caused them to refuse missions.86 Nevertheless, they benefited from the Guaycuruan settlements without living in them. They traded and stayed with some village Indians and periodically raided others. Around 1780, many even of those Guaycuruans heretofore reluctant to show submission to Spanish authority were requesting reductions.87

Meanwhile Echagüe posted soldiers at San Pedro to deter Indians from killing other Indians and to obstruct the activities of traders like Pavón. The illegal economic network among Chaqueños, mission Indians, Platine merchants, and eventually buyers in Europe was especially troubling to Spanish authorites,88 at least to those who failed to profit.

Hostilities among Guaycuruans continued into the next year, and Echagüe still worried. Until now, the Mocobíes had obeyed his orders. (Since they attacked the Abipones so often, one wonders what these orders were.) Now their mood was rebellious, and the teniente feared a return to the period when the city of Santa Fe was exposed.89

In May 1780, as the situation deteriorated, the anti-Abipón administrator of Santa Fe’s Guaycuruan pueblos, José Tarragona, added his voice to the protest. A Mocobí partisan, Tarragona warned that San Pedro could disappear if the “civil war” between Abipones and Mocobíes continued. Only 160 head of cattle and no horses remained there, and these animals were too unruly to handle, which was why the Abipones had left them. Without horses, he warned, Mocobíes could not get to the feral cattle even for food, although the exploitation of hides was probably Tarragona’s real concern. A hundred people had already left San Pedro, and this, Tarragona cautioned, was an invitation to renewed Abipón attacks on Spaniards. San Javier was seemingly better off, still possessing cattle, but their presence was deceptive. The Indians had no horses with which to exploit the bovine potential. Tarragona’s anti-Abipón bias was not so great as to cause him to fail to point out that the Mocobíes still had 2,000 mares. He maliciously reported that the destitution of the Mocobíes was a result of their friendship with Spaniards. For thirty-six years they had killed no one, robbed no estancias. This stood in dramatic contrast to the behavior of the Abipones, who had raided a cart train, harried woodcutters, and robbed estancias. But Tarragona failed to reveal that these attacks occurred in 1758-62, and had no connection with San Jerónimo Riikahës Abipones. They were conducted by the Yaaukaniga Abipones of Corrientes’s San Fernando reduction.90

Tarragona had a financial stake in the dispute, and his twisted tale laid the blame on the Abipones, whom he called “shameless and bold.” Most had reaped the benefits of mission life for years and were still “infidels.” Even the young, raised on the milk of Christianity, refused to respect their priest. (Since their priest spoke no Abipón, their behavior is somewhat easier to understand.) Tarragona recommended that the Abipones be punished.91

Tarragona’s partisanship for the Mocobíes came from his involvement in the Indian trade and connections of ritual kinship; and Abipones disliked him. With a Mocobí godson, he profitted from his Mocobí connections and thus had problems with Abipones. Cacique Miguel Jerónimo Benavides, son of Ychoalay and now corregidor of San Jerónimo, soon traveled downriver to complain to the viceroy about Tarragona specifically and Spanish paternalism generally. Don Miguel Jerónimo pointed out that Tarragona was in partnership in the exploitation of hides with the people of San Javier and San Pedro, and the Abipón spokesman wanted the connection broken. In addition, the Abipones wanted to conduct their business affairs without the intervention of bureaucrats. Benavides said:

we feel ourselves capable of trading and trafficking by ourselves; and our goods are acquired by our own industry and continual labor and not by the aid and counsel of the Administrator and Protector; and our goods and persons being free, it is also certain that we in our liberty are not in an inferior condition to the Spaniards.. . .,92

Benavides said that Spanish merchants who chose to trade with Abipones should be allowed to enter his village without restriction. Competition among many merchants would benefit Abipones, who were capable of distinguishing honest merchants from crooks. The worst crook of all was Tarragona, who had taken 30,000 head of Abipón cattle in exchange for putrid yerba, a few dozen buttons, and some defective knives.93

Nevertheless, Echagüe, whose family was also tied by ritual kinship to the Mocobíes, seconded Tarragona’s doleful and misleading report. For fifteen years San Pedro had helped guard Santa Fe from Indian attacks. The pueblo’s extinction would invite Abipones to rob and kill Spaniards. Should the Abipones and Mocobíes decide to rebel, they could raise a force larger than Santa Fe’s. Till now, Mocobíes had helped contain Abipones, but this defense might be passing away.94

The loyalty of well-placed Santafecinos was for the moment clear. The Mocobíes were “faithful. ” Abipones were the “enemy,” “people of heathen customs and depraved inclinations.” The Mocobí settlement had forced Abipones to stop raiding Santa Fe, giving citizens a rest and allowing them to push the frontier farther north and west. The current Abipón-Mocobí war was about to revive old problems. Santa Fe’s spokesman warned that as the Mocobí pueblos protected Santa Fe from Chaco hostiles, so did Santa Fe perform this same function for Buenos Aires.95

The Abipón champion was Mercedarian friar Father Blas Brite, who reported that the situation in San Jerónimo was as dismal as in the Mocobí villages. During the past ten years, Abipones had fought Mocobíes, both “Christians” in the villages and Chaco infidels with whom they were allied. Loss of cattle and horses meant Abipones hungered. To eat they had to hunt, and they had no mounts. Brite himself was suffering; he had not received his annual stipend in three years and had to beg for a horse to ride to Santa Fe. Like the Mocobíes, San Jerónimo Abipones threatened to return to the Chaco. People in San Jerónimo were “crazy with hunger.”96 Much of this alleged suffering was real. Some claims, however, were probably exaggerated, resulting from Guaycuruans’ ability to exploit Spanish fear of them.97 The Indians survived as best they could. In April 1782, about sixty Guaycuruans98 encountered a Dominican traveling to Santa Fe from Córdoba. They intended to kill him but changed their minds when they discovered his calling. Still they relieved him of three silver pesos, his poncho, yerba, and tobacco and sent him on his way.99

In 1782-83, colonial officials worked out a temporary expedient for the Indian problem on the frontier. Teniente Echagüe again went to San Jerónimo with priests, corregidores and principal caciques of Mocobí towns, and a few “infidel” Mocobí caciques. He delivered cattle to the Indians. All parties then agreed to keep the peace. Apparently they were exhausted from the hostilities of the last few years. Echagüe saw that intransigent Chaco Mocobíes would be a continuing problem; but the agreement lowered hostilities among the three Guaycuruan pueblos to tolerable levels,100 or levels at any rate tolerable to Spanish society.

Any peace, however temporary, was helpful, because the last forty years of the colonial period saw the continuing hispanization of the people in the three villages. Evidence of this process is fragmentary but convincing. The career of Ychoalay (José Benavides) is instructive. Though not a cacique, “he was born of a most honourable family amongst the Riikahés.. . .” After an early treaty between Santa Fe and his people, Ychoalay moved to Santa Fe. There he worked breaking horses and took “the name of his master Benavides.”101 Rejecting Catholicism, Ychoalay nevertheless took what he wanted from Spanish culture. He learned Spanish, became a drover, and worked in Chile and Mendoza. Later he returned to Santa Fe. After a quarrel with his employer over wages, he rejoined his people as a war leader. He was instrumental in the founding of San Jerónimo. Afterwards he respected Spanish people and property around Santa Fe, though not elsewhere. In the 1760s, he plundered the new Abipón reduction of Rosario near Asunción and ranches in eastern Paraguay. Living much of the year in San Jerónimo, he worked his own estancia.102

Other Abipones, too, were integrating into Spanish society. In 1768-69 the Yaaukaniga Abipones of the San Fernando mission escorted cattle drives from Corrientes to Asunción.103 In 1778 the Riikahés Abipones were in Corrientes to sell livestock, stolen from Mocobíes.104 In the 1790s San Fernando Abipones were even tilling the soil with acceptable results and building their dwellings after the Spanish fashion.105 By 1803 Abipones of San Jerónimo kept leaving their pueblo, not to return to the Chaco, but to work on Spanish estancias.106 In the same year Abipones formed a company of the Corrientes militia. Eighty were infantrymen armed with muskets, though 150 more were serving more traditionally, as mounted lancers.107 The most important way Guaycuruans were becoming a part of Platine society, however, was through miscegenation, as women especially went to the presidios in the Chaco and estancias and urban residences across the river as servant-concubines and bore their masters’ children.

Abipón culture was stripped away gradually from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. It was replaced selectively by those aspects of European culture the Abipones found beneficial. As Abipones, the Indians never accepted the totality of Spanish society.108 Only when they physically moved into the Hispanic world to become members of the dark-skinned proletariat of the Upper Plata region did they become full participants, subordinate and servile. In Paraguay, Guaycuruans often served Asunceños as originarios, people formally in encomiendas but permanently attached to their masters.109

For reasons only marginally connected with saving souls for Christ, the Spanish government at local levels supported the Guaycuruans’ villages enough to keep the residents remaining in them. Mostly they supplied cattle, horses, and clothing.110

At the end of the colonial period, Santa Fe was delivering a monthly ration of cattle to San Jerónimo. Clerics and laymen alike agreed the pueblo’s security function was significant; it was a safeguard (antemuro) protecting Santa Fe and Corrientes from errant Chaqueños.111 Support from local government never satisfied the Guaycuruans; but the pittance ensured the continued existence of their pueblos, which in turn protected Santa Fe.

Intertribal warfare continued to trouble Santa Fe. In early 1786, San Jerónimo Abipones again asked for help against Chaco Tobas and Mocobíes . When Echagüe contemplated sending a large punitive expedition against the offenders, the viceroy told him merely to promise an expedition at a more convenient time.112 He did, however, approve a more limited response, telling Echagüe to station twenty soldiers at the village. The viceroy’s major concern was to keep the Abipones pacified by showing them that Spaniards had not abandoned them. The Spanish contingent that went to the missions in August of that year found nothing unusual. A couple of dozen San Pedro Mocobíes had raided the Abipón estancia, but an Abipón force had retrieved the stolen livestock.113

Two years later, the Abipones threatened a major step. Miguel Benavides wanted to move his village across the river where it could be more easily defended. His people were in want. An important hunt was approaching, and they were again afoot because Chaco and mission Indians had just taken Abipón horses. Echagüe thought that San Jerónimo should remain at its present location. It was strategically important. A terse vice regal order merely told Echagüe to give the Abipones enough material aid to keep San Jerónimo in place.114

The pueblo’s location was not negotiable. It was too important to the viceroyalty’s northern defense to allow Abipones to live where they wished. The northern cordon of presidios and Indian villages never provided a perfect defense, but the Guaycuruan villages served as magnets for Indian marauders from the Chaco. When the process of intertribal warfare was added to the changes in Guaycuruan culture and gradual incorporation within Spanish society, the defenses were sufficient to allow an advance of Spanish settlement on the northern frontier. Were San Jerónimo to relocate or disappear, an avenue for Guaycuruan raids on Santa Fe would be reopened.115 This was probably an overestimation of current Guaycuruan military potential, but as late as 1821, Chaco Guaycuruans attacked Santa Fe and Santiago del Estero.116

By the 1790s, Spaniards saw Abipones as a positive force. The subdelegado of Santa Fe called the Abipón nation “the most faithful of all,” a “noble and valiant people.” Abipón incorporation into and contributions to Spanish society were not primarily results of guidance by their spiritual mentors; they sometimes had none. In 1795 Subdelegate Prudencio María de Gastáñaduy reported that San Jerónimo had been without a priest for eight years; he was taking his own chaplain there to baptize the young and administer last rites to the dying.117

The Guaycuruan establishments were of significant benefit to Hispanic society. They served as nuclei of northern expansion and as links in the chain of Spanish forts. Their main value lay not in their active military contribution, although the Guaycuruans periodically rendered such aid. Their value was as a military buffer between nonsedentary peoples still in the Chaco and the Spanish world.

To understand more clearly the Platine processes, we can contrast the Jesuits’ Chaco reductions and their Yaqui missions. The differences are striking. The major difference was that in seventeenth-century Mexico, “Jesuits successfully established the Yaqui mission ...,’’ and “the Yaqui people acquiesced in this directed cultural change . . .”118 In the Chaco, the Indians were the initiators of the missions. Around 1760 Mbayás asked Paraguayan governors for missions,119 and in the 1770s, Tobas and Mocobíes requested missions in Tucumán.120 A determining influence was Guaycuruan culture. Many traditional customs survived. Guaycuruans retained martial attitudes, a military potential, and, thus, greater autonomy.

Another factor was the difference between the Spanish secular societies of seventeenth-century northwestern New Spain and the eighteenthcentury Plata region. Yaqui missions originated in “the absence of a competitive secular society....” Most Spanish institutions were “uncertain and ephemeral.”121 The competing Spanish secular society that confronted the new Chaco establishments had been developing for two centuries.

If the Guaycuruan missions failed to achieve many religious goals of their Jesuit founders, they were not failures. As buffer zones, they served the development of Santa Fe. Many Guaycuruans and their descendants became hispanized through contact with missionaries and foremen, merchants and soldiers. When Guaycuruan hostilities reappeared in the nineteenth century, they resulted from the destruction of controls evolved in the last seventy years of the colonial period.122 Guaycuruan missions served the same pioneering functions on the Chaco frontier as in Bolton’s Borderlands, and their residents participated in the same kinds of cultural exchanges as James Lockhart and Stuart B. Schwartz have described.123

Conclusions about the ways members of previously mobile Chaco societies saw the reductions are also evident. They were founded because Indians requested them. Initially Guaycuruans desired economic security and peace, and missions provided both. The Jesuits left in 1767, but the mission towns endured until after the colonial period. The reasons for their survival are found in the changing conditions of Guaycuruan society. In reductions Indians received the subventions that they found increasingly necessary. They were still free to continue old pursuits. They were less free than before; but many continued to hunt, fish, and raid against Spaniards and Indians in localities other than Santa Fe. Moreover, they could fit themselves effectively into the Platine network of commerce in livestock. Using missions as halfway houses, they became increasingly hispanized.


Population, Guaycuruan Pueblos of Santa Fea


Alfred Métraux, “Ethnography of the Chaco,” Handbook of South American Indians, 7 vols., ed. by Julian H. Steward (Washington, D.C., 1946-59), I, 211-223; Julian H. Steward, “The Native Population of South America,” Handbook, V, 662; and n. 7. below.


Leoncio Gianello, Historia de Santa Fe (Buenos Aires, 1978), p. 142; Félix de Azara, Descripción e historia del Paraguay y del Río de la Plata, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1847), I, 344.


Nonsedentary is used instead of “nomadic” to designate people who move seasonally, hunting and gathering within well-defined areas; James Lockhart and Stuart B. Schwartz, Early Latin America: A History of Colonial Spanish America and Brazil (New York, 1983), pp. 34-36.


José Cardiel, S. J., Declaración de la verdad (Buenos Aires, 1900), p. 449; Guillermo Furlong [Cardiff], S. J., Entre los mocobíes de Santa Fe, según las noticias de los misioneros jesuitas. . . (Buenos Aires, 1938), pp. 199-205, 209; Phillip Caraman, The Lost Paradise; The Jesuit Republic in South America (New York, 1976), pp. 189-211, 280; Ludwig Kersten, Las tribus indígenas del Gran Chaco hasta fines del siglo xviii (Resistencia, Arg., 1968), P. 52.


Branislava Susnik, El indio colonial del Paraguay: El chaqueño, III - 1, (Asunción, 1971), pp. 167-172; Salvador Canals Frau, Las poblaciones indígenas de la Argentina: Su origen—su pasado—su presente (Buenos Aires, 1953), p. 316.


Names of Chaco tribes are legion. Each had a name for itself and others, and Spaniards also awarded various names.


Métraux, “Ethnography of the Chaco,” pp. 217-223; Steward, “The Native Population of South America,” p. 662. Métraux’s figures are: Mbayá, 7-8,000; Abipón, 5,000; Mocobí, 2-3,000; Toba, 20-30,000; Pilagá, 200-2,000 (?). While the sum of the Mocobí plus Toba populations is reliable, the 20-30,000 figure for the Toba is too large and the 3,000 for the Mocobí too small. The tribes were more nearly equal in size, but contemporary Spaniards said that the Mocobíes were more numerous.


Branislava Susnik, “Dimensiones migratorias y pautas culturales de los pueblos del Gran Chaco (enfoque etnológico),” Suplemento antropológico; Universidad Católica (Asunción, Paraguay), 7: 1-2, (1972), 85-101, 89; Susnik, El indio colonial, III-1, pp. 27, 41; Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., The Indian Heritage of America (New York, 1968), pp. 273-274; Canals Frau, Las poblaciones indígenas, pp. 299, 315; Enrique Palavecino, “Las culturas aborígenes del Chaco,” Historia de la nación argentina (Desde los orígenes hasta la organización definitiva en 1862), 10 vols., ed. by Ricardo Levene (Buenos Aires, 1936-50), I, 429-472.

The best way to understand Guaycuruan culture in the middle of the eighteenth century is through three Jesuit chronicles: Martin Dobrizhoffer, An Account of the Abipones; An Equestrian People of Paraguay, 3 vols. (London, 1822; repr. New York, 1970); Florian Paucke, Hacia allá y para acá (una estada entre los indios Mocobíes, 1749-1767), 4 vols. (Tucumán-Buenos Aires, 1942-44), and José Sánchez Labrador, El Paraguay católico, 3 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1910-17). For the period before the 1740s, Pedro Lozano, S. J., Descripción corográfica del Gran Chaco Gualamba (Tucumán, 1941), is indispensable.


This accounted for the failure of most Spanish expeditions sent to punish Indian raiders. Spaniards sent armies after large Guaycuruan forces, forces that ceased to exist immediately after a raid. Susnik, “Dimensiones migratorias,” pp. 85-88.


Susnik, El indio colonial III-1, p. 23.


Ibid., pp. 25, 56-69.


Antonio Serrano, Los pueblos y culturas indígenas del litoral (Santa Fe, Arg., 1955), passim, and idem, Los primitivos habitantes del territorio argentino (Buenos Aires, 1930), pp. 108-115; Canals Frau, Las poblaciones indígenas, pp. 298-316; Alberto Rex González and José A. Pérez, Argentina indígena; Vísperas de la conquista (Buenos Aires, 1972), pp. 120-127; Susnik, El indio colonial, III-1, passim.


Armando R. Bazán, Historia de La Rioja (Buenos Aires, 1979), pp. 102-140, 142-143; Susnik, “Dimensiones migratorias,” pp. 85-92.


Furlong, Entre los Mocobíes, p. 11; Lozano, Gran Chaco Gualamba, passim; Manuel Lizondo Borda, “El Tucumán de los siglos xvii y xviii,” Historia de la nación argentina, III, 406-407; (Argentine Republic) Comando General del Ejército, Dirección de Estudios Históricos, Política seguida con el aborigen.. Vol. 1, (1750-1819); Vol. 2, in 2 vols., (1820-1852): ed. by Fued G. Mellar (Buenos Aires, 1972-75), I, 51; Susnik, El indio colonial, III-1, 165.


Examples of hostilities during these years are found in documents in the Archivo General de la Nación, Buenos Aires, Argentina (hereinafter AGN), IX, 4-1-1 and 3-10-7.


Alonso de la Vega al gobernador, Santa Fe, Mar. 20, 1732; AGN, IX, 4-1-1.


Petición del procurador general al cabildo, Santa Fe, Apr. 26, 1732; Acuerdo del cabildo, both in ibid.


Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, III, 347.


Cabildo de Santa Fe al gobernador, Santa Fe, July 20, 1730; AGN, IX, 4-1-1.


Frutos de Palafox al gobernador, Santa Fe, June 18, 1730; Francisco de Ziburu al gobernador, Santa Fe, Mar. 28, 1731; all in ibid.


Petición del procurador general al cabildo, Apr. 26, 1732; Acuerdo del cabildo; P. Ignacio Pérez, S. J., al cabildo, all in ibid.


Informe del obispo de Buenos Aires al rey, Buenos Aires, Jan. 8, 1743; Vol. 79, pp. 183-192; Pastells Collection, Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library. St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri.


Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, II, 240-246.


Nellar, ed., Política seguida con el aborigen, I, 123.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 5-6.


Susnik, El indio colonial, III-1, 52-67.


Ibid., pp. 66-69. Some historians cite other reasons why Guaycuruans chose missions. These factors include anti-chaqueño military efforts from Tucumán, Mocobí and Abipón failure to destroy Santa Fe, and of course the preaching of the Jesuits; Manuel M. Cervera, Historia de la ciudad y provincia de Santa Fe, 1573-1853, 2 vols. (Santa Fe, 1907), I, 505; Caraman, Lost Paradise, p. 195.


Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, II, 96.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 3-12; Furlong, Entre los mocobíes, p. 17; Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, II, 95-96. Elsewhere on the Chaco periphery the process was the same. In 1748-49, the Nakaiketergehés Abipones agreed to the Concepción mission of Santiago del Estero. In 1750, the Yaaucaniga Abipones agreed to a mission at San Fernando near Corrientes. More Jesuit-Guaycuruan missions followed. In 1756 the Toba mission of San Ignacio de Ledesma in Tucumán was founded, followed in 1763 by the Abipón mission of Rosario del Timbó in Paraguay, and in 1765 by the Mocobí reduction of the San Pedro de Espín (Santa Fe); Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, II, 95-96; Nellar, ed., Política seguida con el aborigen, II, 303, Canals Frau, Las poblaciones indígenas, p. 316.


Guillermo Furlong, S. J., Entre los Abipones del Chaco. . . (Buenos Aires, 1938), p. 98.


Susnik, El indio colonial, III-1, 68-69, 78, 90.


Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, I, 218-222; Paucke Hacia allá, II, 7.


Cervera, Santa Fe, I, 481.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 22.


Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, III, 213-215.


Ibid., pp. 217-218.


Doña María Tomasa de Umeres al virrey, Santa Fe, Aug. 22, 1781, AGN, IX, 4-1-6; Melchor de Echagüe al virrey, ibid.


Herbert E. Bolton, “The Mission as a Frontier Institution in the Spanish American Colonies,” American Historical Review, 23:1 (1917), 42-61.


Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Missionaries, Miners, and Indians; Spanish Contact with the Yaqui Nation of Northwestern New Spain, 1533-1820 (Tucson, 1981).


Ibid., pp. 3-4, 25-39.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 23. José Cardiel, “Carta y relación de las misiones de la provincia del Paraguay (1747),” pp. 115-213, of Guillermo Furlong [Cardiff], S. J., José Cardiel, S.J. y su Carta-Relación (1747) (Buenos Aires, 1953), p. 194.


Ibid., pp. 192, 194.


Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, III, 397.


Cardiel “Carta y relación” p. 193.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 69, 87-88.


Ibid., pp. 250-251.


Ibid., p. 33, and passim.


Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, III, 151, 160.


Ibid., p. 157.


Alcalde ordinario Gabriel de Lazaga, Informe de las reducciones del tiempo de la expulsión de los ex-Jesuitas, Santa Fe, Oct. 6, 1785; AGN, IX, 4-1-6.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 69.


Ibid., p. 86.


Canals Frau, Las poblaciones indígenas, p. 316.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 21, 39. Quarantine of the Chaco reductions was impossible. Too many people, Guaycuruans and Spanish and Portuguese traders, sought the mutually beneficial exchange of cattle hides and horses on the hoof for Spanish artifacts. Moreover, a number of Spaniards, including captives, foremen, and others, lived in the missions.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 22.


Greater numbers of Tobas and Mocobíes resisted settling in missions. In 1763-65 all Abipones were in one or another of the four reductions; Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, III, 194-201.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 20; Dobrizhoffer. Abipones, II, 64-67, 76-80.


Serrano, Los primitivos habitantes, pp. 111-112.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 51-54, 269-274.


The Abipones, Dobrizhoffer observed, “though bound by ties of consanguinity and friendship, impatient of the smallest injury . . . eagerly seize any occasion of war, and frequently weaken each other with mutual slaughter.” Abipones, II, 96.


Missionaries said Indians’ herds dwindled because they preferred eating tender cow’s meat to that of steers and bulls. A more likely explanation, however, is that they tried to satisfy the demands of the hides market.


The viceroy of Peru was told that Jesuit Abipones were still causing trouble by attacking cart trains between Santa Fe and Santiago del Estero. Informe de don Manuel de Castro al virrey sobre . . . los Indios del Chaco, Lima, Oct. 25, 1766; Manuel Gondra Collection (hereinafter CMG), University of Texas, Cal. 1255.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 35-37.


Gabriel de Lazaga al superindente general, Santa Fe, Oct. 6, 1785, AGN, IX, 4-1-6.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 32-81; Cardiel, “Carta y Relación,” p. 198.


Alistair Hennessy, The Frontier in Latin American History (Albuquerque, 1978), P. 57.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 37, 22.


T. Harry Williams, A History of American Wars from 1745 to 1918 (New York, 1981), pp. 10-12; Walter Millis, Arms and Men: A Study in American Military History (New Brunswick, N.J., 1981), pp. 13-22.


Paucke, Hacia allá, II, 297-302. Informe del cabildo al virrey, Santa Fe, Mar. 25, 1778; AGN, IX, 31-3-5.


Paucke, Hacia allá, pp. 297-302. Nicolás Patrón al gobernador, Corrientes, Feb. 8, 1758; AGN, IX, 3-3-6; José de Acosta al gobernador, Corrientes, Jan. 8, 1759, ibid.




Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, III, 256-257, 403-410; Informe del cabildo al virrey, Santa Fe, Mar. 25, 1778; AGN, IX, 31-3-5.


Informe del cabildo al virrey, Santa Fe, Mar. 25, 1778; AGN, IX, 31-3-5.




Juan Francisco de la Riva Herrera a Juan José de Vértiz, Santa Fe, Apr. 3, 1775; AGN, IX, 4-1-5.


Informe del cabildo al virrey, Santa Fe, Mar. 25, 1778; AGN, IX, 31-3-5.






Melchor de Echagüe y Andia al virrey, Santa Fe, Oct. 9, 1779; AGN, IX, 31-3-5.


Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, Oct. 12, 1779, ibid.




Dictamen fiscal, Buenos Aires, May 5, 1778; Fiscal Pacheco al virrey, October 19, 1779; Providencia del virrey, October 20, 1779, all in ibid.


Junta de guerra, Paraje del Arroyo Rabón, Nov. 24, 1779; Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, Dec. 6, 1779, both in ibid.






As late as 1912, Tobas in Argentina and Bolivia had “an implacable hatred against the whites. . .” Rafael Karsten, The Toha Indians of the Bolivian Gran Chaco (Oosterhout, N.B., The Netherlands, 1967), p. 12.


See “Diarios” of Juan Adrián Fernández Cornejo, Francisco Gavino Arias, and Gerónimo Matorras in Pedro de Angelis, ed., Colección de obras y documentos relativos a la historia antigua y moderna de las provincias del Río de la Plata, 6 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1836-37), VI, passim; and Diarios ejecutados a los países del Gran Chaco en . . .1776-1781 por el Reverendo Padre Prior del Orden Seráfico Fr. Antonio Lapa, Reducción de Macapillo, Nov. 23, 1776, and May 30, 1781, CMG; Cal. 1676.


Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, Dec. 6, 1779, AGN, 31-3-5; Respuesta del abogado fiscal Dr. Pacheco al virrey, Buenos Aires, June 20, 1780; Otro del fiscal, Buenos Aires (n.d.), both in ibid.


Alonso de la Peña al general Antonio Figuera; Río del Valle, Jan. 19, 1780; Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, February 22, 1780, both in ibid.


José Tarragona al teniente Echagüe, Santa Fe, June 4, 1780; Diputados de Santa Fe al virrey, Buenos Aires, Oct. 2, 1780, both in ibid.


Tarragona a Echagüe, Santa Fe, June 4, 1780, ibid.


Relación de don Miguel Gerónimo Venavides al virrey, Montevideo, n.d. (1781); AGN, IX, 4-1-1.




Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, June 6, 1778; AGN, IX, 31-3-5.


Diputados de Santa Fe al virrey, Buenos Aires, Oct. 2, 1780, ibid.


P. Fr. Blas Brite al teniente de Santa Fe, Santa Fe, n.d. [1781]; Brite a Echagüe; San Jerónimo, Sept. 1782, both in ibid.


Susnik, El indio colonial. III-1, 89.


Their tribal designation is unclear.


Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, Apr. 29, 1782; AGN, IX, 4-1-6.


Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, Mar. 6. 1783; Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, Apr. 14, 1783; Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, June 6, 1783, all in ibid.


Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, III. 143.


Ibid., pp. 143-147, 323-325.


Sebastián Casajús regidor de la ciudad de Corrientes al gobernador, Buenos Aires, Feb. 23, 1769; AGN, IX, 3-3-7.


The viceroy ordered this illegal activity stopped. Correntinos pretended it did not exist. El virrey al teniente de Corrientes, Buenos Aires, Oct. 13, 1778; José Ponciano Rolón al virrey, Corrientes, Oct. 27, 1778, both in ibid.


Poder sostituido en don Santiago Gutiérrez para los sínodos de Fray Francisco Rodríguez, cura doctrinero de San Fernando de Abipones (1779); AGN, IX, 31-7-1.


Fr. Ramón Redrado al virrey, Colegio de San Carlos, Aug. 11, 1803; AGN, IX, 31-3-6.


Thirty-two of these men, led by Captain don Juan Benavides, a descendant of Ychoalay, were from San Jerónimo; Prudencio María de Gastáñaduy al virrey, Frontera de Santa Fe, Mar. 11, 1803; AGN, IX, 4-2-4.


In the early 1860s the San Jerónimo Abipones were still magnificent horsemen who wielded bolas and lances with great dexterity. They preferred to hunt and disdained agricultural labor. They felt little hostility to Argentine society and lived in a village with a brick church and school. Some dwellings were constructed like those of the rural lower class of Santa Fe, others in an older—but not aboriginal—fashion. Paolo Mantegazza, Viages por el Río de la Plata (Buenos Aires, 1916), pp. 263-267.


Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, II, 152; James Schofield Saeger, “Survival and Abolition; The Eighteenth Century Paraguayan Encomienda,” The Americas, 38 (1981), 59-85.


Antonio Barrenechea al superintendente general Francisco Paula de Sanz, Santa Fe, Jan. 6, 1786; AGN, IX, 33-1-2; Gabriel de Lazaga al superintendente general, Santa Fe, Oct. 6, 1785; AGN, IX, 4-1-6.


Fray Juan Ignacio Ayzpuru al teniente, San Jerónimo, July 12, 1807; AGN, IX, 4-2-6; Gastáñaduy al virrey, Santa Fe, Oct. 8, 1808, ibid.


Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, Jan. 8, 1786; AGN, IX, 4-1-7; Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, Mar. 25, 1786, ibid.; Respuesta del virrey al teniente de Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, Apr. 5, 1786; ibid; El virrey al teniente de Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, May 8, 1786; ibid.; Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, Sept. 6, 1786, ibid.




Miguel Benavides a Echagüe, San Jerónimo, Jan. 26, 1786; Manuel García a Echagüe, San Jerónimo, Jan. 26, 1786; Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, Feb. 6, 1788; El virrey al teniente de Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, Feb. 13, 1787, all in ibid.


Echagüe al virrey, Santa Fe, Feb. 6, 1788, ibid.


Cervera, Santa Fe, II, 578-579.


Gastáñaduy al virrey, Los Manantiales, June 5, 1793, AGN, IX, 30-5-2, exp. 11; Gastáñaduy al virrey, Santa Fe, July 10, 1795; ibid.


Hu-DeHart, Missionaries, Miners, and Indians, pp. 39, 23.


Gobernador José Martínez Fontes al R. P. Nicolás Contucci, C. J., Asunción, Jan. 22, 1762; Archivo Nacional de Asunción, Asunción, Paraguay, S. H., Vol. 133, no. 4.


Diario de Lapa, entries for Sept. 3 and Nov. 21, 1776.


Hu-DeHart, Missionaries, Miners, and Indians, p. 39.


After independence Guaycuruans again became a hostile threat. Strife characterized the Argentine provinces from 1810 to 1850, and this caused new white-Indian hostilities. Only after the end of the Paraguayan War was the Chaco Indian threat overcome. This was never as great in the nineteenth century as in 1675-1732, but Argentines were unwilling to tolerate it. Political stability, improved communications, and renewed frontier colonization coincided with the northern military campaigns of 1870-84 to bring to a close the Indian wars in the north. Luis Jorge Fontana, El Gran Chaco; Estudio preliminar de Erensto J. A. Maeder (Buenos Aires, 1977), pp. 7-22; Roberto H. Marfany, “La guerra con los indios nómadas,” Historia de la nación argentina, 6:1 (1944), 1077.


James Lockhart, “The Social History of Colonial Spanish America: Evolution and Potential,” Latin American Research Review, 7 (Spring 1972), p. 10; Lockhart and Schwartz, Early Latin America, pp. 256-267, 293-298, passim.

Author notes


The author wishes to thank Mark Burkholder, Murdo MacLeod, Kristine Jones, James Lewis, and Suzanne Browne for their criticisms of earlier drafts of this article and the Fulbright Commission and the Gipson Institute for Eighteenth Century Studies for financial support.