Separating the Secular from the Religious: A Greater Role for the Guaraní in the Missions, 1768–1800

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM
Erie Room (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Julia Sarreal, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University
In 1767 and 1768, the governor of Río de la Plata, Francisco de Paula Bucareli y Ursúa, and armed troops forcibly removed seventy-eight Jesuits from the thirty Guaraní missions in the Río de la Plata region of South America.  The Jesuit expulsion marked huge change for the Guaraní missions.  Not only were the Jesuits, who founded the missions over a century and a half earlier, suddenly gone.  Crown officials also took advantage of this opportunity to radically restructure the missions.  In association with his instructions to remove the Jesuit Order from all Spanish territory, the president of the Council of Castile, the conde de Aranda, instituted measures to formally separate secular and religious domains in the missions.  In order to implement such policy, Aranda ordered the appointment of civil administrators to manage each mission’s temporal affairs and restricted the new priest’s powers to religious matters.  Such a structure starkly contrasted with Jesuit management, where the missionaries oversaw all aspects of mission life. 

Governor Bucareli took Aranda’s reforms of the Guaraní missions even further.  Between 1768 and 1770, governor Bucareli issued instructions for managing the missions.  These instructions not only reinforced Aranda’s new vision for the missions, they also greatly empowered the Guaraní.  Bucareli’s instructions mandated that Guaraní leaders have a role in the management and oversight of their mission.  Furthermore, he explicitly explained how to include the Guaraní leaders, thereby assuring such a role for the Guaraní.

This paper explores the role played by Guaraní leaders in the management of their missions in light of the reforms associated with the Jesuit expulsion.  While Guaraní leaders may not have taken as active of a role as that carved out by Bucareli’s instructions, documents reveal that Guaraní leaders did become more active in mission management and oversight.