Secularization and the Survival of Mission Communities in Southeastern Bolivia, 1905–93

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM
Erie Room (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Erick Detlef Langer, Georgetown University
The Franciscan missions among the Chiriguanos in Bolivia were secularized in the first half of the twentieth century at different times and for different reasons.  The Bolivian government expressed different aims to justify secularization that severely affected the nature of the secularization process and brought about different kinds of communities in its aftermath.  The earliest secularizations, those of San Francisco del Pilcomayo and San Antonio del Pilcomayo (1905) and Aguairenda (1911), despite the Liberal rhetoric of freeing the Indians, brought about the privatization of the settlements and the takeover by white settlers.  Nevertheless, some of the indigenous population remained and carved out a space in these towns where they used traditional rights to confirm their control over some of the resources of the former missions.  In turn, the government, in the secularization of the rest of the missions in 1949, established agricultural cooperatives in which the indigenous population initially maintained considerable control over the former missions.  However, the government’s overt aim of mestization of the indigenous population in the long term meant that the indigenous population lost more of the former mission resources in the missions secularized in 1949.  The paper analyzes these differences to understand the impact of missionization of indigenous populations after secularization in the long term.
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