Bourbonization of the Upper Río de la Plata

Thursday, January 2, 2014: 1:20 PM
Columbia Hall 6 (Washington Hilton)
Kevin Chambers, Gonzaga University
The rise of the Bourbon dynasties to the Spanish crown led to a variety of significant structural changes to the colonies and its inhabitants. Generally referred to as the Bourbon Reforms, these laws did not affect all regions or populations uniformly. Previous historical research into the core areas of the imperial colonies has investigated the effects on both privileged and subaltern groups. In recent years, some historians have begun to explore the Bourbon Reforms and their consequences on the fringes of the colonies. What historians are beginning to uncover is that these reforms led fringe regions into new and dynamic periods established foundations for their independence and post-independence periods.

The case of the Upper Rio de la Plata, especially Paraguay, during this period sheds light in two important directions. First, it contributes to the overall picture of the variety of structural impacts that these Bourbon Reforms had on Latin America.  Second, the case study illuminates an important trajectory within Paraguay at this time, which helps explain its early national history better.  At one level, the reforms accelerated commerce and trade in the region.  However, at the same time, such accelerated production in the products that Paraguay traded did not necessarily devastate the Indian pueblos of the region. These consequences will provide the context for Paraguayan independence in 1811, and the direction of the country for the sixty years that followed.

This paper will address the specific ways the Bourbon Reforms affected Paraguay, including the effects on Asunceños, Indian communities, religious bodies, fringe entrepreneurs, and even migrant workers. It will conclude with an explanation of how the Reforms laid a foundation for the characteristics of the future independent Paraguay.