Concepcion mission (1699), Bolivia. Photo Copyright by Geoffrey A. P. Groesbeck
Concepcion mission (1699), Bolivia. Photo Copyright by Geoffrey A. P. Groesbeck

How Many Jesuit Missions Were Founded? Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos (Bolivia)

Evanescence and Permanence: Toward an Accurate Understanding of the Legacy of the Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos.

Written by Geoffrey A. P. Groesbeck

– Part 1: Introduction: Traditional and Later Research Efforts, Recent Research and Its Consequences, Challenges to Current Research

How Many Jesuit Missions Were Founded?

Thanks to the carrying-forward of erroneous assumptions made by earlier writers who did not verify their sources or compare them against primary records (especially the annual letters the Jesuits sent to their provincial superiors and colleagues in Europe), an often-held perception regarding these former reducciones is that there were anywhere from six to ten founded, and that they remain as intact continuations – rather than restored representations – of their Jesuit past. Neither assumption is correct.

In fact, there were no less than twelve reducciones formally established throughout the Chiquitania between 1691 and 1760. Of these, six (San Xavier1, San Rafael de Velasco, San José de Chiquitos, Concepción, San Miguel de Velasco, and Santa Ana de Velasco)F2F were designated World Heritage Sites in 1990 by UNESCO, which accounts for why some reports cite only six reducciones. A seventh – San Ignacio de Velasco – whilst not a World Heritage Site (its mission complex is a reconstruction, not a restoration, and therefore did not satisfy UNESCO’s inclusion criteria) is nonetheless the largest settlement in the Chiquitania and is well known. It is often mistakenly included; doing so makes the tally seven.

The two most remote reducciones, Santiago de Chiquitos and Santo Corazón, are occasionally included, although more often overlooked. A few historians also include the abandoned San Juan Bautista, bringing the total to ten if all of the above settlements are included.

Hornacina, Santa Ana de Velasco mission, Bolivia. Photo Copyright by Geoffrey A. P. Groesbeck

Hornacina, Santa Ana de Velasco mission, Bolivia. Photo Copyright by Geoffrey A. P. Groesbeck

But there were two others – San Ignacio de Boococas and San Ignacio de Zamucos – that are almost never mentioned, again, usually because primary sources were not consulted. (The ephemeral Nuestra Señora del Buen Consejo, claimed by Tonelli as a mission, was merely provisionally settled for a few months3 and cannot be considered a mission.) Yet all twelve of these settlements other than Nuestra Señora del Buen Consejo were reducciones in their own right, and played important roles in the shaping of the history of the Chiquitania.

There is also the tantalising matter of another settlement, Santa Rosa de los Taucas, founded in 1696 in Parabataú4, very near San Rafael and merged later that same year with it. To date, the only two mentions of this short-lived foundation appear in Kühne’s paper “Historia Breve de los Pueblos de Chiquitos y de sus Edificios Patrimoniales” 5 and the jointly-written Chiquitos en las Anuas de la Compañía de Jesús (1691-1767), co-authored by Carlos Page, Isabelle Combès, W. Javier Matienzo, and Roberto Tomichá, OFMConv. (Cochabamba: Itinerarios Editorial, 2011)6.

As one can imagine, there have been many variant totals put forth over the years. In recognition of this, and with the understanding that there likely will continue to be disputes regarding the true number of established missions, a list of all known Jesuit reducciones in Chiquitos, along with their founders or co-founders and important dates associated with the settlement follows.

JESUIT REDUCCIONES IN THE CHIQUITANIA

Settlement

(Original Name)

Founder or Co-founders

Dates

San Xavier*

San Francisco Xavier [de los Piñocas]

Fr. José de Arce+Br.Antonio de Rivas

F 1691

R 1696, 1698, 1705-6

San Rafael de Velasco*

Fr. Juan Bautista Zea+Fr. Francisco Herbás+ F 1695M 1696 (with Santa Rosa de los Taucas)R 1701, 1705

D 1721

San José de Chiquitos*

San José [de los Borós]

Fr. Felipe Suárez+Fr. Dionisio Ávila

F 1697

R 1706

E 1712 (from San Juan Bautista)

San Juan BautistaSan Juan Bautista [de los Xamarus] Fr. Juan Bautista Zea+Fr. Juan Patricio Fernández+Fr. Juan Bautista Xandra+Fr.Pedro Juan Carena?

F 1699

R 1705

A/I 1712 (to San José de Chiquitos)

R/RF 1717

R 1772

D 1781

S 1788 (into Taperas de San Juan, on ruins of settlement of 1717, and San Juan “Nuevo”, on site of relocated settlement of 1772)

M/R 1798-1800 (majority of inhabitants of both towns to new settlement [named San Juan Bautista]; later renamed San Juan de Chiquitos)

D 1811 (San Juan “Nuevo”)

A by 1831 (of Taperas de San Juan)

F c. 1940 (of Taperas, later renamed San Juan de Taperas)

I c. 1960 (majority of San Juan “Nuevo” to Taperas)

Concepción*

La Inmaculada Concepción

Fr. Francisco CaballeroFr. Francisco Herbás+ F 1699A 1704RF 1709M/R 1712 (with San Ignacio de Boococas)R 1722

San Ignacio [de Boococas]

Fr. José Ignacio de Mata+ F 1709M/R 1712 (with Concepción)

San Ignacio [de Zamucos]

Fr. Juan Bautista Zea+Fr. Agustín Castañares+

F 1719

RF 1723

A 1726-7 (for one year)

I 1726 (majority to San José de Chiquitos)

A 1745

I 1748 (majority to San Ignacio de Velasco)

San Miguel de Velasco*

San Miguel Arcángel

Fr. Felipe Suárez+Fr. Francisco Herbás+

F 1722 (E from San Rafael de Velasco)

San Ignacio de Velasco

San Ignacio de Loyola de Velasco

Fr. Miguel Streicher+Fr. Diego Contreras

F 1748 (with majority from San Ignacio de Zamucos)

Santiago de Chiquitos

Santiago Apóstol

Fr. Gaspar Troncoso

Fr. Gaspar Campos

F 1754

R 1762, 1764

Santa Ana de Velasco*

Fr. Julián Nogler

F 1755 (E from San Rafael de Velasco)

Santo Corazón

Santo Corazón de Jesús de Chiquitos

Fr. Antonio Gaspar

Fr. José Chueca

F 1760 (E from San Juan Bautista and San Miguel de Velasco)Rc. 1780

D 1851

F Founded

R Relocated

M Merged

A Abandoned

RF Re-founded

D Destroyed by fire and rebuilt

S Split (into two settlements)

I Inhabitants immigrated to other settlement

E Inhabitants emigrated from other settlement

* Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990.

+ Appointed Superior of the Chiquitos Missions.

– Part 2: Who Constructed the Mission Churches?

NOTES:

1 Often now spelled San Javier, its original name was San Francisco Xavier de los Piñocas.

2 Throughout this article, when two or more reducciones are listed in a group, they are given in chronological order by date of founding.

3 See http://www.chiquitania.com/Chiquitania/mission_pantanal_nsdbc.html.

4 Carlos Page, El Colegio de Tarija y las misiones de Chiquitos según las Cartas Anuas de la Compañía de Jesús (Buenos Aires: Edición On-line, 2011), p. 24.

5 Eckart Kühne, “Historia Breve de los Pueblos de Chiquitos y de sus Edificios Patrimoniales” (Zurich, 2011), p. 17.

6 Carlos Page, Isabelle Combès, W. Javier Matienzo, and Roberto Tomichá, OFMConv., Chiquitos en las Anuas de la Compañía de Jesús (1691-1767), (Cochabamba: Itinerarios Editorial, 2011), p. 32.

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