Part 1 out of 6
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A Vanished Arcadia
by R. B. Cunninghame Graham
[Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham. 1852-1936.]
[Note on text: Some obvious errors have been corrected. See Notes
at end of file.]
[There were a number of accented characters in the original text,
that cannot be conveniently included in ASCII. Some of these recur
throughout the text, most notably: Guarani/ = Guarani; Parana/ = Parana;
Alvar Nun~ez = Alvar Nunez; yerba mate/ = yerba mate; Guaycuru/ = Guaycuru;
Guayra/ = Guayra; Diaz Tan~o = Diaz Tano; Paranapane/ = Paranapane;
Jose/ = Jose; Chiriguana/s = Chiriguanas; Payagua/ = Payagua;
Sen~ora = Senora; Iban~ez = Ibanez; and N~eenguiru/ = Neenguiru
(the last u is sometimes given without an accent).
For a complete list of less common cases, see the end of this file.
The accents have been stripped out of words that are used
as part of an English phrase or sentence, but due to sheer volume,
are marked in the text itself when part of a quotation, book title,
or the like. The symbols employed are mostly obvious: (/) is acute,
(\) is grave, (^) is circumflex, (~) is tilde, (") is umlaut,
(,) [after c in the middle of a word] is cedilla; and (=) is breve.]
A Vanished Arcadia
Being Some Account of the Jesuits in Paraguay
1607 to 1767
By R. B. Cunninghame Graham
Author of "Mogreb-El-Acksa", etc.
With a Map [not included in ASCII text]
THIS SHORT ACCOUNT OF
A VANISHED ARCADIA
TO THE AUTHOR OF
`SANTA TERESA, HER LIFE AND TIMES',
BEING CERTAIN THAT
THE LIFE OF ALL SAINTS IS TO THEM AND US AN ARCADIA;
UNKNOWN TO THEM AND TO US VANISHED WITH THEIR LIVES,
YET STILL REMEMBERED, FITFULLY AS ARE THE JESUITS
IN PARAGUAY, BY A FEW FAITHFUL,
WHEN THE ANGELUS WAKES RECOLLECTION IN THE INDIANS' HEARTS.
BUT, THEN, THE ANGELUS (EVEN OF MEMORY)
IS TO THE MOST PART OF MANKIND ONLY
A JANGLING OF AN ANTIQUATED BELL.
`Historicus nascitur, non fit.' I am painfully aware that neither
my calling nor election in this matter are the least sure. Certain it is
that in youth, when alone the historian or the horseman may be formed,
I did little to fit myself for writing history. Wandering about
the countries of which now I treat, I had almost as little object
in my travels as a Gaucho of the outside `camps'. I never took a note
on any subject under heaven, nor kept a diary, by means of which,
my youth departed and the countries I once knew so well transmogrified,
I could, sitting beside the fire, read and enjoy the sadness of revisiting,
in my mind's eye, scenes that I now remember indistinctly as in a dream.
I take it that he who keeps a journal of his doings, setting down day by day
all that he does, with dates and names of places, their longitude and latitude
duly recorded, makes for himself a meal of bitter-sweet;
and that your truest dulcamara is to read with glasses the faded notes
jotted down hurriedly in rain, in sun, in wind, in camps,
by flooded rivers, and in the long and listless hours of heat --
in fact, to see again your life, as it were, acted for you
in some camera obscura, with the chief actor changed. But diaries,
unless they be mere records of bare facts, must of necessity,
as in their nature they are autobiographical, be false guides;
so that, perhaps, I in my carelessness was not quite so unwise
as I have often thought myself. Although I made no notes of anything,
caring most chiefly for the condition of my horse, yet when I think on them,
pampa and cordillera, virgin forest, the `passes' of the rivers,
approached by sandy paths, bordered by flowering and sweet-smelling trees,
and most of all the deserted Jesuit Missions, half buried
by the vigorous vegetation, and peopled but by a few white-clad Indians,
rise up so clearly that, without the smallest faculty for dealing with that
which I have undertaken, I am forced to write. Flowers, scents,
the herds of horses, the ostriches, and the whole charm of that New World
which those who saw it even a quarter of a century ago saw
little altered from the remotest times, have remained clear and sharp,
and will remain so with me to the end. So to the readers
(if I chance to have them) of this short attempt to give
some faint idea of the great Christian Commonwealth of the Jesuit Missions
between the Parana and Uruguay, I now address myself.
He who attacks a subject quite fallen out of date, and still not old enough
to give a man authority to speak upon it without the fear of contradiction,
runs grave risk.
Gentle, indulgent reader, if so be that you exist in these
the days of universal knowledge and self-sufficient criticism,
I do not ask for your indulgence for the many errors which no doubt
have slipped into this work. These, if you care to take the trouble,
you can verify, and hold me up to shame. What I do crave
is that you will approach the subject with an open mind. Your Jesuit is,
as we know, the most tremendous wild-fowl that the world has known.
`La guardia nera' of the Pope, the order which has wrought
so much destruction, the inventors of `Ciencia media',*
cradle from which has issued forth Molina, Suarez, and all those villains who,
in the days in which the doctrine was unfashionable, decried mere faith,
and took their stand on works -- who in this land of preconceived opinion
can spare it a good word? But, notwithstanding, even a Jansenist, if such
be left, must yet admit the claim of Francis Xavier as a true, humble saint,
and if the sour-faced sectary of Port Royale should refuse, all men of letters
must perforce revere the writer of the hymn.
* The doctrine of the `Ciencia Media' occurs in the celebrated
`Concordia gratiae et liberi arbitrii', by Luis de Molina (1588).
The concilium de Auxiliis was held to determine whether or not
`concordia' was possible between freewill and grace. As the Jesuits
stuck by Molina and his doctrines in despite of councils and of popes,
the common saying arose in Spain: `Pasteles en la pasteleria
y ciencia media en la Compan~ia.'
But into the whole question of the Jesuits I cannot enter,
as it entails command of far more foot and half-foot words
than I can muster up. Still, in America, and most of all in Paraguay,
I hope to show the Order did much good, and worked amongst the Indians
like apostles, receiving an apostle's true reward of calumny,
of stripes, of blows, and journeying hungry, athirst, on foot,
in perils oft, from the great cataract of the Parana
to the recesses of the Tarumensian woods. Little enough I personally care
for the political aspect of their commonwealth, or how it acted
on the Spanish settlements; of whether or not it turned out profitable
to the Court of Spain, or if the crimes and charges of ambition
laid to the Jesuits' account were false or true. My only interest
in the matter is how the Jesuits' rule acted upon the Indians themselves,
and if it made them happy -- more happy or less happy
than those Indians who were directly ruled from Spain, or through
the Spanish Governors of the viceroyalties. For theories of advancement,
and as to whether certain arbitrary ideas of the rights of man,
evolved in general by those who in their persons and their lives
are the negation of all rights, I give a fico -- yes, your fig of Spain --
caring as little as did ancient Pistol for `palabras',
and holding that the best right that a man can have is to be happy
after the way that pleases him the most. And that the Jesuits
rendered the Indians happy is certain, though to those men who fudge
a theory of mankind, thinking that everyone is forged upon their anvil,
or run out of their own mould, after the fashion of a tallow dip
(a theory which, indeed, the sameness of mankind renders at times
not quite untenable), it seems absurd because the progress of the world
has gone on other lines -- lines which prolonged indefinitely
would never meet those which the Jesuits drew. All that I know
is I myself, in the deserted missions, five-and-twenty years ago
often have met old men who spoke regretfully of Jesuit times,
who cherished all the customs left by the company, and though they spoke
at secondhand, repeating but the stories they had heard in youth,
kept the illusion that the missions in the Jesuits' time had been a paradise.
Into the matter of the Jesuits' motives I do not propose to enter,
holding that the origin of motives is too deeply seated
to be worth inquiry until one has more information about the human mind
than even modern `scientists' seem able to impart. Yet it is certain
the Jesuits in Paraguay had faith fit to remove all mountains,
as the brief stories of their lives, so often ending with a rude field-cross
by the corner of some forest, and the inscription `hic occissus est'
survive to show. Some men -- such is the complexity of human nature --
have undergone trials and persecutions for base motives,
and it is open for anyone to say the Jesuits, as they were Jesuits,
could do nothing good. Still, I believe that Father Ruiz Montoya --
whose story I have told, how falteringly, and with how little justice
to his greatness, none knows better than myself -- was a good man --
that is, a man without ulterior motives, and actuated but
by his love to the poor Indians with whom he passed his life.
To-day, when no one can see good in anything or anybody
outside the somewhat beefy pale of the Anglo-Saxon race, I do not hope
that such a mere dabbler in the great mystery of history as I am myself
will for an instant change one preconceived opinion; for I am well aware
that speeches based on facts are impotent in popular assemblies
to change a single vote.
It is an article of Anglo-Saxon faith that all the Spanish colonies
were mal-administered, and all the Spanish conquerors
bloodthirsty butchers, whose sole delight was blood. This, too,
from the members of a race who . . .; but `In the multitude of the greyhounds
is the undoing of the hare.' Therefore, I ask those who imagine
that all Spaniards at the conquest of America were ruffians,
to consider the career of Alvar Nunez, who also struts through
his brief chapter in the pages of my most imperfect book.
Still, I admit men of the stamp of Alvar Nunez are most rare,
and were still rarer in the sixteenth century; and to find many
of the Ruiz Montoya brand, Diogenes would have needed a lantern
fitted with electric light. In the great controversy which engaged
the pens of many of the best writers of the world last century,
after the Jesuits were expelled from Spain and her colonial possessions
(then almost half the world), it will be found that amongst all the mud
so freely flung about, the insults given and received, hardly anyone
but a few ex-Jesuits had any harm to say of the doings of the Order
during its long rule in Paraguay. None of the Jesuits were ever tried;
no crimes were charged against them; even the reasons for their expulsion
were never given to the world at large. Certain it is
that but a few years after their final exit from the missions
between the Uruguay and Parana all was confusion. In twenty years
most of the missions were deserted, and before thirty years had passed
no vestige of their old prosperity remained.
The semi-communism which the Jesuits had introduced was swept away,
and the keen light of free and vivifying competition (which beats so fiercely
upon the bagman's paradise of the economists) reigned in its stead.
The revenues declined,* all was corruption, and, as the Governor,
Don Juan Jose Vertiz, writes to the Viceroy,** the secular priests
sent by the Government were brawlers, drunkards, and strikers,
carrying arms beneath their cloaks; that robbery was rife;
and that the Indians daily deserted and returned by hundreds to the woods.
* Dean Funes, `Ensayo de la Historia Civil del Paraguay', etc.,
Buenos Aires, 1816.
** Idem. The letter is dated 1771 and the Jesuits were expelled in 1767.
As the writer of the letter was on the spot in an official position,
and nominated by the very Viceroy who had been the expeller of the Jesuits,
his testimony would seem to be as valuable as that of the ablest theorist
on government, Catholic or Protestant, who ever wrote.
All the reports of riches amassed in Paraguay by the Jesuits,
after the expulsion of their order proved to be untrue;
nothing of any consequence was found in any of the towns,
although the Jesuits had had no warning of their expulsion,
and had no time for preparation or for concealment of their gold.
Although they stood to the Indians almost in the light of gods,
and had control of an armed force larger by far than any
which the temporal power could have disposed of, they did not resist,
but silently departed from the rich territories which their care and industry
Rightly or wrongly, but according to their lights, they strove to teach
the Indian population all the best part of the European progress of the times
in which they lived, shielding them sedulously from all contact
with commercialism, and standing between them and the Spanish settlers,
who would have treated them as slaves. These were their crimes.
For their ambitions, who shall search the human heart,
or say what their superiors in Europe may, or perhaps may not,
have had in view? When all is said and done, and now their work is over,
and all they worked for lost (as happens usually with the efforts
of disinterested men), what crime so terrible can men commit as to stand up
for near upon two centuries against that slavery which disgraced
every American possession of the Spanish* crown? Nothing is bad enough
for those who dare to speak the truth, and those who put their theories
into practice are a disgrace to progressive and adequately taxed communities.
Nearly two hundred years they strove, and now their territories,
once so populous and so well cultivated, remain, if not a desert,
yet delivered up to that fierce-growing, subtropical American plant life
which seems as if it fights with man for the possession of the land
in which it grows. For a brief period those Guaranis gathered together
in the missions, ruled over by their priests, treated like grown-up children,
yet with a kindness which attached them to their rulers,
enjoyed a half-Arcadian, half-monastic life, reaching to just so much
of what the world calls civilization as they could profit by and use
with pleasure to themselves. A commonwealth where money was unknown
to the majority of the citizens, a curious experiment by self-devoted men,
a sort of dropping down a diving-bell in the flood of progress
to keep alive a population which would otherwise soon have been suffocated
in its muddy waves, was doomed to failure by the very nature of mankind.
Foredoomed to failure, it has disappeared, leaving nothing of a like nature
now upon the earth. The Indians, too, have vanished, gone to that limbo
which no doubt is fitted for them. Gentle, indulgent reader,
if you read this book, doubt not an instant that everything that happens
happens for the best; doubt not, for in so doing you would doubt
of all you see -- our life, our progress, and your own infallibility,
which at all hazards must be kept inviolate. Therefore in my imperfect sketch
I have not dwelt entirely on the strict concatenation
(after the Bradshaw fashion) of the hard facts of the history of the Jesuits.
I have not set down too many dates, for the setting down of dates
in much profusion is, after all, an ad captandum appeal
to the suffrages of those soft-headed creatures who are styled serious men.
* This, of course, applies to the possessions of all European States
in America equally with Spain.
Wandering along the by-paths of the forests which fringe the mission towns,
and set them, so to speak, in the hard tropical enamel of green foliage,
on which time has no lien, and but the arts of all-destroying man
are able to deface, I may have chanced upon some petty detail which may serve
to pass an hour away.
A treatise of a forgotten subject by a labourer unskilled, and who, moreover,
by his very task challenges competition with those who have written
on the theme, with better knowledge, and perhaps less sympathy;
a pother about some few discredited and unremembered priests;
details about half-savages, who `quoi! ne portaient pas
des haults de chausses'; the recollections of long silent rides
through forest paths, ablaze with flowers, and across which the tropic birds
darted like atoms cut adrift from the apocalypse; a hotch-potch, salmagundi,
olla podrida, or sea-pie of sweet and bitter, with perhaps the bitter
ruling most, as is the way when we unpack our reminiscences --
yes, gentle and indulgent reader, that's the humour of it.
R. B. Cunninghame Graham.
March 30, 1900.
Early history -- State of the country -- Indian races -- Characteristics of
the different tribes -- Dobrizhoffer's book -- Various expeditions --
Sebastian Cabot -- Don Pedro de Mendoza -- Alvar Nunez --
His expedition and its results -- Other leaders and preachers --
Founding of the first mission of the Society of Jesus
Early days of the missions -- New settlements founded --
Relations of Jesuits with Indians and Spanish colonists --
Destruction of missions by the Mamelucos -- Father Maceta --
Padre Antonio Ruiz de Montoya -- His work and influence --
Retreat of the Jesuits down the Parana
Spain and Portugal in South America -- Enmity between
Brazilians and Argentines -- Expulsion of Jesuits from Paraguay --
Struggles with the natives -- Father Mendoza killed --
Death of Father Montoya
Don Bernardino de Cardenas, Bishop of Paraguay -- His labours
as apostolic missionary -- His ambitions and cunning --
Pretensions to saintliness -- His attempts to acquire supreme power --
Quarrels between Cardenas and Don Gregorio, the temporal Governor
Renewal of the feud between the Bishop and Don Gregorio --
Wholesale excommunications in Asuncion -- Cardenas in 1644
formulates his celebrated charges against the Jesuits --
The Governor, after long negotiations and much display of force,
ultimately succeeds in driving out the Bishop -- For three years
Cardenas is in desperate straits -- In 1648 Don Gregorio
is suddenly dismissed, Cardenas elects himself Governor,
and for a short time becomes supreme in Asuncion -- The Jesuits
are forced to leave the town and to flee to Corrientes -- A new Governor
is appointed in Asuncion -- He defeats Cardenas on the field of battle --
The latter is deprived of his power, and dies soon after as Bishop of La Paz
Description of the mission territory and towns founded by the Jesuits --
Their endeavours to attract the Indians -- Religious feasts and processions
-- Agricultural and commercial organizations
Causes of the Jesuits' unpopularity -- Description of the lives and habits
of the priests -- Testimony in favour of the missions --
Their opposition to slavery -- Their system of administration
Don Jose de Antequera -- Appoints himself Governor of Asuncion --
Unsettled state of affairs in the town -- He is commanded
to relinquish his illegal power -- He refuses, and resorts to arms --
After some success he is defeated and condemned to be executed -- He is shot
on his way to the scaffold -- Renewed hatred against the Jesuits --
Their labours among the Indians of the Chaco
The Spanish and Portuguese attempt to force new laws on the Indians --
The Indians revolt against them -- The hopeless struggle goes on
for eight years -- Ruin of the missions
Position of the Jesuits in 1761 -- Decree for their expulsion
sent from Spain -- Bucareli sent to suppress the colleges and drive out
the Jesuits -- They submit without resistance -- After two hundred years
they are expelled from Paraguay -- The country under the new rule --
The system of government practically unchanged
A Vanished Arcadia
Being Some Account of the Jesuits in Paraguay
1607 to 1767
Early history -- State of the country -- Indian races -- Characteristics of
the different tribes -- Dobrizhoffer's book -- Various expeditions --
Sebastian Cabot -- Don Pedro de Mendoza -- Alvar Nunez --
His expedition and its results -- Other leaders and preachers --
Founding of the first mission of the Society of Jesus
With the exception of the French Revolution, perhaps no event
caused so much general controversy at the end of the eighteenth century
as the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain and Portugal
and their colonial possessions. As no definite charges were ever brought,
at least in Spain, against the members of the Company of Jesus
(King Charles III. having kept the reasons `ocultas y reservadas'
and the proofs `privilegiados'), curiosity is to some extent not satisfied
as to the real reason of their expulsion from the Spanish possessions
It is almost impossible to understand nowadays the feelings
which possessed the average man in regard to the Jesuits
from the middle of the last century till a relatively short time ago.
All the really great work done by the Society of Jesus
seemed to have been forgotten, and every vulgar fable
which it was possible to invent to their prejudice found ready acceptance
upon every side. Nothing was too absurd to be believed.
From the calumnies of the Jansenists to the follies of Eugene Sue
the mass of accusation, invective, and innuendo kept on increasing
in intensity. Indiscriminate abuse and unreasoning hatred,
mixed with fear, seem to have possessed all minds. Even Pascal
confesses (in a postscript to the ninth Provincial Letter) that
`after having written my letter I read the works of Fathers Barry and Binet.'
If such a man as Pascal could be so grossly unfair as to write a criticism
on works which he had not read, what can be expected from
the non-judicial and uncritical public which takes all upon trust?
From Japan to the interior of Bolivia there is scarcely a country
in which the Jesuits have not laboured assiduously, and in which
they have not shed their blood freely without hope of reward,
yet it would require much time and a lengthy catalogue to enumerate
the list of satirical and calumnious works which have appeared against them
in almost every language in Europe. Of these, perhaps the most celebrated
is the well-known `Monarquia de los Solipsos',* by Padre Melchior Inshoffer,
an ex-Jesuit, who describes the company in the worst possible terms.
It is interesting chiefly on account of the portraits of well-known
people of the time (1615 to 1648), as Pope Clement VIII., Francisco Suarez,
Claudio Aquaviva, and others, veiled under easily distinguishable pseudonyms.
The object of the writer, as the title indicates, is to show that the Jesuits
endeavoured to turn all to their own profit. In this, if it was the case,
they do not seem to have been greatly different from every other associated
body of men, whether lay or clerical. The celebrated Spanish proverb,
`Jesuita y se ahorca, cuenta le hace', meaning, Even if a Jesuit is hung
he gets some good out of it, may just as well be applied
to members of other learned professions as to the Jesuits.
* Madrid, 1770.
The world has rarely persecuted any body of men conspicuous by its poverty,
or if it has done so has rarely persecuted them for long.
The Inquisition of Spain, violent against the wealthy Jews
and comfortable Moriscos, took little notice of the Gipsies;
but, then, `Pobre como cuerpo de Gitano' was and is a common saying in Spain.
As in the case of the Templars, persecution only began against the Jesuits
when it became worth while to persecute them. Ignatius Loyola,
Francisco Xavier, and Diego Lainez, as long as they
confined themselves to preaching and to teaching, were safe enough.
Even the annals of theological strife, bloodthirsty and discreditable
to humanity as they are, contain few examples of persecutors
such as Calvin or Torquemada, to whom, ruthless as they were
in their savage and narrow malignity and zeal for what they thought the truth,
no suspicion of venal motives is attributed.
Of the Jesuits' intrigues, adventures, rise and fall in Europe,
much may be said in attack or in extenuation; but it is not
the intention of the present work to deal with this aspect of the question.
It was in Spanish America, and especially in Paraguay and Bolivia,
where the policy of the Company in regard to savage nations
was most fully developed, as it was only the Jesuits who ever succeeded
in reclaiming any large number of the nomad or semi-nomad tribes
of those countries.
Many excellent works in French, and the celebrated `Christianismo Felice
nel Paraguay' of the Abbate Muratori in Italian, certainly exist.
But neither Father Charlevoix, the French historian of the missions,
nor Muratori was ever in Paraguay, and both their books contain
the faults and mistakes of men, however excellent and well intentioned,
writing of countries of which they were personally ignorant.
Both give a good account of the customs and regimen of the missions,
but both seem to have believed too readily fabulous accounts
of the flora and fauna of Paraguay.* The fact of having listened too readily
to a fable about an unknown animal in no way detracts from
the general veracity of an author of the beginning of the eighteenth century,
for in all other respects except natural history Charlevoix keeps
within the bounds of probability, though of course as a Jesuit
he holds a brief for the doings of the Company in Paraguay.
Muratori is more rarely led into extravagances, but is concerned in the main
with the religious side of the Jesuits, as the title of his book indicates.
* Though in this respect Charlevoix is not so credulous
as Padre Ruiz de Montoya and the older writers, he yet repeats
the story of the bird that cleans the alligator's teeth,
the magic virtues of the tapir's nails, and many others.
See Charlevoix, vol. i., bk. i., p. 27, Paris, 1756.
[The story of the bird that cleans the teeth of alligators
is very nearly true -- `Pluvianus aegyptius' has a symbiotic relationship
with crocodiles in parts of Africa, and similar relationships exist
throughout the natural world. -- A. L., 1998.]
Many other French writers, as Raynal, Montesquieu, and Voltaire,
have treated of Paraguay under Jesuit rule, but their writings are founded
on hearsay evidence. A German, Father Dobrizhoffer, stands alone.*
His delightful `History of the Abipones, an Equestrian People of Paraguay',
is perhaps the most charming book dealing with the subject.
A simple and easy style, a keen habit of observation,
long acquaintance with the country, a zeal for the conversion of the infidel,
not only to Christianity, but to a more comfortable mode of life,
to which he adds a faith sufficient to move the Cordillera of the Andes,
but at the same time restricted by a common-sense and veracity
not always observable in religious writers, render Dobrizhoffer
a personal friend after the perusal of his writings.
* Dobrizhoffer's book was written in Latin, and printed in Vienna in 1784
under the title of `Historia de Abiponibus', etc. A German translation
by Professor Keil was published at Pesth in the same year.
The English translation is of the year 1822.
English is singularly barren in regard to the Jesuits in Paraguay.
Father Falconer, an English Jesuit, has left a curious and interesting book
(printed at Hereford in 1774), but he treats exclusively of what is now
the province of Buenos Ayres, the Falkland Islands, and of Patagonia.
As an Englishman and a Jesuit (a somewhat rare combination
in the eighteenth century), and as one who doubtless knew
many of the Paraguayan priests, his testimony would have been most important,
especially as he was a man of great information, much education,
an intrepid traveller, and, moreover, only entered the Company of Jesus
at a comparatively advanced age.
It is in Spanish, or in Latin by Spanish authors, that the greater portion
of the contemporary histories and accounts are to be found.*
Literatures, like other things, have their times of fashion.
At one time a knowledge of Spanish was as requisite as
some tincture of French is at present, and almost as universal.
Men from Germany, England, and Holland who met in a foreign country
communicated in that language. In the early portion of the century
Ticknor, Prescott, and Washington Irving rendered Spanish literature
fashionable to some degree.
* It is to be remembered that the Spanish colonists were as a rule
antagonistic to the Jesuits, and that, therefore, Spanish writers
do not of necessity hold a brief for the Jesuits in Paraguay.
Moreover, the names of Esmid (Smith), Fildo (Fields), Dobrizhoffer,
Cataldini and Tomas Bruno (Brown, who is mentioned as being
`natural de Yorca'), Filge, Limp, Pifereti, Enis, and Asperger,
the quaint medical writer on the virtues of plants found
in the mission territory, show how many foreign Jesuits were actually
to be found in the reductions of Paraguay. For more information
on this matter see the `Coleccion de Documentos relativos a/ la Expulsion
de los Jesuitas de la Republica Argentina y Paraguay',
published and collected by Francisco Javier Brabo, Madrid, 1872.
Later the historical researches of Sir William Stirling Maxwell
drew some attention to it. To-day hardly any literature of Europe
is so little studied in England. Still leaving apart
the purely literary treasures of the language, it is in Spanish,
and almost alone in Spanish, that the early history of America is to be found.
After the struggle for independence which finished about 1825,
some interest was excited in the Spanish-American countries,
stimulated by the writings of Humboldt; but when it became apparent
that on the whole those countries could never be occupied
by Northern Europeans, interest in them died out except for purposes connected
with the Stock Exchange. Yet there is a charm which attaches to them
which attaches to no other countries in the world. It was there
that one of the greatest dramas, and certainly the greatest adventure
in which the human race has engaged, took place. What Africa has been
for the last twenty years, Spanish America was three hundred years ago,
the difference being that, whereas modern adventure in Africa
goes on under full observation, and deals in the main with absolutely
uncivilized peoples, the conquest of South America was invested
with all the charm of novelty, and brought the conquerors into contact with
at least two peoples almost as advanced in most of the arts of civilization
as they were themselves.
When first Sebastian Cabot and Solis ascended the Parana,
they found that the Guaranis of Paraguay had extended
in no instance to the western shore of either of those rivers.
The western banks were inhabited then, as now, by the wandering Indians
of the still not entirely explored territory of the Gran Chaco.
Chaco* is a Quichua Indian word meaning `hunting' or `hunting-ground',
and it is said that after the conquest of Peru the Indian tribes
which had been recently subjugated by the Incas took refuge
in this huge domain of forest and of swamp.
* The Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, in his `Commentarios Reales' (en Madrid 1723,
en la oficina Real y a/ costa de Nicholas Rodriguez Franco,
Impressor de libros, se hallaran en su casa en la calle
de el Poc,o y en Palacio), derives the word from
the Quichua `Chacu/' = a surrounding. If he is right, it would then be
equivalent to the Gaelic `tinchel'. Taylor, the Water-poet,
has left a curious description of one of these tinchels.
It was at a tinchel that the rising under the Earl of Mar in the '15
Be that as it may, the Chaco Indians of to-day, comprising the remnants
of the Lulis, Tobas, Lenguas, Mocobios, and others, are almost as savage
as when first we hear of them in the pages of Alvar Nunez
and Hulderico Schmidel. These tribes the Jesuits on many occasions
attempted to civilize, but almost entirely without success, as the long record
of the martyrdom of Jesuit missionaries in the Chaco proves,
as well as the gradual abandonment of their missions there,
towards the second half of the eighteenth century.
Certain it is that at various places in the Chaco, in the quaint old maps
the Jesuits have left us, one reads `Mission de Santa Cruz de los Vilelas',
`Mission de la Concepcion de los Frontones', and others; but much
more frequently their maps are studded with crosses, and some such legend
as `Hic occisi sunt PP. Antonius Salinus et Petrus Ortiz Zarate'.*
It was only when the Jesuits encountered the more peaceful Guaranis
that they met with real success.
* See the curious map contained in the now rare work of P. Pedro Lozano,
entitled, `Descripcion Chorographica . . . del Gran Chaco, Gualamba', etc.
Also in the interesting collection of old maps published in 1872 at Madrid
by Francisco Javier Brabo.
What was the nature of their success, how durable it was,
what were the reasons which caused the expulsion of the order from America,
and especially from Paraguay, and what has been the result upon
the remainder of the Indians, it is my object to endeavour to explain.
A long residence in the river Plate, together with two visits to Paraguay,
in one of which I saw almost all the remnants of the Paraguayan missions
and a few of those situated in the province of Corrientes,
and in the Brazilian province of Rio Grande do Sul, have given me
some personal acquaintance with the subject.*
* It is, of course, to be taken into consideration that my two journeys
in Paraguay were made after the great war which terminated in 1870,
after lasting four years; but the writings of Demersay
(`Histoire du Paraguay et des E/tablissements des Je/suites',
Paris, 1862), those of Brabo, and of Azara, show the deserted state
of the district of Misiones in the period from 1767,
the date of the expulsion of the Jesuits, to the middle of
the nineteenth century.
The actual condition of the rich district of Misiones (Paraguay)
at the time I visited it, shortly after the conclusion of the great war
between Paraguay and Brazil in 1870, does not enable me
to speak with authority on the condition of communities,
the guiding spirits of which were expelled as far back as the year 1767.
The actual buildings of the missions, the churches in a dismantled state,
have indeed survived; in many instances the tall date-palms
the Jesuits planted still wave over them. Generally the college was occupied
by the Indian Alcalde, who came out to meet the visitor on a horse
if he possessed one, with as much silver about the bridle and stirrups
as he could afford, clothed in white, with a cloak of red baize,
a large `jipi-japa' hat, and silver spurs buckled on his naked feet.
If he had never left the mission, he talked with wonder and respect
of the times of the Jesuits, and at the `oracion' knelt down
to pray wherever the sound of the angelus might catch him.
His children before bedtime knelt all in a row to ask his blessing.
If he had been to Asuncion, he probably remarked that the people
under those accursed priests were naught but animals and slaves,
and launched into some disquisition he had heard in the solitary cafe
which Asuncion then boasted. In the latter case, after much
of the rights of man and the duties of hospitality, he generally presented you
with a heavy bill for Indian corn and `pindo'* which your horse had eaten.
In the former, usually he bade you go with God, and, if you spoke of payment,
said: `Well, send me a book of Hours when you get to Asuncion.'
* `Cocos Australis'.
Of Indians, hardly any were left to judge of, for in the villages in which,
according to the reports furnished to Bucareli, the Viceroy of Buenos Ayres
at the time of the expulsion of the Jesuits, the population numbered
in the thirty towns of the missions one hundred and twenty thousand,*
a population of at most twenty thousand was to be found.
On every side the powerful vegetation had covered up the fields.
On ruined church and chapel, and on broken tower, the lianas climbed
as if on trees, creeping up the belfries, and throwing
great masses of scarlet and purple flowers out of the apertures
where once were hung the bells. In the thick jungles a few half-wild cattle
still were to be found. The vast `estancias', where once
the Jesuits branded two and three thousand calves a year,
and from whence thousands of mules went forth to Chile and Bolivia,
were all neglected. Horses were scarce and poor, crops few and indifferent,
and the plantations made by the Jesuits of the tree (`Ilex Paraguayensis')
from which is made the `yerba mate', were all destroyed.
* See the reports of the Marques de Valdelirios and others
in the publications of Francisco Javier Brabo, Madrid, 1872,
and in the `Ensayo de la Historia Civil de Paraguay,
Buenos-Ayres y Tucuman', por Dr. Don Gregorio Funes, Buenos Ayres, 1816.
In the vast forests, stretching to the Salto de Guayra,
a few scattered tribes, known as Caaguas, roamed through the thickets,
or encamped upon the streams. In the thirty towns,
once full of life and stir, in every one of which there was a church,
finer, as an old Spanish writer says, than any in Buenos Ayres,
there was naught but desolation and despair. The Indians either
had returned into the woods, been killed in the ceaseless revolutionary wars,
or had been absorbed into the Gaucho populations of Corrientes, Rio Grande,
Entre Rios, and of Santa Fe.
It may be that all Indian races are destined to disappear
if they come into contact with Europeans; certainly, experience would seem
to confirm the supposition. The policy of the Jesuits, however,
was based on isolation of their missions, and how this might have worked
is matter at least for speculation. It was on account of the isolation
which they practised that it was possible for the extravagant calumnies
which were circulated as to their rule and riches to gain belief.
It was on account of isolation that the first conflicts arose
betwixt them and the authorities, both clerical and lay. That the Jesuits
were more highly esteemed than the other religious orders in Spanish America
in the seventeenth century, the saying current in those days,
`Los demas van a/ un~a, los Jesuitas a/ una' -- i.e., The others get
all they can, but the Jesuits have one aim (the conversion of the Indians) --
seems to show.
It is not my purpose to deal with the probable reasons
which induced their expulsion in Europe. Suffice it to say that,
whatever crimes or misdemeanours they were guilty of,
they were never called on to answer before any tribunals,
and that in many instances they were treated, especially in Portugal,
with great cruelty and injustice.
The burning, at the age of eighty, of the unfortunate Malagrida in Lisbon
under the auspices of Pombal, for a book which it seems improbable
he could have written in prison at so great an age, and which, moreover,
was never brought into court, only supposed extracts from it being read,
may serve as an example. In order clearly to understand
the position of the Jesuits in America, and especially
in Paraguay and Bolivia, it is necessary to glance briefly
at the history of the first conquest of the river Plate.
The discovery of America opened up to Europe, and especially to Spain,
opportunities for expansion of national territory and individual advancement
which no epoch, either before or since, has equalled.
From a cluster of small States, struggling for existence
against a powerful enemy on their own soil, in a few years
Spain became the greatest empire of the world. The result was that
a spirit of adventure and a desire to grow rich speedily possessed
all classes. In addition to this, every Spaniard in America
during the first few years of the conquest seemed to consider himself,
to some extent, not only as a conqueror, but also as a missionary.
Now, missionaries and conquerors are men, on the whole, more imbued with
their own importance and sanctity, and less disposed to consider consequences,
than almost any other classes of mankind. The conjunction of the two in one
disposed the `conquistadores' of America to imagine that,
no matter how cruel or outrageous their treatment of the Indians was,
they atoned for all by the introduction of what they considered
the blessing of the knowledge of the true faith. It will be
seen at once that, if one can determine with accuracy
which of the many `faiths' preached about the world is actually
the true faith, a man who is in possession of it is acting properly
in endeavouring to diffuse it. The meanest soldier in the various armies
which left Spain to conquer America seems to have had no doubt
about the matter.
Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who, as he himself relates,
came to America at the age of eighteen, and therefore could have had
little previous opportunity of studying theology, and who, moreover,
was unfitted to do so by the want of knowledge of Latin, to which
he himself confesses, yet at the end of his history of the conquest of Mexico,
one of the most interesting books ever written, has the following passage:
`But it is to be noted that, after God, it was we, the real conquerors,
who discovered them [the Indians] and conquered them; and from the first
we took away their idols, and taught them our holy doctrine,
and to us is due the reward and credit of it all, before any other people,
even though they be churchmen: for when the beginning is good,
the middle and ending is good, which the curious [i.e., attentive] reader
may see in the Christian polity and justice which we showed them in New Spain.
`And I will leave the matter, and tell the other benefits which, after God,
by our agency, came to the natives of New Spain.'*
* Bernal Diaz, `Historia de la Conquista de la Nueva Espan~a',
vol. iv., cap. 207, Madrid, 1796.
One would imagine, on reading the above extract, Bernal Diaz had never
killed an Indian in his life, and that he had sacrificed his prospects
in coming to Mexico solely to introduce `a Christian polity and justice'
amongst the inhabitants. Yet he was no hypocrite, but a stout
sagacious soldier, even kindly, according to his lights,
and with a love of animals uncommon in a Spaniard, for he has preserved
the names and qualities of all the horses and mares which came over
in the fleet from the Havana with Cortes.* The phrase, `despues de Dios'
(after God) occurs repeatedly in the writings of almost all
the `conquistadores' of America. Having, after God, conquered America,
the first action of the conquerors was to set about making their fortunes.
In those countries which produced gold and silver, as Mexico and Peru,
they worked the mines by the labour of the Indians,
the cruelties and hardships being so great that, in a letter of Philip II. to
the Come de Chinchon, the Viceroy of Peru, dated Madrid, April 30, 1639,
written fifty years after the discovery, he says: `These Indians flee,
become ill, and die, and have begun to diminish greatly in number,
and they will be finished soon unless an efficient remedy
is provided shortly.'
* Especially noting down the appearance and qualities of `el caballo Motilla',
the horse of Gonzalo de Sandoval. Thus does he minutely describe Motilla,
`the best horse in Castille or the Indies'. `El mejor caballo,
y de mejor carrera, revuelto a/ una mano y a\ otra que decian
que no se habia visto mejor en Castilla, ni en esa tierra
era castan~o acastan~ado, y una estrella en la frente,
y un pie izquierdo calzado, que se decia el caballo Motilla;
e/ quando hay ahora diferencia sobre buenos caballos,
suclen decir es en bondad tan bueno como Motilla.'
In Paraguay there were no mines, but there were other methods
of extracting money from the Indians. At the first conquest
Paraguay was not the little country bounded on the west by the Paraguay,
on the south by the Parana, on the north by the Aquidaban,
and on the east by Sierra of Mbaracavu, as it is at present.
On the contrary, it embraced almost all that immense territory
known to-day as the Argentine Confederation, some of the Republic of Uruguay,
and a great portion of Brazil, embracing much of the provinces of Misiones,
Rio Grande do Sul, Parana, and Matto Grosso, as well as Paraguay itself.
How the little country, twelve hundred miles from the sea,
came to give its name to such an enormous territory, and to have
the seat of government at Asuncion, demands some explanation.
Peru and Chile were discovered and occupied some time before
the eastern side of South America. Their riches naturally drew
great attention to them; but the voyage, first to Cartagena de Indias,
and then across the isthmus, and the re-embarkation again on the Pacific,
were both costly and arduous. It had been the ambition of all explorers
to discover some river which would lead from the Atlantic
to the mines of Peru and what is now Bolivia, then known as Alta Peru.
Of course, this might have been achieved by ascending the Amazon,
especially after the adventurous descent of it by Orellana,
of which Fray Gaspar de Carbajal has left so curious a description;
but, whether on account of the distance or for some other reason,
it never seems to have been attempted.
In 1526 Sebastian Cabot left Spain with three small vessels and a caravel
for the object of reaching the Moluccas or Spice Islands.
It was his purpose to reach them through the Straits of Magellan.
Being compelled by want of supplies to abandon his route, he entered
a broad estuary, and ascended it under the impression that he had discovered
another channel to the Pacific. He soon found his mistake,
and began to explore the surrounding country. Fifteen years before,
with the same object, Juan de Solis had entered the same estuary.
On the island of Martin Garcia he was killed by a Chana Indian,
and his expedition returned home. Hearing that there was much silver
at the head-waters, he had called it the Rio de la Plata.
If we take the head-waters of the river Plate to be situated in Bolivia,
there certainly was much silver there; but Cabot was unaware
that the head-waters were above two thousand miles from the estuary,
and he was not destined to come near them. He did go as far
as a point on the river Caracara, in what is now the province of Santa Fe,
and there he built a fort which he named Espiritu Santo,
the first Spanish settlement in that part of America.
Whilst at Espiritu Santo, several exploring parties were sent
to scour the country. One of them, under a soldier of the name of Cesar,
never returned. Tradition, always eager to make up to history
for its want of interest, asserted that after marching for years
they reached a city. Perhaps it was the mystic Trapalanda of which
the Gauchos used to discourse at night when seated round a fire of bones
upon the pampa. Perhaps some other, for enchanted cities and Eldorados
were plentiful in those days in America, alternating with occasional empires,
as that of Puytita, near the Laguna de los Xarayes, Manoa,
and the Ciudad de los Cesares, supposed to be situated near Arauco
in the Chilian Andes. However, one of the party actually returned
after years, and related his adventures to Ruy Diaz de Guzman,*
the first historian of Paraguay. Thus it was that the stream of adventurers
was ever seeking for a channel to the mines of Peru from the Atlantic coast.
Cabot appears to have ascended the Parana to the island of Apipe,
and then, returning, entered the river Paraguay. Having ascended
past what is now Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, Cabot encountered
Indians from the north who told him of the mines in Peru and in Bolivia,
probably unaware that Cabot knew of them already. At this point,
encouraged by what he heard, he gave the name of Rio de la Plata
to what had previously been known either as La Mar Dulce or El Rio de Solis.
Like most names which are wrongly given, it remained to testify
to the want of knowledge of the giver. Four years after, Cabot returned
to Spain, having failed to attract attention to his discoveries.
In the face of the wealth which was pouring in from the Peruvian mines,
another expedition started for the river Plate. Its General -- for in Spain
the title was used indifferently by land and sea -- was Don Pedro de Mendoza,
a gentleman of Guadix in Almeria, and a member of the household of Charles V.
* `La Argentina', included in the `Coleccion de Angelis', Buenos Ayres, 1836.
Don Pedro had seen service in the Italian wars, and seems to have been
a man of character and bravery, but wanting in the discretion
and the necessary tact essential in the founder of a colony.
In 1534 the expedition started, unfortunate almost from the first.
In a `certain island', as the historian of the expedition, Hulderico Schmidel,
a German or Flemish soldier, calls Rio Janeiro, a dispute occurred
between Don Pedro and his second in command, Juan de Osorio.
At a court-martial held upon Osorio, Don Pedro appears to have let fall
some remarks which Juan de Ayolas, the Alguazil Mayor (Chief Constable),
seems to have taken up as an order for instant execution.
This he performed upon the spot, plunging his dagger repeatedly into Osorio,
or, as Hulderico Schmidel has it, `sewing him up with cuts'
(`cosiendole a\ pun~aladas'). This murder or execution -- for who
shall tell when murder finishes and its legal counterpart begins? --
rendered Don Pedro very unpopular with all the fleet; for, as Schmidel has it
in his history,* `the soldiers loved Osorio.' To be loved by the soldiers
was the only chance a Spanish officer had in those times of holding his own.
Both Schmidel and Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who had both been common soldiers,
and who, curiously, both wrote histories, lose no occasion of vilifying
officers who used the soldiers hardly. It is true that Bernal Diaz
(who, unlike Schmidel, was a man of genius) does so with some discretion,
and always apparently with reason. Schmidel, on the other hand,
seems to have considered that any officer who interfered
between the soldiers and the Indians was a tyrant, and hence
his denunciation of Alvar Nunez, under whom he served.
* `Historia y Descubrimiento de el Rio de la Plata y Paraguay',
Hulderico Schmidel, contained in the collection made
by Andres Gonzalez Barcia, and published in 1769 at Madrid
under the title of `Historiadores Primitivos de las Indias Occidentales'.
In 1535 the expedition entered the river Plate. Here Mendoza,
with his usual want of judgment, pitched upon what is now
the site of Buenos Ayres as the spot on which to found his colony.
It would be difficult to select a more inconvenient place
in which to found a town. The site of Buenos Ayres is almost level
with the waters of the river Plate, which there are shallow --
so shallow that large vessels could not approach nearer
than ten to fifteen miles. Without a harbour, the anchorage was exposed
to the full fury of the south-west gales, known as `pamperos'.
However, if the site was bad the air was good; at least, it seems so,
for a captain of the expedition exclaimed on landing, `Que buenos aires
son estos!' and hence the name. Here every sort of evil chance
came on the newborn colony. The Pampa Indians, whom the historian Schmidel
seems to have only known by their Guarani name of Querandis,
at first were friendly. After a little while they ceased to bring provisions,
and the General sent out an expedition to compel them under his brother,
Don Diego de Mendoza. It does not seem to have occurred
to Don Pedro de Mendoza that, had the `cacique' of the Querandis
landed in Spain, no one would have brought him provisions for a single day
without receiving payment. However, Don Pedro* had come to America
to introduce civilization and Christianity, and therefore,
knowing, like Bernal Diaz and the other conquerors, his own moral worth,
was justly indignant that after a day or two the Indians
refused him more supplies. In the encounter which took place
between the Spaniards and the Indians, Don Diego de Mendoza was slain,
and with him several others. Here for the first time we hear of the bolas,
or three stones united, like a Manxman's legs, with strips of hide,
with which, as Hulderico Schmidel tells us, the Indians caught the horses
by the legs and threw them down. After this foretaste of European justice,
the Indians besieged the newly-built town and brought it to great straits,
so much so that, after three men had been hung for stealing a horse,
in the morning it was discovered they had been cut down and eaten.
In this desperate state Don Pedro despatched Juan de Ayolas to get supplies.
He, having obtained some maize from the Timbu Indians, returned,
leaving a hundred of his men in a little fort, called Corpus Christi,
close to Espiritu Santo, the fort which Cabot had constructed.
The friendliness of the Timbus induced Don Pedro to abandon Buenos Ayres
and move to Corpus Christi. There he repaired with about five hundred men,
all who remained of the two thousand six hundred and thirty
with which he sailed from Cadiz. The horses he abandoned on the pampa;
there they became the ancestors of the innumerable herds which at one time
overspread the Argentine Republic from the Chaco to Patagonia,
and whose descendants to this day stock the `estancias' of that country.**
* The great Las Casas, who made seven voyages from America to Spain
-- the last at the age of seventy-two -- to protect the Indians,
had a strong opinion about `conquerors' and `conquests'.
In the dedication of his great treatise on the wrongs of the Indians,
he says: `Que no permita (Felipe II.) las atrocidades
que los tiranos inventaron, y que prosiguen haciendo
con titulo de "conquistas". Los que se jactan de ser "conquistadores"
a que descienden de ellos son muchomas orgullosos arrogantes y vanos
que los otros Espan~oles.' Strange that even to-day
the same `atrocidades' of `tiranos' are going on in Africa.
No doubt the descendants of these `conquerors' will be
as arrogant, proud, and vain as the descendants of the `conquistadores'
of whom Las Casas writes.
** Mendoza left (`Azara Apuntamientos para la Historia Natural
de los Quadrupedes del Paraguay', etc.) five mares and seven horses
in the year 1535. In 1580 Don Juan de Garay, at the second founding
of the city, already found troops of wild horses. The cattle increased
to a marvellous extent, and by the end of the century
were wild in Patagonia. Sarmiento (`Civilisation et Barbarisme')
says that early in this century they were often killed by travellers,
who tethered their horses to the carcasses to prevent them
from straying at night.
From Corpus Christi Juan de Ayolas was sent out to explore the river,
and try to find the long-sought-for waterway to the Peruvian mines.
He never reached Peru, and Corpus Christi never saw him return.
Mendoza waited a year, and then returned to Spain, leaving his garrison
with provisions for a year, the bread* `at the rate of (`a/ razon de')
a pound a day, and if they wanted more to get it for themselves.'
On the passage home he died insane. The pious were of opinion
that it was a judgment on him for the murder of Don Juan Osorio.
Before he embarked, Don Pedro had despatched a relative, Gonzalo de Mendoza,
to Spain to bring provisions and recruits. Gonzalo, having obtained
provisions in Brazil, returned to Corpus Christi; thence in company
with Salazar de Espinosa he headed an expedition up the river
in search of Juan de Ayolas, who had been appointed successor to Don Pedro.
With them went Domingo Martinez de Irala, a man destined to play a great part
in the conquest of Paraguay.
* Hulderico Schmidel, `Historia del Descubrimiento de el Rio de la Plata
The expedition went up the Paraguay to a place near Fort Olimpo
(21 Degrees long., 58 Degrees lat.) about a hundred leagues above Asuncion.
Here they sent out exploring parties in all directions to seek Ayolas,
but without success. Irala remained with one hundred men at Fort Olimpo.
Gonzalo de Mendoza on his return, being attracted by the sight of a fine site
for a town, landed, and on the fifteenth day of August, 1537,
founded Asuncion. Here the Spaniards first met the Guaranis,
who were destined in after-years to be the converts of the Jesuits,
and be assembled by them in their famous missions.
`At the discovery of America,' says Felix de Azara in his
`Descripcion y Historia del Paraguay', `the Guaranis were spread
from the Guianas to the shores of the river Plate, and occupied
all the islands of the Parana extending up to latitude 20 Degrees
on the Paraguay, but without crossing either that river or the river Plate.'
They had also a few towns in the province of Chiquitos,
and the nation of the Chiriguanas was an offshoot from them.
In Brazil they were soon all either rendered slaves or so crossed
with the African negro that the pure race has been almost entirely lost,
though the language remains under the name of the Lingoa Geral,
and many words from it have been introduced into Portuguese
spoken by the Brazilians, as `capim', grass; `caipira', half-caste, etc.
In fact, so great is the number of these words, idioms, phrases,
and terms of speech derived from Guarani, that Dr. Baptista de Almeida,
in his preface to his grammar published at Rio Janeiro (1879), computes that
there are more words derived from Guarani than even from Arabic
in the Portuguese spoken in Brazil.* The Guaranis in Brazil
were known either as Tupis, from the word `tupy',** savage, or Tupinambas,
from `tupynamba', literally, the savage or indigenous men.
* Perhaps the two most important works upon the language
are the `Tesoro de la Lengua Guarani', by Ruiz de Montoya,
Madrid, 1639 (it is dedicated to the `Soberana Virgen');
and the `Catecismo de la Lengua Guarani', by Diego Diaz de la Guerra,
Madrid, An~o de 1630. He also wrote a `Bocabulario y Arte
de la Lengua Guarani'.
** P. Guevara, in his `Historia del Paraguay', relates a curious story
which he said was current amongst the Indians. Two brothers,
Tupi and Guarani, lived with their families upon the sea-coast of Brazil.
In those days the world was quite unpopulated but by themselves.
They quarrelled about a parrot, and Tupi with his family went north,
and populated all Brazil; whilst Guarani went west,
and was the ancestor of all the Indians of the race of Guaranis.
Jean de Lery, the well-known Huguenot pastor and friend of Calvin,
passed a year on the coast of Brazil about 1558, having accompanied
the expedition of the famous Villegagnau. In his book
(`Histoire d'un Voyage faict en la Terre du Brezil') he always
refers to the Indians as Toupinaubaoults, and has preserved
many curious details of them before they had had much contact with Europeans.
He appears to have had a considerable acquaintance with the language,
and has left some curious conversations `en langage sauvage et Franc,ais',
in which he gives some grammatical rules. The language of conversation
is almost identical with that of Paraguay, though some words are used
which are either peculiar to the Tupis or obsolete in Paraguay to-day.
His account of their customs tallies with that of the various
Spanish writers and explorers who have written on the subject.
Tobacco, which seems to have been known under the name of `nicotiane' to Lery,
he finds in Brazil under the name of `petun', the same name
by which it is called in Paraguay at present. He believed
that `petun' and `nicotiane' were two different plants,
but the only reason he adduces for his belief is that `nicotiane'
was brought in his time from Florida, which, as he observes,
is more than a thousand leagues from `Nostre Terre du Brezil'.
His experience of savages was the same as that of Azara,
and almost all early travellers, for he says: `Nos Toupinambaoults
rec,oivent fort humainement les estrangers amis qui les vont visiter.'*
Lery, however, seemed to think that, in spite of their pacific inclination,
it was not prudent to put too much power in their hands, for he remarks:
`Au reste parcequ'ils chargeyent, et remplisseyent leurs mousquets
jusques au bout . . . nous leurs baillions moitie/ (i.e., la poudre)
de charbon broye/.' This may have been a wise precaution,
but he omits to state if the `charbon broye' was `bailli' at the same price
as good powder. According to Azara, who takes his facts partly
from the contemporary writers -- Schmidel, Alvar Nunez,
Ruy Diaz de Guzman, and Barco de la Centenera -- the Guaranis were divided
into numerous tribes, as Imbeguas, Caracaras, Tembues, Colistines,
and many others. These tribes, though apparently of a common origin,
never united, but each lived separately under its own chief.
Their towns were generally either close to or in the middle of forests,
or at the edge of rivers where there is wood. They all cultivated pumpkins,
beans, maize, mani (ground nuts), sweet potatoes, and mandioca;
but they lived largely by the chase, and ate much wild honey.
Diaz in his `Argentina' (lib. i., chap. i.) makes them cannibals.
Azara believes this to have been untrue, as no traditions of cannibalism
were current amongst the Guaranis in his time, i.e., in 1789-1801.
Liberal as Azara was, and careful observer of what he saw himself,
I am disposed to believe the testimony of so many eye-witnesses
of the customs of the primitive Guaranis, though none of them
had the advantage enjoyed by Azara of living three hundred years
after the conquest. It may be, of course, that the powers of observation
were not so well developed in mankind in the beginning of the sixteenth
as at the end of the eighteenth century, but this point I leave to those
whose business it is to prove that the human mind is in a progressive state.
However, Father Montoya, in his `Conquista Espiritual del Paraguay',
affirms most positively that they used to eat their prisoners taken in war.'**
* Azara, in his `Descripcion y Historia del Paraguay', has a similar passage:
`Recibe bien todo Indio silvestre, al estrangero que viene de paz.'
** `Por lo comun reparten pedazos de este cuerpo, del qual pedazo cozido
en mucha agua hacen unas gachas (`fritters') y es fiesta muy celebre
para ellos que hacen con muchas cerimonias.'
Their general characteristics seem to have been much the same
as those of other Indians of America. For instance, they kept
their hair and teeth to an extreme old age, their sight was keen,
they seldom looked you in the face whilst speaking, and their disposition
was cold and reserved. The tone of their voices was low,
so low that, as Azara says: `La voz nunca es gruesa ni sonora,
y hablan siempre muy bajo, sin gritar aun para quejarse si los matan;
de manera que, si camina uno diez pasos delante, no le llama
el que le necesita, sino que va a/ alcanzarle.' This I have myself observed
when travelling with Indians, even on horseback.
There was one characteristic of the Guaranis in which
they differed greatly from most of the Indian tribes in their vicinity,
as the Indians of the Chaco and the Pampas, for all historians alike agree
that they were most unwarlike. It is from this characteristic
that the Jesuits were able to make such a complete conquest of them,
for, notwithstanding all their efforts, they never really succeeded
in permanently establishing themselves amongst any of the tribes
in the Chaco or upon the Pampas.
The name Guarani is variously derived. Pedro de Angelis,
in his `Coleccion de Obras y Documentos', derives it from `gua', paint,
and `ni', sign of the plural, making the signification of the word
`painted ones' or `painted men'. Demersay, in his `Histoire du Paraguay',*
thinks it probable that the word is an alteration of the word `guaranai',
i.e., numerous. Barco de la Centenera** (`Argentina', book i., canto i.)
says the word means `hornet', and was applied on account of their savageness.
Be that as it may, it is certain that the Guaranis did not
at the time of the conquest, and do not now, apply the word to themselves,
except when talking Spanish or to a foreigner. The word `aba',
Indian or man, is how they speak of their people, and to the language
they apply the word `Abanee'.
* `Histoire du Paraguay et des E/tablissements des Je/suites',
L. Alfred Demersay, Paris, 1864.
** `La Argentina', a long poem or rhyming chronicle contained
in the collection of `Historiadores Primitivos de Indias',
of Gonzales Barcia, Madrid, 1749.
In the same way the word `Paraguay' is variously derived
from a corruption of the word `Payagua' (the name of an Indian tribe),
and `y', the Guarani word for water, meaning river of the Payaguas.
Others, again, derive it from a Guarani word meaning `crown',
and `y', water, and make it the crowned river, either from the palm-trees
which crown its banks or the feather crowns which the Indians wore
at the first conquest. Others, again, derive it from a bird
called paraqua (`Ortolida paraqua'). Again, Angelis, in his work
`Serie de los Sen~ores Gobernadores del Paraguay' (lib. ii., p. 187),
derives it from Paragua, the name of a celebrated Indian chief
at the time of the conquest. What is certain is that `y'
is the Guarani for water, and this is something in a derivation.
`Y' is perhaps as hard to pronounce as the Gaelic `luogh', a calf,
the nasal `gh' in Arabic, or the Kaffir clicks, having both
a guttural and a nasal aspiration.* It is rarely attempted with success
by foreigners, even when long resident in the country. Though Paraguay
was so completely the country of the Jesuits in after-times,
they were not the first religious Order to go there. Almost in every instance
the ecclesiastics who accompanied the first conquerors of America
were Franciscans. The Jesuits are said to have sent two priests
to Bahia in Brazil ten years after their Order was founded,
but both in Brazil and Paraguay the Franciscans were before them
in point of time.
* Lozano, in his `Historia del Paraguay', compares it to Greek,
but in my opinion fails to establish his case; but, then,
so few people know both Greek and Guarani.
San Francisco Solano, the first ecclesiastic who rose to much note
as a missionary, and who made his celebrated journey through the Chaco
in 1588-89 from Peru to Paraguay, was a Franciscan.* Thus, the Franciscans
had the honour of having the first American saint in their ranks.
It is noteworthy, though, that he was recalled from Paraguay by his superiors,
who seem to have had no very exalted opinion of him.
* He passed through the whole Chaco, descending the Pilcomayo
to its junction with the Paraguay, through territories but little explored
even to-day. Perhaps the most complete description of the Chaco
is that of P. Lozano, with the following comprehensive title:
`Descripcion chorographica de Terreno Rios, Arboles, y Animales
de los dilatadisimas Provincias del Gran Chaco, Gualamba,
y de los Ritos y Costumbres de la inumerables naciones
barbaros e/ infideles que le habitan. Con un cabal Relacion Historica
de lo que en ellos han obrado para conquistarlas algunos
Gobernadores y Ministros Reales, y los Misioneros Jesuitas
para reduc irlos a\ la fe del Verdadero Dios.' Por el Padre Pedro Lozano,
de la Compan~ia de Jesus, An~o de 1733. En Cordoba
por Joseph Santos Balbas.
This book did not appear in a clandestine manner, for it had:
1. Censura, por C. de Palmas. 2. Licencia de la Religion,
por Geronymo de Huro/za, Provincial de los Jesuitas de Andalucia.
3. Licencia del Ordinario por el Dr. Don Francisco Miguel Moreno,
por mandado del Sr. Provisor Alonso Joseph Gomez de Lara.
4. Aprobacion del Rdo. P. Diego Vasquez. 5. Privelegio de su Majestad
por Don Miguel Fernandez Morillo. 6. Fe/ de Corrector por el Licenciado,
Don Manuel Garcia Alesson, Corrector General de su Majestad
(who adds in a note, `este libro corresponde a\ su original').
7. Sumo de Tassa, as follows: `Tassaron los sen~ores del Consejo
este libro a\ seis maravedis cada pliego.'
Palma, in the first `censura', says that he had read it several times
`con repetida complacencia', and that, though it was `breve en volumen'
(it has 484 quarto pages), that it was also short in its concise style,
kept closely to the rules of history, and was `muy copiosa en la doctrina'.
Charlevoix remarks (`History of Paraguay') `that it seems as if Providence,
in granting him miraculous powers, had forgotten the other necessary steps
to make them effective.' That he really had these powers seems strange,
but San Francisco Solano narrates of himself that, in passing through
the Chaco, he learned the languages of several of the tribes,
and `preached to them in their own tongues of the birth, death,
and transfiguration of Christ, the mysteries of the Trinity,
Transubstantiation, and Atonement; that he explained to them
the symbols of the Church, the Papal succession from St. Peter downwards,
and that he catechized the Indians by thousands, tens and hundreds
of thousands, and that they came in tears and penitence
to acknowledge their belief.'
Of course, to-day it is difficult to controvert these statements,
even if inclined to do so; but the languages spoken by the Chaco Indians
are amongst the most difficult to learn of any spoken by the human race,
so much so that Father Dobrizhoffer, in his `History of the Abipones',
says `that the sounds produced by the Indians of the Chaco
resembled nothing human, so do they sneeze, and stutter, and cough.'
In such a language the Athanasian Creed itself would be puzzling
to a neophyte.
He also says that several of the Jesuits who had laboured
for years amongst the Indians could never master their dialects,
and when they preached the Indians received their words
with shouts of laughter. This the good priest attributed to
the presence of a `mocking devil' who possessed them. It may be
that the mocking devil was but a sense of humour, the possession of which,
even amongst good Christians, has been known to give offence.
But be this as it may, San Francisco de Solano remained two years at Asuncion,
though whilst he lived there his powers of speech (according to the Jesuits)
seem to have been diminished, and he held no communication with the Indians
in their own languages. It may be that, like St. Paul, he preferred to speak,
when not with Indians, five words with his understanding
rather than ten thousand in an unknown tongue.
At the time of the first conquest Paraguay was almost entirely peopled
by the Guarani race.* It does not appear that their number
was ever very great, perhaps not exceeding a million
in the whole country. From the writings of Montoya, Guevara, Lozano,
and the other missionaries of the time, it is certain that they had attained
to no very high degree of civilization, though they were certainly
more advanced than their neighbours in the Gran Chaco.
It is most probable that they had not a single stone-built town,
or even a house, or that such a thing existed south of New Granada,
to the eastward of the Andes, for we may take the description in Schmidel's
`History of the Casa del Gran Moxo'** either as a mistake or as a story
which he had heard from some Peruvian Indian of the palaces of the Incas.
At any rate, no remains of stone-built houses, still less of palaces,
are known to have been found in Brazil or Paraguay.
* This race at one time spread from the Orinoco to the river Plate,
and even in the case of its offshoot, the Chiriguanas,
crossed to the west bank of the Paraguay. Padre Ruiz Montoya,
in his `Conquista Espiritual del Paraguay', cap. i.,
speaking of the Guarani race, says: `Domina ambos mares el del sur
por todo el Brasil y cin~iendo el Peru con los dos mas grandes rios
que conoce el orbe que son el de la Plata, cuya boca en Buenos-Ayres
es de ochenta leguas, y el gran Maran~on, a\ el inferior
en nada e que pasa bien vecino de la ciudad de Cuzco.'
** Barco de la Centenera, in `La Argentina', canto v., also refers
to `La Casa del Gran Moxo'. It was situated `en una laguna',
and was `toda de piedra labrada'.
To-day all the Guaranis who are still unconquered live in the impenetrable
forests of the North of Paraguay or in the Brazilian province of Matto Grosso.
Their limits to the south extend to near the ruined missions
of Jesus and Trinidad. By preference, they seem to dwell
about the sources of the Igatimi, an affluent of the Parana,
and in the chain of mountains known either as San Jose or Mbaracayu.
The Paraguayans generally refer to them as Monteses (dwellers in the woods),
and sometimes as Caaguas. They present almost the same characteristics
as they did at the discovery of the country, and wander in the woods
as the Jesuits describe them as doing three hundred years ago.
Olive in colour, rather thickly set, of medium height, thin beards,
and generally little hair upon the body, their type has remained unchanged.
The difference in stature amongst the Guaranis is less noticeable
than amongst Europeans. Their language is poorer than the Guarani spoken
by the Paraguayans, and the pronunciation both more nasal and guttural.
Their numerals only extend to four, as was the case
at the time of the discovery.*
* Their numerals are four in number (`petei^, mocoi^, mbohapi=, ira^ndi=');
after this they are said to count in Spanish in the same way
as do the Guarani-speaking Paraguayans. Much has been written
on the Guarani tongue by many authors, but perhaps the `Gramatica',
`Tesoro', and the `Vocabulario' of Padre Antonio Ruiz Montoya,
published at Madrid in 1639 and 1640, remain the most important works
on the language. Padre Sigismundi has left a curious work in Guarani
on the medicinal plants of Paraguay. Before the war of 1866-70
several MS. copies were said to exist in that country.
See Du Gratz's `Re/publique du Paraguay', cap. iv., p. 214.
Like their forefathers, they seldom unite in large numbers,
and pay little honour or obedience to their chiefs, who differ in no respect,
either in arms, dress, or position, from the ordinary tribesmen.
In Brazil they are confined to the southern portion of the province
of San Paulo, and are called by the Brazilians Bugres -- that is, slaves.
A more unfitting name it would have been impossible to hit upon,
as all efforts to civilize them have proved abortive, and to-day
they still range the forests, attacking small parties of travellers,
and burning isolated farm-houses. The Brazilians assert
that they are cannibals, but little is known positively as to this.
What has altered them so entirely from the original Guaranis
of the time of the conquest, who were so easily subdued,
it is hard to conjecture. One thing is certain: that the example given them
by the Christian settlers has evidently not been such as to induce them
to leave their wild life and enter into the bonds of civilization.
Diaz, in the `Argentina', thinks the Caribs of the West Indies
were Guaranis, and the Jesuits often refer to them under that name.*
This point would be easily set at rest by examining if any Guarani words
remain in the dialect of the Caribs of the Mosquito coast.
As to their relative numbers at the time of the foundation of the missions,
it is most difficult to judge. At no one time does the population
of the thirty towns seem to have exceeded one hundred and thirty thousand.
* See Demersay, `Histoire du Paraguay', p. 324, for names of Guarani tribes.
Alfred Maury also, in his `La Terre et l'Homme Ame/ricain', p. 392,
speaks of `le rameau brasilio-guaranin, ou Cara/ibe, qui s'etendait
jadis depuis les Petites-Antilles jusqu'au Paraguay.'
D'Orbigny in his `L'Homme Americain', estimates the Guaranis of Brazil
at one hundred and fifty thousand.
Humboldt cites two hundred and sixty-nine thousand as the probable number
of Indians of every kind in the Brazilian Empire.
The Viscount de Itabayana (a Brazilian writer) fixes the number
at two hundred and fifty thousand to three hundred thousand.
Veloso de Oliveira puts it at eight hundred thousand;
and later statisticians range between one million five hundred thousand
and seven to eight hundred thousand.
The numbers given of Indians by the Spanish conquerors are almost always
grossly overstated, from the wish they not unnaturally had
to magnify the importance of their conquests and to enhance their exploits
in the eyes of those for whom they wrote.
Struck by the tractable character of the Guaranis, Mendoza began
to build a fort on August 15, 1537 (which is the day of the Assumption),
and the name he gave to his fort was Asuncion, which afterwards became
the capital of Paraguay.
Espinosa returned to Corpus Christi, and afterwards to Buenos Ayres,
where a small force had still remained. This force,
tired of the ceaseless battles with the Querandis, or Pampa Indians,
embarked for Asuncion.
Irala, after waiting for many months at Fort Olimpo, returned to Asuncion,
where he found Ruiz de Galan acting as Governor. A dispute at once arose
between them, and Irala, after having been imprisoned, was allowed to return
to Fort Olimpo. Here he found the Payagua Indians in rebellion,
and in the battle which ensued he is reported to have slain seven of them
with his own hand.* He still maintained a fitful search for Juan de Ayolas,
but without success.
* Few modern `conquerors' in Africa seem to have engaged in personal combat
with the natives. Even of Mr. Rhodes it is not set down
that he has killed many Matabele with his own hands. Times change,
not always for the bettering of things.
Galan returned to Buenos Ayres, and, stopping at Corpus Christi,
took occasion to fall upon the friendly and unsuspecting Timbu Indians
and massacre a quantity of them. Why he did so is quite uncertain,
for the Timbues had been in the habit of supplying the fort of Corpus Christi
with provisions; it may be that the quality of the provisions was inferior,
but neither Ruiz Diaz nor Schmidel informs us on the point.
Galan, after his `victory', re-embarked for Buenos Ayres,
leaving Antonio de Mendoza in command with a hundred men.
One day, when about the half of the force was hunting,
the Indians fell upon it and cut it off to the last man;
but for the opportune arrival of two vessels the fort would have
been destroyed. However, many Spaniards were slain, and Antonio de Mendoza
After this battle, in which Santiago* is said to have appeared
on the top of the principal tower of the fort dressed in white
with a drawn sword in his hand, Galan and Espinosa returned to Asuncion,
taking with them the remainder of the inhabitants of Buenos Ayres.
At Asuncion they found that Irala had again returned
without having discovered traces of Ayolas. Irala was elected Governor
under a clause in the royal letters patent which provided
for the case of Ayolas not returning. His first act was to order
the complete evacuation of Buenos Ayres. An Italian vessel, which was
going to Peru with colonists, having been driven into the river Plate,
united with the remains of the colonists at Buenos Ayres and proceeded
* Santiago, as in duty bound, usually appeared whenever Spaniards
were hard pressed. Few writers had the courage of Bernal Diaz,
who of a similar appearance said: `But I, sinner that I was,
was not worthy to see him; whom I did see and recognise
was Francisco de Morla on his chestnut horse' (Bernal Diaz,
`Historia de la Conquista de Nueva Espan~a', cap. xxxiv., p. 141;
Curiously enough, the remnants of several expeditions thus joined
to found the first permanent city in the territories of the river Plate;
not at Buenos Ayres, but a thousand miles away in the interior of the country,
where it seemed little probable that their attempt would prove successful.
To preside over the heterogeneous elements of which Asuncion was composed,
Domingo Martinez de Irala was chosen. He was a Biscayan,
a member of that ancient race which neither Romans nor Moors were ever able
to subdue. Nothing is known about his antecedents. Not improbably
he was a son of one of the innumerable small gentlemen with whom
the Basque provinces used to swarm. Almost every house in the little towns
even to-day has its coat of arms over the door. Every inhabitant
claimed to be a nobleman, and in the reign of Charles V. they furnished
many soldiers of repute in the wars of Europe and America.
The system of Irala was to conciliate rather than subdue the natives.
Isolated from help of every kind, the length of the voyage from Spain
precluding all idea of speedy succour in a rebellion, it was the only course
he could pursue.
From the very first he encouraged the soldiers to marry women of the country,
thus creating ties which bound them to the land.
Two Franciscan friars* set about at once to learn the language
and preach to the people. They also seem to have endeavoured
to reduce the Guarani language to writing. So, from several circumstances,
the early history of Paraguay was very different from that of every other
Spanish possession in America. To all the others Spanish women
seem to have gone in greater or in smaller numbers. To Paraguay,
at the foundation of Asuncion, it seems that hardly any women went.
* Thus it will be seen that the Franciscans were at work in the country
long before the arrival of the Jesuits. It may be on this account
that they became such bitter enemies of the later comers.
So there a different state of society arose to that, for example,
in Chile or in Mexico. In both those countries few Spaniards ever married
native women. Those who did so were either members of the highest class
-- who sometimes, but rarely, married Indian women of position
from motives of policy -- or else the lowest class of Spaniards;
in this case, after a generation, their children became
practically Indians. In Paraguay it was quite the contrary,
and the grandchildren of Indian mothers and Spanish fathers
were almost reckoned Spaniards, and the next generation always so.
Washburne, in his `History of Paraguay' (p. 32, cap. i., vol. i.),
points out the contrast between the effects of the treatment meted out
by Penn to the Indians in Pennsylvania and that by Irala in Paraguay.
Where, he asks, are the Indian tribes with whom the celebrated Quaker treated?
In Paraguay, on the other hand, at least in the time when Washburne
was Minister from the United States to Lopez (from 1861 to 1868),
the few remaining Paraguayans of the upper class were almost all descended
from the intermarriages of the followers of Irala with the natives.
The tyranny of Lopez, and the effects of the disastrous war
with Brazil and the Argentine Republic, have almost extirpated
every Paraguayan (of the old stock) with the least pretensions
to white descent.
Ruiz Diaz de Guzman, speaking of the mixed race in Paraguay and Buenos Ayres,
`They are generally good soldiers, of great spirit and valour,
expert in the use of arms, especially in that of the musquet,
so much so that, when they go on long journeys, they are accustomed
to live on the game which they kill with it. It is common for them
to kill birds on the wing, and he is accounted unfit for a soldier
who cannot bring down a pigeon. They are such excellent horsemen
that there is no one who is not able to tame and ride an unbroken colt.
`The women generally are virtuous, beautiful, and of a gentle disposition.'
If the inhabitants of Paraguay and the river Plate of those days
were good marksmen, it is more than can be said of the Gauchos
of the Argentine provinces and the Paraguayans of twenty years ago.
Without military training, so far from being able to bring down a pigeon
on the wing, few could hit the trunk of a tree at fifty paces.
The usual method of shooting used to be to cram as much ammunition
into the gun as the hand would contain, and then, looking carefully away
from the object aimed at, to close both eyes and pull the trigger.
Accuracy of aim was not so much considered as loudness of report.
As regards their powers of riding, they are still unchanged;
and as to the virtue of their women, virtue is so largely
a matter of convention that it is generally wisest to leave
such matters uncommented on, as it is so easy not to understand
the conventions of the people of whom one writes.
Whilst Irala was conciliating the Guaranis in Paraguay, Charles V. had
not forgotten that the new settlement of Buenos Ayres had been abandoned.
After much search, he selected Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca
to be the new Governor; and, as Alvar Nunez was perhaps
the most remarkable of all the Spanish `conquistadores' of the New World,
it may not be out of place to give some facts of his career,
as his policy in regard to the Indians was almost that of the Jesuits
As he himself informs us in his Commentaries,* his `father was that
Pedro de Vera who won Canaria,' and his mother `Dona Teresa Cabeza de Vaca,
a noble lady of Jerez de la Frontera.' After the Spanish fashion of the time,
he used the names of both his parents.
* `Comentarios de Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca'. Published by
Don Andres Gonzalez Barcia in his collection of `Early Historians
of the Indies' (Madrid, 1749).
In 1529 he sailed with the ill-fated expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez
to Apalache in Florida, was shipwrecked, tried to regain
the Spanish settlements in boats, and then cast by a storm absolutely naked,
and with only three companions, upon an unknown land. Taken by the Indians,
he was made a slave, then rose to be a pedlar, then a doctor,
and finally a chief, held sacred for his mysterious powers.
At last he made his way on foot into the territory of New Spain,
not as a captive, but as the leader of several hundred Indians,
who followed him and did his bidding as if he had been born their chief.
Rambling about for months, but always followed by his Indians,
he at length encountered a Spanish horse-soldier, and, accosting him,
found he had almost forgotten Spanish during his ten years' sojourn
with the Indians. His first entreaty, when he found Spanish
gradually returning to him, was to the Spaniards not to harass
his Indian following. Then he besought the Indians themselves
to cease their nomad life and cultivate the soil. In neither case
was he successful, as the Spaniards, like all other Europeans,
held Indians little removed from dogs. And for the Indians,
the few remaining are as much attached to their old wandering life as in
the days of the discovery of the New World. In all that Alvar Nunez writes,
he shows a grandeur of soul and spirit far different from the writings,
not only of the conquerors of the New World, but of the conquerors of Africa
of to-day. For him no bragging of his exploits.*1* All that he says
he sets down modestly and with excuses (as every now and then,
`Me pesa hablar de mis trabajos'), and as befits a gentleman.
Lastly, he leaves the reader (when describing his captivity in Florida),
by telling him quite quietly and without comment that God was pleased to save
from all these perils himself, Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, Andres Dorantes,
and that the fourth was a negro called Estevanico, a native of Azimur.
But, not contented with his ten years' captivity, after three years at home
he entered into a certain `asiento'*2* and `capitulacion'*3* with the King
to sail at his own charges with an expedition to succour
Don Pedro de Mendoza, who was hard pressed by famine and the Indians
at Buenos Ayres. He agreed to furnish eight thousand ducats,
horses, arms, men, and provisions at his own expense, upon condition
that he was made Governor and Adelantado of the Rio de la Plata,
and General both of its armies and its fleets.
*1* It must be allowed, however, that in their writings
few of the Spanish `conquistadores' of America bragged much.
They mostly gave the credit of all their doings to the God of Battles.
The boasting has been reserved for the conquerors of Africa
in our own time.
*2* `Asiento' is a contract. The contract which Charles V.,
at the well-meant but unfortunate instigation of Las Casas,
made with the Genoese to supply negroes for America
is known as `El Asiento de los Negros'.
*3* In the `capitulacion' made by Alvar Nunez with the King
occurs the celebrated clause, `Que no pasasen procuradores ni abogados
a las Indias', i.e., that neither solicitors nor barristers should go
to the Indies. It is unfortunate it was not held to stringently,
as in Paraguay, at least, the Reptilia were already well represented.
Upon November 2, 1537, he embarked at Cadiz with his fleet,
consisting of a caravel and two full-rigged ships. All went well
up to the Cape de Verdes. On nearing the equator, it occurred
to the `Maestro del Agua' to examine his stock of water,
and, out of one hundred pipes which had been put aboard, he found
but three remaining, and from these the thirty horses and four hundred men
who were on board all had to drink. Seeing the greatness of the necessity,
the Governor -- for Alvar Nunez almost always speaks of himself
in the third person -- gave orders that the fleet should make for land.
`Three days,' he says in his Commentaries, `we sailed in search of it';
and on the fourth, just before sunrise, occurred a very notable affair,
and, as it is not altogether `fuera de proposito', I set it down,
and it is this -- `that, going towards the land, the ships had almost touched
on some sharp rocks we had not seen.' Then, as now, I take it,
vigilance was not a noticeable quality in Spanish sailors.
Just as the vessels were almost on the rocks, `a cricket commenced to sing,
which cricket a sick soldier had put into the ship at Cadiz, being anxious
to hear its music, and for the two months which our navigation had endured
no one had heard it, whereat the soldier was much enraged;
and as on that morning it felt the land [`sintio la tierra'],
it commenced to sing, and its music wakened all the people of the ship,
who saw the cliffs, which were distant almost a crossbow-shot
from where we were, so we cast out anchors and saved the ship,
and it is certain that if the cricket had not sung all of us,
four hundred soldiers and thirty horses, had been lost.' Some of the crew
accepted the occurrence as a miracle from God; but Nunez himself
is silent on that head, being a better observer of natural history
than a theologian. But `from there, and sailing more than a hundred leagues
along the coast, the cricket every evening gave us his music,
and thus with it we arrived at a little port beyond Cape Frio,
where the Adelantado landed and unfurled his flag, and took possession
for His Majesty.' The expedition disembarked at Santa Catalina in Brazil.
`There the Governor landed his men and twenty-six of the horses
which had escaped the sea, all that remained of forty-six embarked in Spain.'
The `odium theologicum' gave the Governor some work at once.
Two friars -- Fray Bernardo de Armenta and Fray Alonso Lebron, Franciscans --
had burnt the houses of some Indians, who had retaliated
in the heathen fashion by slaughtering two Christians.
The `people being scandalized', the Governor sent for the friars,
admonished them, and told them to restrain their zeal.
This was the first false step he made, and set all friars and priests
throughout America against him. Hearing at Santa Catalina
that Buenos Ayres was almost abandoned, and that the inhabitants had founded
the town of Asuncion del Paraguay, Alvar determined to march thither by land,
and send his ship into the river Plate and up the Paraguay.
The two Franciscan friars he told to remain and `indoctrinate' the Indians.
This they refused to do, saying they wished to reside amongst
the Spaniards in Asuncion. Had they been Jesuits, it is ten to one
they had remained and spent their lives `indoctrinating',
for the Jesuits alone of all the religious Orders were ever ready
to take every risk.
Upon his march the Governor, contrary to all good policy and precedent,
ordered that nothing should be taken from the Indians without due payment
being made. To insure this being done, he paid for all provisions himself,
and served them out to the soldiery. This made him as unpopular
with his soldiers as his dealings with the two Franciscans had made him
amongst the friars. Surely he might have known that Pizarro, Cortes,
Almagro, and the rest, were men who never paid for anything.
Still, he persisted in his conduct to the end, and so brought ruin on himself.
The Indians seemed to appreciate his method, for he says that `when the news
was spread abroad of the good treatment the Governor gave to all,
they came to meet the army decked with flowers and bringing provisions
in great abundance.' It was, he also says, `a thing to see
how frightened the Indians were of the horses, and how they brought them food,
chickens and honey to keep them quiet and in good humour,
and they asked the Governor to tell the horses not to hurt them.'
After passing the river Iguazu, he sent the two friars ahead
to collect provisions, and `when the Governor arrived the Indians had
no more to give.'*
* This is perhaps the first account of the levying of the tithe
in the New World.
So having started from the coast upon November 2, 1541, he arrived at Asuncion
on March 2, 1542, having accomplished a march of more than two thousand miles
with but the loss of a single man and without the slaughter
of a single Indian. Hardly had he arrived at Asuncion before he found himself
embroiled on every side. The Indians were in full rebellion,
the settlement of Buenos Ayres almost in ruins, and the officers
appointed by the King to collect the royal dues all hostile to him to a man.
After having consulted with the clergy to find if they thought it lawful
to attack the Guaycurus who had assailed the newly-founded town,
he received the opinion `that it was not only lawful, but expedient.'
Therefore he sent off an expedition against them, to which was joined a priest
to require the Guaycurus to become Christians and to acknowledge
the King of Spain. The propositions, not unnaturally,
did not seem reasonable to the Indians, who most likely
were unaware of the benefits which Christianity confers,
and probably heard for the first time of the King of Spain.
The Governor, who seems to have doubted of the humanity of the clergy,
called another council, which confirmed the previous opinion.
Strangely enough, this seems to have surprised him, for he probably
did not reflect that the clergy would not have to fight themselves,
and that the first blood ever spilt on earth was on account
of a religious difference.
Just before the expedition started it was found that the two Franciscan friars
who had come with him from Santa Catalina could not be found.
It then appeared they had started back to the coast
accompanied by a bevy of Indian damsels, thirty-five in all.
They were followed and brought back, and then explained
that they were on their way to Spain to complain against the Governor.
The five-and-thirty dusky catechumens remained without an explanation,
and the people were once more `scandalized'. The Governor then started out
against the Guaycurus. Only those who know the Chaco,
or western bank of the river Paraguay, can form the least idea of what
such an expedition must have been. Even to-day in the Chaco
the change since the beginning of the world can be but slight.
As a steamer slips along the bank, nothing for miles and miles is seen
but swamp, intersected with backwaters,*1* in which lie alligators,
electric eels, and stinging rays. Far as the eye can reach
are swamps, swamps, and more swamps, a sea of waving pampa-grass.
After the swamps thickets of tacuaras (canes), forests of thorny trees,
chanares, nandubay, jacarandas, urundey, talas, and quebrachos,
each one hard enough to split an axe, some, like the black canela,
almost like iron; the inhabitants ferocious and intractable as when
the Governor himself first saw them; the climate heavy and humid, the air dank
with vinchucas*2* and mosquitoes and the little black infernal midget
called the jejen; no roads, no paths, no landmarks, but here and there
at intervals of many leagues a clearing in the forest
where some straggling settlement exists, more rarely still
the walls of a deserted Jesuit mission-house or church. Ostriches and deer,
tigers,*3* capibaras and tapirs, and now and then a herd of cattle
as wild as buffaloes, are seen. Sometimes an Indian with his lance
sits motionless upon his horse to watch the vessel pass --
a sentinel to guard the wilderness from encroachments from without.
So Alvar Nunez, as he tells us in his Commentaries, started with
four hundred men and with one thousand friendly Indians,
all well armed and painted, and with plates of metal on their heads
to reflect the sun, and so strike terror to their enemies.
To save the horses they were put on board,*4* whilst the Indians
marched along the bank, keeping up with the ships. Horses at that time
in Paraguay and in Peru often were worth one thousand crowns of gold,
though Azara tells us that in the last century in Buenos Ayres
you could often buy a good horse for two needles, so cheap had they become.
Then, as at present, time was of no account in Paraguay, so almost every day
they landed the horses to keep them in condition and to chase
the ostriches and deer.
*1* These backwaters are known in Guarani by the name of `aguapey'.
*2* The vinchuca is a kind of flying bug common in Paraguay.
Its shape is triangular, its colour gray, and its odour noxious.
It is one of the Hemiptera, and its so-called scientific appellation
is `Conorhinus gigas'.
*3* R. B. Cunninghame Graham writes elsewhere: "All over South America
the jaguar is called a tiger (tigre)." -- A. L., 1998.
*4* Azara, in his `Historia del Paraguay', etc., tells us that in 1551
Domingo de Irala at Asuncion bought a fine black horse
for five thousand gold crowns. He bound himself to pay for him
out of the proceeds of his first conquest.
Just the kind of army that a thinking man would like to march with;
not too much to eat, but, still, a pleasant feeling of marching
to spread religion and to make one's fortune, with but the solitary
unpleasant feature to the soldier -- the system of payment for provisions
which the Governor prescribed. All was new and strange; the world was
relatively young. Each night the Governor religiously wrote up his diary,
now chronicling the death of some good horse, or of an Indian,
or commenting upon the fruits, the fish, the animals, the trees,
and `all the other things of God which differ from those in the Castiles.'
Occasionally a fight took place with Guasarapos or with Pagayuas,
but nothing of much account (`de mucha monta'); always the tales of gold-mines
to be met with further on. Eventually the expedition came to a point
not far from where is now the town of Corumba. There Alvar Nunez founded
a town to which he gave the name of Reyes, which has long fallen into decay.
He also sent two captains to explore and search for gold,
waiting two or three months for their return, and suffering from
a quartan ague which confined him to his bed; then, having failed to find
the talked-of gold-mines, he set his face again towards Asuncion.
Just before starting he gave the final blow to his waning popularity.
Some of his followers, having taken Indian girls, had hidden them
on board the ships; this, when he knew it, Nunez at once forbade,
and, sending for the fathers of the girls, restored their children to them.
`With this,' he says, `the natives were much pleased, but the Spaniards
rendered angry and desperate, and for this cause they hated me.'
Nothing more natural, and for the same cause the Spanish Paraguayans
hated the Jesuits who carried out the policy which the wise Governor began.
On April 8, 1543, the Governor returned to Asuncion,
worn out and ill with ague. There he found all confusion. Domingo de Irala,
a clever, ambitious Biscayan soldier who had been interim Governor
before Nunez had arrived, had worked upon the people,
saying that Nunez wished to take away their property.
As their chief property was in Indians whom they had enslaved,
this rendered Nunez most unpopular, and the same kind of allegations
were laid against him as were laid against the Jesuits
when in their turn they denounced slavery in Paraguay.
All the complaints were in the name of liberty, as generally is the case
when tyranny or villainy of any sort is to be done.
So Alvar Nunez*1* tells us in his Commentaries that at the hour
of the Ave Maria ten or twelve of the `factious' entered his house
where he lay ill in bed, all shouting `Liberty!' and to prove
they were all good patriots one Jaime Resquin put a bent crossbow to his side,
and forced him to get out of bed, and took him off to prison
amid a crowd all shouting `Liberty!' The friends of liberty
(upon the other side) attempted a rescue, but the patriots*2* were too strong.
So the unpatriotic Governor was thrown, heavily ironed, into a cell,
out of which to make room they let a murderer who was awaiting death.
`He' (Alvar Nunez grimly remarks) `made haste to take my cloak,
and then set off down the street at once, calling out "Liberty!"'
That everything should be in order, the patriots confiscated
all the Governor's goods and took his papers, publishing a proclamation
that they did so because he was a tyrant. Unluckily, the Indians
have not left us any commentaries, or it would be curious to learn
what they thought as to the tyranny of Alvar Nunez. Most probably
they thought as the Indians of the Jesuit missions thought
at the expulsion of the Jesuits from Paraguay, as is set forth
in the curious memorial addressed in 1768 by the people
of the Mission of San Luis to the Governor of Buenos Ayres,
praying that the Jesuits might be suffered to remain instead of the friars,
who had been sent to replace them against the people's will.*3*
Having got the Governor into prison, the patriots had to elect another chief,
and the choice naturally `fell' upon Domingo de Irala, who, having been
interim Governor, had never ceased intriguing from the first.
He promptly put his friends in office, after the fashion of all Governors,
whether they enter office to the cry of `Liberty' or not.
The friends of Alvar Nunez, in the usual Spanish fashion
(long sanctified by use and wont), declared themselves in opposition --
that is, they roamed about the land, proving by theft and murder
that their love of liberty was just as strong as that of those in power.
Things shortly came to such a pass that no one could leave his house by night.
The marauding Guaycurus burnt all the suburbs, and threatened
to attack the town. Nunez himself was guarded day and night
by four men armed with daggers in a close prison. As he says himself,
his prison was not `fitting for his health,' for day and night
he had to keep a candle burning to see to read, and the grass grew
underneath his bed, whilst for the sake of `health' he had
a pair of first-rate fetters on his feet. For his chief gaoler
they procured one Hernando de Sosa, whom Nunez had put in gaol
for striking an Indian chief. A guard watched constantly at the prison gate,
but, still, in spite of this he managed to communicate almost uninterruptedly
with his friends outside. His method was certainly ingenious.
His food was brought to him by an Indian girl, whom, so great
was the fear of the patriots that he should write to the King,
they made walk naked into the prison, carrying the dishes,
and with her head shaved. Notwithstanding this, she managed to bring
a piece of paper hidden between her toes. The party of Liberty,
suspecting that Nunez was communicating with his friends,
procured an Indian youth to make love to the girl and learn the secret.
This he failed to do, owing, perhaps, to his love-making
being wanting in conviction on account of her shaved head.
At last Irala and his friends determined to send the Governor a prisoner
to Spain, taking care, of course, to despatch a messenger beforehand
to distort the facts and prejudice the King. The friends of Nunez, however,
managed to secrete a box of papers, stating the true facts, on board the ship.
At dead of night a band of harquebusiers dragged him from his bed
(after a captivity of eleven months), as he says, `almost with the candle
in his hand' -- i.e., in a dying state. As he left the prison,
he fell upon his knees and thanked God for having let him once more
feel the air of heaven, and then in a loud voice exclaimed:
`I name as my successor Captain Juan de Salazar de Espinosa.'
At this one Garci Vargas rushed at him with a knife, and told him
to recall his words or he would kill him instantly. This he was stopped
from doing, and Nunez was hurried to the ship and chained securely
to a beam. On board the vessel, he says, they tried to poison him;
but this seems doubtful, as there was nothing on earth
to prevent their doing so had they been so inclined.
Still, as a prudent man he took the precaution to provide
some oil and a piece of unicorn (`pedazo de unicornio'),
with which he tried the food. Unicorns he could not have seen in Paraguay,
nor yet in Florida, and he does not explain how he became so luckily equipped.
*1* `Comentarios de Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca', contained in Barcia's
`Historiadores Primitivos de las Indias Occidentales'.
*2* The `patriots' are always those of the prevailing party in a State.
`God preserve your Excellency, say we, the Cabildo,
and all the Caciques and Indians, men, women and children of San Luis,
as your Excellency is our father. The Corregidor,
Santiago Pindo and Don Pantaleon Caynari, in their love for us,
have written to us of certain birds which they desire we will send them
for the King. . . . We are sorry not to have them to send,
inasmuch as they live where God made them, in the forests,
and fly far away from us, so that we cannot catch them.
Withal we are the vassals of God and of the King, and always desirous
to fulfil the wishes of his Minister . . . so we pray to God
that that best of birds, the Holy Ghost, may descend upon the King. . . .
Furthermore, we desire to say that the Spanish custom
is not to our liking -- for everyone to take care of himself,
instead of helping one another in their daily toil.'
This quaint and touching letter was written originally in Guarani,
and is preserved at Buenos Ayres. `That best of birds,
the Holy Ghost,' shows faith grounded, at least, on ornithology,
and the whole spirit of the simple document is as pathetic
as its unconscious philosophy is true.
None the less, of all the discoverers of America he is the man of least
imaginative power -- that is, in matters appertaining to natural history --
so one must conclude he had his piece of unicorn from Spain,
where he most probably had bought it from some dealer in necessaries
for travellers to the New World.
After a stormy voyage he arrived in Spain to find his accusers
just before him. With truly Eastern justice, both accusers and accused
were put in gaol, a custom worthy of adoption in other lands.
Nunez was soon released on bail, and, his accusers having all died,
in eight years' time he was triumphantly acquitted of all the charges brought
against him. To prove, however, that Justice is and always has been blind,
the King never restored him to his government in Paraguay, and,
as Nunez says, forgot to repay him what he had expended in his service.*
With Alvar Nunez was lost the only chance of liberal treatment
to the Indians, for from his time the governors, instead of being
men of the world above the petty spite of party differences,
were chosen either from officers who, having served in the frontier wars,
quite naturally looked on the Indians as enemies, or were appointed
by intriguing Ministers at Court. From the death of Alvar Nunez
to the inauguration of the missions by the Jesuits,
no one arose to take the Indians' side, and it may be
that had his policy prevailed there would have been an Indian population left
in the mission territory of Paraguay; for had the civil governors
co-operated with the Jesuits, the dispersion of the Indians,
which took place at the expulsion of the Jesuits, had not occurred.
* Guevara, `Historia del Paraguay' (printed in `La Coleccion de Angelis',
Buenos Aires, 1836), book vi., p. 108, says of Alvar Nunez:
`Merecia estatua por su rectitud, justicia y Christiandad.' And in
another place Guevara says: `La Florida lo cautivo/ con inhumanidad;
La Asuncion lo aprisiono/ con infamia; pero en una y otro parte
fue ejemplar de moderacion . . . recto, prudente y de sano corazon.'
Alvar Nunez died holding the office of `Oidor de la Audiencia de Sevilla',
according to P. del Techo (`Historia del Paraguay');
or as a member of the Consejo de Indias, according to Charlevoix.
Thus was Domingo Martinez de Irala left in sole command in Paraguay.
He naturally had all to gain by not communicating with Spain.
Had he done so, the part he played in reference to Alvar Nunez
must have been known. He had, however, certain good qualities,
courage in abundance, Herculean strength and great endurance,
and the power of making himself obeyed. But he had to justify himself
to Spain for his position, and the surest way to do so
was to discover gold-mines. So, naming Francisco de Mendoza
his lieutenant, he started up the Paraguay, taking with him
three hundred and fifty soldiers and two thousand Guaranis.
After many hardships, he reached the frontiers of Peru,