Between the cross and the sword: evangelization and indigenous enslavement in Spanish and Portuguese America in the 17th century

Fabricio J. Nazzari Vicroski

In the 17th century, the Iberian Crowns went to South America with the desire to expand their territorial domains. In these circumstances, the action of the Jesuit missionaries and the creation of the Jesuit Province of Paraguay were used as expansion fronts in service of the colonial policy. The method adopted for the development of the Spanish conquest and catechization project was based on the implementation of the reduction system. The indigenous people understood the alternative presented by the Jesuits as a survival strategy. It was in this context that the Jesuit reduction of Santa Teresa del Curiti was founded in 1632 in the northwest region of the current Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. In 1637, the reduction was invaded by bandeirantes (Portuguese-Brazilian slave hunters). In its place, they founded an enclave that was consolidated as the pole for the Portuguese-Brazilian slave explorers of Rio Grande do Sul in the 17th century. It is estimated that about 30 thousand indigenous people have been subjugated. Tens of thousands more were disassembled, killed or emigrated.