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[*] posted on 10-14-2003 at 02:59 PM
Research Paper


Robert H. Jackson
22830 Thadds Trail
Spring, TX 77373

Mission Frontiers in the Rio de la Plata and Northern Mexico: A Comparison of the Jesuit Missions of Baja California and Rio Grande do Sul

Advances over the past two decades in the study of missions on the fringes of colonial Spanish America have brought research on this important colonial institution into the mainstream of colonial Latin American historiography. Moreover, a comparative approach has shown considerable similarities in missions established in different regions at different times, while at the same time placing the shared historical experiences of the native peoples brought to live on the missions to the forefront of historical studies.
This essay compares patterns of development in missions in the Rio de la Plata region established and managed by the Jesuits between 1607 and 1767, and the Baja California missions initiated in 1697 and also run by Jesuits, until the expulsion of the order in 1767/1768 from the Spanish dominions. A major theme of this essay is a comparison of missions established by the Jesuits in two regions with very distinct environments, in order to see what modifications the Black Robes had to make to the general blueprint for the mission program that envisioned the creation of communities of sedentary farmers and artisans who would pay taxes to the Crown and provide labor for Spanish enterprises. It also compares and contrasts patterns of development of missions on two frontiers.
The study of the environmental history of colonial Spanish America is relatively new, but offers important insights not available through more conventional forms of analysis. In a pioneering study, Elionor Melville showed how over-grazing by large flocks of sheep significantly altered the landscape of central Mexico. In a recent study that is one of the first to try to apply an environmental approach to the missions of northern Mexico, Cynthia Radding used the concept that she called ?ecological frontiers? as an organizing theme for a study of Spanish Sonora. Radding attempted to show how different ecologies or perhaps more accurately microclimates modified the course of Spanish colonialism, although the limited evidence presented largely failed to support the author?s assertions and broad conclusions. Radding also discussed what she called ?wandering peoples,? an indigenous pattern of migration as a form of economic adaptation to a harsh world, but failed to provide much ethnohistoric and concrete historic data to make sense of the broad characterizations drawn. Moreover, Radding was not the first scholar to document migration among native peoples living in northern Mexico.
More recently, Radding has brought her perspective of ecological frontiers to a comparison of Jesuit missions in Sonora, a region she has studied for several decades, and the Jesuit missions of Chiquitos, a region located east of the eastern Andes cordillera in modern Bolivia. A comparative approach that considers differences or similarities in culture and, as Radding interprets it, can provide important insights to the workings of Spanish frontier policy, and the failures and successes of the mission programs. However, Radding makes broad generalizations based on slim evidence that detracts from and undermines the validity of her conclusions.
Nevertheless, the approach of analyzing the relationship between the environment, indigenous adaptations to the environment, and how Spanish missionaries endeavored to cope with harsh climates has considerable merit. In several of the cases examined here man did not conquer and modify the environment. Rather, it could be said that Mother Nature made man, in this case the missionaries, dance to a different rhythm. The native peoples living in these harsh environments had already adapted in ways that enabled them to survive in ways that the Spanish would not imagine doing.
In a recently published monograph, Barbara Ganson drew comparisons between the Jesuit missions established among the Guarani in the Rio de la Plata, but limited her comparisons to other missions established among sedentary agriculturalists. In an otherwise fine study, Ganson missed an opportunity to more fully understand the dynamic of Jesuit missions by comparing the Guarani missions, established in what could be considered optimum environmental conditions for developing agriculture and ranching as the foundation for the mission communities, with missions established among nomadic hunter-gatherers generally living in arid environments such as Baja California that severely limited agriculture and thus the ability of the Jesuits to feed the neophytes and congregate them on the new missions.
The central question explored here is how the Jesuits modified the mission system to deal with different environments, especially arid environments, and how in turn these changes in the mission program altered the outcomes of the mission program. Much of Baja California is arid, and those sites with water generally had limited amounts of arable land that prevented the Jesuits from directing the development of extensive agriculture to support the neophytes brought to settle on the missions. The inability to locally produce food in the mission districts forced the Black Robes to modify the indoctrination of the neophytes, which in turn permitted the survival of traditional religious practices much longer than the missionaries envisioned. In contrast, the Jesuits established thirty missions in the Rio de la Plata in tropical forests and savanna that supported extensive agriculture and ranching. For the purposes of this study, I focus on the seven missions located east of the Uruguay River after 1680 in what today is the western section of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. I will refer to the seven establishments as the Trans-Uruguay River missions (San Nicolas, San Miguel, San Francisco de Borja, San Luis Gonzaga, San Lorenzo Martir, San Juan Bautista, and Santo Angel).
Spaniards first attempted to colonize Baja California in 1535, when Hernan Cortes established a short lived colony at the site of modern La Paz. However, the aridity of the Peninsula, the lack of any apparent ready source of wealth, and the at times hostile demeanor of the natives discouraged settlement efforts. The Crown financed one last colonization scheme in 1683, but then gave up on further thoughts of occupying the Peninsula after the expensive failure of this effort. In 1697, the Jesuits under the leadership of Juan Maria de Salvatierra, S.J., initiated the mission frontier in Baja California at their own expense.
The Jesuits in Paraguay founded missions in what today is Brazil after 1610, but these early establishments met a violent end at the hand of Portuguese colonists from Sao Paulo. The establishment of missions in Tape (modern Rio Grande do Sul) established Spain?s claim, but the Jesuits evacuated the region in the 1630s as a result of destructive raids by the bandeirantes, slave raiders from Sao Paulo. The establishment of Colonia do Sacramento by the Portuguese in 1680 across the Rio de la Plata estuary from Buenos Aires in what today is Uruguay generated considerable concern among Spanish officials, but at the same time the Rio de la Plata region was also a sparsely populated borderland that generated little revenue to support expansion into the Banda Oriental /Uruguay), and in the late seventeenth-century Spain did not have the same financial resources as in the previous century to pay for a potentially expensive colonization initiative that might have also provoked a war. The Portuguese expansion in the region threatened Spanish claims to the Banda Oriental and the territory east of the Uruguay River first occupied by Jesuit missions after 1610. By 1680, the Paulistas no longer posed a threat to the missions, and in response to the establishment of Colonia do Sacramento the Jesuits re-established missions east of the Uruguay River in what today is the Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul.
Between 1680 and 1710, the Jesuits relocated two existing missions to sites east of the Uruguay River. They also established five new missions with populations from existing establishments: San Francisco de Borja, San Luis Gonzaga, San Lorenzo Martir, San Juan Bautista, and Santo Angel Custodio. This occurred, for example, in 1697 when the Jesuits took a part of the population from San Miguel to found San Juan Bautista. Seven years earlier, in 1690, the Jesuits relocated 3,512 neophytes from Santa Maria la Mayor to establish San Lorenzo Martir. In establishing missions east of the Uruguay River, the Spanish Crown was able to assert a stronger claim to the disputed borderlands. By transferring thousands of neophytes from exiting missions to the new establishments, the Jesuits were able to rapidly develop the new communities with a large labor force.
This essay outlines several topics related to the development of the mission communities to flesh out similarities and differences in the ways the Jesuits developed their mission programs, and particularly how the harsh arid environment of Baja California modified the outcomes the missionaries hoped to achieve. The first is the formation of the missions, the process of congregation of native peoples on the new communities, and demographic patterns. This is followed by a discussion of the mission economies and the ability of the Jesuits to direct sustainable agriculture and feed the neophytes, the building of the missions which explores a quintessential aspect of the creation of a new social order as manifested in building on a plan that brought order from the chaos of the wilderness, and resistance to the new order colonial social order that the missionaries attempted to establish. The essay concludes with a summary of the process of the demise of the missions. Violence became a reality for the residents of the missions of the Rio de la Plata, as civil war and regional conflict determined the outcome of the process of independence and the boundaries of the new states that emerged following the collapse of colonial rule. In contrast, the Baja California missions survived Mexican independence by a decade, and the government of the new republic only closed down missions on its northern frontier when radical liberals came to power for a short period of time in the 1830s. I first examine demographic patterns.
Demographic Patterns in the Missions
In both Baja California and the Rio de la Plata, the missionaries created new communities from scratch, and congregated or relocated native peoples to live on the missions. Both can be characterized as having been high fertility and high mortality populations, meaning that indigenous women bore children but death rates were high. The primary difference in the demographic regime of the Baja California and Guarani missions was that death rates were consistently higher than birth rates in the Peninsula, whereas birth rates were generally higher among the Guarani populations. Epidemics of highly contagious maladies such as smallpox and measles periodically attacked both populations, but the difference was that the Guarani populations generally rebounded or recovered whereas the neophytes in the Baja California missions did not. Finally, the populations of the individual Guarani missions were larger than the Baja California missions, and the smaller numbers in the Peninsula establishments meant that they were more fragile and vulnerable to the cumulative effects of epidemic and endemic disease.
I have previously written extensively on demographic patterns in the Baja California missions, and will not bore the reader any more than I have to in my discussion of the demise of the Peninsula mission populations. By the end of their tenure the Jesuits established sixteen missions, although they also closed one mission in 1749 because the site chosen for the establishment had an inadequate water supply and was vulnerable to raids by hostile natives. In 1755, 5, 794 neophytes lived in thirteen missions with an average population of 460. It was 6,300 in 1762 in fourteen establishments with an average of 450, and 7,149 in fifteen missions in 1768 that averaged 477 neophytes. These small numbers meant that recurring epidemics reduced the ability of the populations to recover through natural reproduction. In order to document patterns of congregation and demographic collapse, I present the detailed case study of Santa Gertrudis mission.
One of the last missions established before the expulsion of the Black Robes from the Spanish empire in 1768 was Santa Gertrudis, inaugurated in 1751 following a decade of efforts by several Jesuits to find a suitable site that would support agriculture in one of the driest parts of the Peninsula known as the Central Desert. The Jesuits attempted to radically transform the social and political organization of the local population collectively known by the Spanish as Cochimi. The Cochimi lived in small nomadic bands that exploited food resources in clearly defined territories, and relied on scattered sources of water.
Limits to agriculture in the Desert surrounding the new mission forced the missionaries to leave a large percentage of the population living at existing village sites. The dispersed settlement pattern delayed the process of assimilation and religious conversion. One of the first difficulties in the establishment of Santa Gerturids was locating a suitable site with some water and arable soil, and initially the Jesuits planned to name the next mission Dolores del Norte as per the request of the congregation of Our Lady of the Sorrows in Mexico City that provided the endowment. Reports from the 1740s referred to Dolores del Norte as an incomplete mission.
Two reports from the mid-1740s provide additional details on the efforts to establish the mission that became Santa Gertrudis, and highlight the difficulty of locating suitable sites in the Central Desert. The first is a report written in 1744 by San Ignacio missionary Sebastian de Sistiaga,S.J.. Sistiaga noted that Dolores del Norte was an offshoot of San Ignacio formed from ?northern interior [indigenous] settlements.? Konsag had already baptized 548 Indians who would be assigned to the new mission, and the baptized Indians themselves had begun to form new and larger settlements in anticipation of the establishment of the new mission. To facilitate the process of evangelization, Konsag brought young men to San Ignacio to be trained as catechists, and as future leaders of the new mission. The site tentatively chosen for Dolores del Norte was dry and had a poor water supply, but no better site had been located. Finally, Sistiaga noted that the uncertainty of the crops at San Ignacio had been one of the causes for the delay in the establishment of the mission. In a general report on the Baja California missions, Visitor-General Juan Antonio Balthasar, S.J., reported that: ?This missions bit of property, incorporated with that of San Ignacio, will be separated as soon as this mission is fully established.?
The next Jesuit stationed at San Ignacio, the Croatian Fernando Konsag, S.J., laid the foundations for the establishment of Santa Gertrudis in the 1740s. The surviving baptismal register for San Ignacio (1743-1749) records the baptisms by Konsag of hundreds of Indians in the future territory of Santa Gertrudis. By 1751, when the Jesuits began to keep a separate set a sacramental records for the new establishment, Konsag had baptized as many as 1,000 in the jurisdiction of Dolores del Norte/Santa Gertrudis. Based upon the foundation laid by Konsag, the first missionary stationed at Santa Gertrudis, Jorge Retz, S.J., completed the baptism of the non-Christian or gentile indigenous population within twelve years. In 1762, Jesuit Visitor-General Ignacio Lizasoain, S.J., noted that Retz had already baptized 1,446 gentiles at Santa Gertrudis, and the total of baptisms reached 2059. In 1755, the population of Santa Gertrudis was 1,586, it was 1,730 in 1762, and 1,360 in 1768.
Despite extensive exploration through the Central Desert, Konsag never found a suitable site for the new mission. In a 1769 report, Francisco Palou, O.F.M., wrote a concise description of the site eventually chosen for Santa Gertrudis mission.
The mission is situated in a narrow valley, so that it was necessary to clear land by means of the crow-bar in order to construct a pueblo?It has vineyards and orchards of figs, olives, pomegranates, and also some peaches. There is little land fit for sowing and water is scarce.
Although Retz did direct some agriculture, total production was inadequate to feed the large number of neophytes living at the mission and in surrounding settlements. The Franciscans (1768-1773) and the Dominicans (1774) who replaced the Jesuits could do little to improve on what Retz was able to develop.
Although the Jesuits and later the Franciscans and Dominicans baptized thousands of natives, most neophytes could not be supported at the main mission village (cabecera) and resided in their traditional settlements that the missionaries euphemistically called visitas. Most of these satellite settlements were undeveloped, and the missionaries made no pretext to the contrary. In 1755, Santa Gertrudis counted an indigenous population of more than 1,500, but only 69 resided at the mission itself. The rest of the population lived on eight other seasonally shifting villages. Two decades later, in 1773, the population of Santa Gertrudis reportedly totaled 1,000, but only 141 resided at the cabecera. Franciscan missionary Francisco Palou, O.F.M., described the settlement pattern at Santa Gertrudis in 1771 in terms used to also describe the other missions in the Central Desert:
Of all of these families only forty families live at the mission with one hundred and seventy-four souls. All the rest are scattered in seven houseless rancherias which surround the mission proper in every direction, all looking for wild fruits and changing about according to the seasons.
The missionaries periodically brought the neophytes from the outlying settlements for short periods of religious instruction, but then returned them to their traditional way of life with only a thin veneer of Christianity at best. Despite the extreme drawbacks of this approach to evangelization, the missionaries wrote confidently in a self-congratulatory tone of the depth of conversion of the natives. In his 1744 report on San Igancio Sistiaga noted that: ?They [neophytes] forsake, along with the many errors and superstitions, their belief in all the diabolic deceits and fables.? Needless to say, Sistiaga and the other missionaries did not really know what transpired while the neophytes were on their own without supervision. At the same time, Jesuit reports from the same period of time at a number of missions complained of the persistence of shaman they collectively called hechizeros, or wizards.
The analysis of the vital rates of Santa Gertrudis mission (see Table 1) shows that prior to the Jesuit expulsion death rates exceeded birth rates, and the mean life expectancy was below ten years. The years immediately following the Jesuit expulsion through a severe smallpox epidemic in 1781 and 1782 were disastrous for the indigenous population, and it was during these years that the population experienced the greatest degree of decline. .A mere 317 neophytes remained at Santa Gertrudis in 1782, following the smallpox epidemic. Life expectancy also dropped to below two years at birth. The epidemics coincided with the influx of new personnel, the movement of personnel to the new California mission field, and increased traffic through the Central Desert as the Dominicans expanded the mission frontier to the Pacific Coast region known as La Frontera. People traveling along the mission trail carried deadly microbes with them.
Following the series of severe epidemics the population of the mission stabilized, and mean life expectancy at birth between 1787 and 1801 averaged around 20 years, but the population continued to decline. And in 1808 the numbers stood at 137. Higher mortality associated with epidemics significantly lowered life expectancy. During these years the population continued to gradually decline. The surviving population evidenced a gender imbalance with more males than females. However, unlike a number of other mission communities in the Peninsula, children made up a large part of the total population.
After 1810, as Mexico sank into civil war, the government and the Dominican order increasingly experienced difficulty in staffing all of the Peninsula missions, and those establishments in decline such as Santa Gertrudis did not have resident priests for most of the decade. In 1808, 137 neophytes continued to live at the mission, down from the level of 1,586 recorded five decades earlier in 1755. In 1822, the Dominicans abandoned Santa Gertrudis.
In contrast to the rather pattern of demographic collapse at Santa Gertrudis and the other Baja California missions, demographic patterns among the Guarani living on seven trans-Uruguay River missions were very different. The early record of demographic patterns among the Guarani following the settlement of Paraguay in the 1530s is incomplete. There are references to high mortality caused by epidemics of crowd diseases such as smallpox, but at the same time there is little information on fertility and the recovery or rebound of the Guarani populations following epidemics, if indeed a rebound did occur. Anthropologist Daniel Reff argues that the Guarni populations in the Rio de la Plata region experienced large declines in the century following the arrival of the Spaniards, but the documentary evidence is inconclusive. The evidence for the seventeenth and particularly the eighteenth centuries is far more complete, but it does suggests that the Guarani populations living on the missions were high fertility and high mortality populations that experienced slow to moderate rates of growth. This does not preclude the possibility that the demographic patterns documented in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did not reflect a recovery from drastic declines in the century following the arrival of the Spaniards in the Rio de la Plata region.
The high population densities in the missions made the populations vulnerable to epidemics of highly contagious crowd diseases such as smallpox and measles, and the pattern of intra and inter-regional trade and the service of thousands of Gurani mission militiamen on campaign throughout the larger region further facilitated the spread of epidemics. Major recorded epidemics struck the missions in 1618, 1619, 1635, 1636, 1692, 1718, 1733, 1735, 1737, 1739, and 1764. A measles epidemic in 1695 killed 600 people at Candelaria and 2,000 at San Carlos. The decade of the 1730s proved to be particularly deadly. Reportedly, 18,733 died during a 1733 outbreak, measles killed more than 18,000 Guarani in 1735, and smallpox claimed the lives of some 30,000 in 1738 and 1739. In 1777, smallpox killed 277 Guarani at Corpus Christi, and the priest assigned to the ex-mission baptized sixty-four on the year. This left a net decline of 213 for the year.
As noted above, the recovery or rebound of the Guarani population was a significant difference over patterns discussed above for the indigenous populations living on the missions of Baja California. The Guarani mission populations were high fertility and high mortality population, similar to contemporary European populations. Birth and death rates were high and population growth low to moderate. Epidemics slowed or stopped population growth, but the population did recover. In contrast, the indigenous populations of Baja California and the other mission frontiers in northern Mexico, excluding New Mexico, did not recover, and gradually declined to the point of near biological as well as cultural extinction.
Only small fragments of sacramental registers have not survived for the Guarani missions, but extant censuses do survive that record totals of baptisms and burials. Rather than present a detailed analysis of the data that can be gleaned from the reports, the discussion here presents a profile of the Guarani populations living in the missions in selected years to serve as the basis for a comparison of the demographic profiles of the mission population of San Miguel in California.
The Jesuits divided the missions administratively in the region of Paraguay into two groups: those clustered around the Parana River; and those located west and east of the Uruguay River. San Miguel was one of the Uruguay River missions. In 1724, the populations of both groups of missions evidenced a pattern of imbalance, with more girls and women than men. In the Parana missions there were 28,863 girls and women compared to 25,408 boys and men. Similarly, it was 33,107 females and 29,588 males in the Uruguay River establishments. In random populations there generally is a gender imbalance, with slightly more females than males. The disparity reflected, in part, migration by males from the missions. Interestingly, there were considerably more widows than widowers, with 2,980 and 3,880 of the first category and 109 and 236 of the latter in the two groups of missions. This last category of information highlights the importance of the cotiguazu, the separate residence for widows, as a social institution in the missions The patterns were similar in 1740 and 1741, with more females than males and considerably more widows than widowers.
The structure of the populations of the Guarani missions was very different from that of the mission communities of Baja California. As noted above, the Baja California missions evidenced a gender imbalance, with more men and boys than women and girls. This imbalance was particularly evident during periods of slack congregation or resettlement of natives to the missions from surviving native communities outside of the missions, and as the missionaries moved more of the survivors to the cabecera from the surrounding satellite habitation sites. The gender imbalance also meant that the pool of potential mothers contracted over time, thus reducing the ability of the indigenous populations to grow through natural reproduction.
The censuses also include totals of baptisms and burials that can be used to tentatively reconstruct the vital rates of the Guarani mission populations. The number of baptisms does not necessarily translate exactly to births, and without access to the original baptismal registers it would be difficult to establish if the Jesuits congregated and baptized significant numbers of Guarani from outside of the missions. The report of baptisms and burials also does not reflect any out-migration, and particularly the short and long term consequences of the mobilization of thousands of Guarani militiamen in both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Nevertheless, the total numbers of baptisms reported do give a notion of birth rates, but keeping in mind the caveats articulated above. Guarani women bore children and birth rates were moderate to high. At the same time mortality rates tended to be high, particularly for the most vulnerable segments of the population the very young and the old. In 1740, crude birth and death rates per thousand population were 79.4 and 40.8 respectively for the Parana and Uruguay River establishments, as against crude birth and death rates of 51.3 and 34.1 per thousand population. The bulk of deaths occurred among young children, which more closely matches contemporary European demographic patterns, whereas large numbers of adults and children died at San Miguel mission in California. Disease culled the population of children in Europe, and during the course of the eighteenth-century smallpox was the single largest killer in Europe.
Crude birth rates recorded per thousand population over time were generally higher than death rates (see Table 2), and without economic or social constraints the Guarani population grew at slow to moderate rates only limited by epidemics. There were periodic mortality crises that culled the population and slowed growth and local government officials mobilized thousands of Guarani mission militiamen to serve on campaign in the larger Rio de la Plata region affecting vital rates, but the numbers generally rebounded. There were four major mortality crises in the years for which data are available, as defined as x3 regular mortality. These were in 1733, 1738, 1739, and 1764. Major epidemic outbreaks not only raised death rates, but also tended to lower birth rates or the rates of life births. Mean life expectancy at birth dropped as a result of major epidemics. On average, Guarani living in the missions lived between twenty and thirty years from birth, considerably higher than the life expectancy of children born on the Baja California missions.
Changes in the population of the seven Trans-Uruguay River missions matched the general patterns observed above for the Guarani mission populations, and periodic epidemics reduced the numbers as occurred in the 1730s. Between 1724 and 1740, the population of the seven missions dropped from 32,495 to 21,105 as a result of excess mortality during epidemics in the 1730s, the flight of Guarani from the missions trying to escape a horrible death from smallpox and measles, and th absence of Guarani militiamen on campaign.
The oldest two missions San Nicolas and San Miguel occupied three separate sites during the seventeenth century. Despite the transfers to new sites, the mission populations grew demonstrating the stability of the new Guarani communities. In 1697, the Jesuits took a part of the population of San Miguel to establish a new mission named San Juan Bautista, and in 1698 only 1,885 neophytes remained. However, the numbers at San Miguel again grew during the course of most of the eighteenth century, as did the numbers of Guarani living at the five newly established missions.
One difference between the seven missions and the other Jesuit establishments was the dispersion of the neophytes of the seven missions as a consequence of an uprising between 1754 and 1756, and the numbers at several of the missions did not recover for at least a decade. In 1756, and using San Miguel as an example, 1,035 Guarani remained at the mission following the occupation of the region by a joint Spanish-Portuguese army. Overall, the population of the seven missions dropped from 27,499 in 1750 to 17,284 in 1756. Again citing San Miguel as an example, the number of Guarani increased again to 3,275 in 1762, when the Spanish regained control over the trans-Uruguay River missions with the abrogation of the Treaty of Madrid (1750) that had given Portugal jurisdiction over the lands east of the Uruguay River, and 3,525 in 1768, the year that the Spanish government expelled the Jesuits from the Americas. The expulsion of the Jesuits resulted in some Guarani leaving the missions, and in 1794 2,334 remained living on San Miguel. Portuguese colonial forces occupied San Miguel and the six other missions east of the Uruguay River in 1801, and the decline of the population of San Miguel accelerated. In 1816, 706 remained living on the mission, and 271in 1827. The rapid decline in the population of San Miguel was a consequence of the dispersion of the Guarani mission populations (see Table 3).
The decline of the Guarani population of the seven missions did not signify a drastic demographic collapse, even though epidemics continued to spread through the missions. Rather, many of the former neophytes abandoned the missions, and regional conflict in the area between 1810 and 1830 only accelerated the process. In 1801, during a war between Spain and Portugal, a Portuguese militia force occupied the seven missions. The eastern missions served as a base of operations for Portuguese invasions of the region between the Uruguay and Parana Rivers during the turbulent decade of 1810 to 1820. Invasions occurred in 1811 and 1812, and again in 1817 and 1818. During this last invasion 3,190 people in Misiones died, another 360 were taken prisoner, and the Portuguese sacked many of the missions. Moreover, a major battle occurred in early April of 1818 at San Carlos, and resulted in massive damage to the church and associated buildings. The Paraguayans also attempted to assert sovereignty over missions, and occupied and sacked the mission communities along the eastern bank of the Parana River in 1817 such as San Ignacio, Santa Ana, Loreto, and Corpus Christi, among others. The conflict over control of the disputed region reached the seven missions in the late 1820s.
In 1828, during the last stages of the war between Argentina and Brazil over Uruguay, one Fructuoso Rivera sacked the missions, and took some 6,000 Guarani back to Uruguay where they established a new settlement on the Parana River called Santa Rosa de la Bella Union. The refugees remained at the site for five years, but were forced to flee following an attack on the settlement by the militia of the Colorado faction involved in a civil war in the region with the Blancos. A group of 860 originally from eleven missions, mostly from the seven Trans-Uruguay River establishments, established a new community called San Borja del Yi, and eventually the population of the new community reached some 3,500.
The pattern of the survival of the Guarani as a distinct ethnic group in the larger Rio de la Plata region contrasts to the demise of the indigenous peoples of Baja California. Unlike the Guarani missions, the decline in the Baja California mission populations signified demographic collapse and virtual biological and cultural extinction within about 150 years. What accounted for the difference in demographic regimes? Several factors explain the survival of the Guarani as a distinct population. The populations of the Guarani missions were larger than the Baja California missions, which meant that more people survived the periodic epidemics and particularly women of child bearing age. As noted above, the largest average size of the Peninsula establishments during the Jesuit tenure was 477 in 1768, on the eve of their removal from the missions. The total population of the missions in that year was slightly more than 7,000. In contrast, in 1724 the population of San Nicolas, only one of the seven Guarnai missions examined here, was 6,667, nearly as large as the entire population of the Peninsula mission communities. In the same year the average population of the seven missions was 4,642, almost ten times the average of the Baja California mission populations. Many Guarani died in epidemics, but enough women of child bearing age survived to bear more children, and make up the losses from the epidemics.
The native peoples of Baja California were hunter-gatherers, and were smaller and more fragile populations living in small bands or villages. Congregation in the missions brought them into larger and unhealthy communities where disease spread more readily, and the smaller size of the mission populations precluded recovery. Moreover, the mission regime in Baja California was more disruptive of the social structure and culture of the neophytes, unlike the Guarani missions where the Jesuits retained the social structure and political organization through the caciques. Psychological dislocation caused by the new world order in the mission communities, which included the use of corporal punishment, sapped the will to survive of many individuals. Finally, the neophytes received inadequate medical attention, and particularly pregnant women. Medical knowledge was still based on ancient Greek humeral theory that included the use of bloodletting that only served to weaken the immunological system of an individual combating infection as well as purges, and medicines used included mercury, a deadly poison, to treat syphilis. At times the cure was as bad or even worse than the illness.
Another reason for the greater stability of the Guarani missions was the strength of the mission economies, that produced enough food to feed the neophytes as well as surpluses sold in the regional economy. This contrasts to the Baja California missions, where the Jesuits struggled to produce enough crops that generally supplied only a small portion of the food needs of the neophytes. This forced the Black Robes to adopt the more dispersed settlement pattern discussed above that in turn allowed for the persistence of traditional religious beliefs and practices as well as shamanism, and to import food from Tarahumara, Sonora and Sinaloa. The next section of this study outlines the differences in economic development in the two regions.
Mission Economics
The basic economic goal of the Jesuits in Baja California was to be able to cover as much of the cost of the missions as possible, and second to provide a level of subsistence to themselves and as many of the neophytes as possible. Covering the cost of the missions themselves was one of the conditions for being granted permission by the Crown to return to Baja California to establish missions in 1697, and the Jesuits did this through the solicitation of private funds from private individuals as well as alms collected in cities and towns in Mexico, coupled with shipping supplies to the Peninsula establishments from the richer missions of Tarahumara, Sinaloa and Sonora.
The first requirement to establish a mission in Baja California was an endowment, usually of 10,000 pesos invested in income producing properties such as rural estates or urban real estate. The expectation was to earn about 500 pesos annually from these investments. In several instances wealthy Jesuits themselves donated the funds for an endowment. For example, Juan Bautista Luyando, S.J., donated 10,000 pesos to endow San Ignacio mission, and then served as the first missionary. Following the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1768, the Crown took over control of the funds and used it to further finance the colonization of the Californias. It later became known as the Pious Fund, and became the cause for a legal dispute between Mexico and the United States during most of the nineteenth-century. The Jesuit missionaries used the monies from the endowment to help cover the cost of supplies purchased for the missions, and had to keep careful accounts to be presented to Jesuit inspectors (visitador general) during periodic visits to the missions.
Juan Antonio Balthasar, S.J., visited the Baja California missions between 1743 and 1744. His report on Guadalupe mission shows the different ways that the Jesuits obtained the supplies they needed to run the missions. Between 1742 and 1744, missionary Joseph Gasteirger, S.J., had obtained supplies worth 1,760 pesos through the treasury office in Loreto, using funds from the endowment. Gasteiger had also bartered for additional supplies worth a total of 1,440 pesos. Finally, the Jesuit had sold produce to San Ignacio mission worth 266 pesos that had yet to be collected. Local bartering helped the Black Robes to make ends meet.
Most of the Peninsula missions had very limited agricultural potential, and in the early years of operation never produced sufficient grain to feed the bulk of the indigenous neophyte population. In order to farm the missionaries directed the construction of irrigation systems with dams that impounded available water, although the irrigation systems proved to be vulnerable to flash floods common throughout most of the arid Peninsula that destroyed or damaged the dam and ditches and deposited sand and gravel on the fields. The repair of existing irrigation systems or the construction of new dams and acequias was a recurring project at many of the missions. In the 1790s, for example, the Dominicans directed the construction of three new irrigation ditches at La Putisima mission built of masonry, and with a total length of 2,550 varas. The staple crops were wheat and corn, supplemented in some instances by barley. Specialized crops included cotton and grapes for the production of wine and brandy. With the exception of several of the missions in the southernmost part of the Peninsula, crop production at the missions was low, and fluctuated from year to year depending on availability of water for irrigation.
Tables 4 and 5 summarize numbers of livestock and grain production at two missions, San Ignacio and Santa Gertrudis (see Tables 4 & 5). In both instances the levels of grain production, particularly in the several decades following the establishment of the two missions in 1728 and 1751 respectfully did not come close to satisfying the food requirements of the large populations of the two missions that were in excess of one thousand in the early years of the missions. Once the population of San Ignacio dropped to between 100 and 200 towards the end of the eighteenth-century, agricultural production could feed the surviving neophyte population. Agriculture at Santa Gertrudis, on the other hand, located in a particularly arid district, could not feed the mission population, even in the best years.
The other major aspect of the economy was ranching, and the missions had herds of cattle and horses, and flocks of sheep and goats. Mission livestock provided meat to supplement the diet of those neophytes fed by the missionaries, and also provided raw materials for leather goods, tallow for soap and candles, and wool for clothing. The livestock belonging to the missions never approached the numbers owned by the missions in the Rio de la Plata region. The major limitation to the numbers of animals in the Peninsula missions was finding sufficient pasture. The missionaries also reported depredations by wild predators, such as mountain lions.
Following the expulsion of the Jesuits Jose de Galvez, visitador general sent to Mexico with extensive powers to reform, visited Baja California, and tried to implement policies to rationalize the mission economies and promote agriculture to relieve the royal government of the cost of supplying the unproductive missions. The royal government was unwilling to invest heavily in supporting the missions. This drive to rationalize resulted in the implementation of one policy, the shifting of populations between missions, that ultimately backfired, and required the expenditure of additional funds.
The natives of southern Baja California had already proven their willingness to resist the new colonial order in several major uprisings in the 1730s and 1740s, and had a reputation for being rebellious and badly disposed to the new order. It would b more accurate to state that they defended a way of life that they believed to be as attractive if not more than what the Jesuits offered in the missions. Devastating epidemics in the 1740s profoundly broke the faith of the native peoples in the southern region in their own belief system that could not explain the new and horrible diseases that the Jesuits clearly understood. Traditional shaman offered little to alleviate the suffering of the neophytes. The Guaycuruan neophytes of Dolores del Sur (est. 1721) and San Luis Gonzaga (est. 1737) certainly experienced the effects of epidemics, but not to the degree as in the missions further south since the neophytes lived in a more dispersed settlement pattern as a consequence of the limited agriculture at the two missions sites located in the middle of an arid part of the Peninsula known as the Magdalena Desert. The neophytes at both missions continued to covertly rely on shaman decades following the arrival of the Black Robes.
In shifting populations, Galvez ordered the suppression of Dolores del Sur and San Luis Gonzaga, and relocation of the Guaycuruan to Todos Santos a mission with arable land and water. However, the resettlement of the Guaycuruan initiated a prolonged crisis that resulted from a major miscalculation on the part of the colonial bureaucrat. Galvez wanted the Guaycuruans to be converted into a labor force overnight, and the neophytes resisted this radical change. Francisco Palou, O.F.M., noted that: ?The Guaicuros Indians had never settled down in their native missions of La Pasion [Dolores] and San Luis, but lived in the mountains like deer, supporting themselves on wild foods, and attending Mass at the mission when it was the turn of their Village?The visitor [Jose de Galvez] moved all these villages to Todos Santos to live in a settlement. As they were accustomed to live in the woods, it semed hard to them, and they immediately began to run away.? The Guaycuruan neophytes fled the mission, and those that remained engaged in the theft or destruction of mission property. The Franciscans responded with the use of corporal punishment, an action that backfired. In 1770, a delegation of neophyte leaders from Todos Santos went to Loreto to complain about mistreatment at the hands of the overseer, and shortages of food.
Galvez?s policy initiative, while it responded to the pragmatic needs of the Crown, completely misunderstood the realities of the limited social and cultural change the Guaycuruans had experienced at Dolores and San Luis Gonzaga missions. The neophytes had not been converted into a disciplined labor force over three decades under Jesuit tutelage, but were expected to learn new ways of work overnight. The missionaries brought with them a paternalism born of cultural and religious chauvinism, and believed that what they brought to the indigenous neophytes benefited them. A passage in Palou?s account of the troubles at Todos Santos catches a sense of this paternalistic chauvinism: ?The new settlers [Guaycuruan neophytes] have been so ungrateful for the good that has been done them in changing their fortunes that they have not been willing to settle down there, and only by threats to remain for a time, but more to destroy what the mission has than to advance it.?
The Jesuits stationed on the Guarani missions, on the other hand, did not have to deal with trying to feed the neophytes in an arid land. Agriculture and ranching generally produced enough to feed the Guarani residents of the missions, and for export. Moreover, The Jesuits sold yerba mate, cattle hides, textiles, cotton, and other goods in the regional economy to earn money to support the mission communities. The Guarani and the Jesuits distinguished between two forms of labor and production within the mission communities: abamba? and tupamba?. Abamba? was the labor, land, and production of the individual head of household, and was controlled by the Guarani family or cacique, the head of the clan. Tupamba? was labor and production for God, or in other terms communal labor and production for the support of the Jesuits and their program in the missions.
Agriculture and ranching formed the basis for the mission economies, but the scale of production was much larger than in Baja California. In 1768, at the time of the Jesuit expulsion, the missions owned 769,869 head of cattle, 138,141 sheep, and 139,634 horses, mules, and donkeys. Yapeyu alone counted more than 200,000 cattle that ranged on an estancia that measured 50 x 30 leagues or some 47,000 square kilometers. Similarly, San Miguel had two estancias named Calera de las Huerfanas and Calera de las Vacas that measured about 20,000 square kilometers. The Jesuits directed the development of building complexes including chapels for the estancias.
The Jesuits sold goods and purchased supplies through two offices located in Buenos Aires and Santa Fe called the oficio de las misiones. The accounts maintained in these two offices show in broad ways the ability of the Jesuits to fund the mission communities through trade, as well as their reliance on some imported goods.. Table 6 summarizes the accounts for San Lorenzo Martir from Santa Fe in the years 1730 to 1745, and Buenos Aires from 1731-1763. San Lorenzo consistently ran a favorable balance through 1745, but ran deficits at Buenos Aires in 1731 and again in 1738 and 1739. The period 1730-1739 was a decade during which several severe epidemics spread through the missions, and some 22,000 to 24,000 Guarani militiamen were mobilized by local royal officials to deal with the Comunero Revolt in Paraguay, and the threat of a Portuguese attack from Colonia do Sacramento in the Banda Oriental that reduced the available labor force in the missions. There were also complaints from the Jesuits to royal officials about drought. However, historian Julia Sarreal attributes the negative mission balances to maladministration in the Buenos Aires oficio, with the crisis coming to a head in 1738. The combined accounts for the seven missions (see Table 7) showed a drop in the surplus in the same two years that San Lorenzo ran a deficit in its account in the Buenos Aires oficio.
At the same time a review of the record of tribute payments made by the mission supports an interpretation of a possible economic crisis in the missions in the mid and late 1730s, at the time of the epidemics, mobilization of the mission militia, and the administrative problems in the Buenos Aires oficio. Tribute paid by the missions dropped between 1734 and 1744. During the years 1728-1734, the Buenos Aires treasury received 66,701 pesos, but only 28,420 pesos in 1734-1736, 28,649 pesos from 1736 to 1739, 28,443 pesos between 1739 and 1742, and 18,880 from 1742-1744. The tribute then increased to 79,992 in the years 1744-1749. There was a decline in the late 1730s in the number of males in the missions over the age of sixteen, but this resulted as much from out-migration from the missions and military service as from increased mortality caused by the epidemics. Moreover, the mission populations rebounded in the 1740s, while tribute payments declined until after 1744. One possible explanation is that international wars adversely affected the mission economies, and delayed recovery from the crisis of the mid and late 1730s. Spain and England were involved in a trade related conflict known as the War of Jenkins Ear (1739-1742), and England?s naval superiority disrupted Spanish trade to the Americas. This conflict merged in 1742 with the War of Austrian Succession (1742-1748). The continued decline in the mission economies as measured by tribute payments most likely reflects the consequences of the outbreak of war with England, and increased prices for imported goods as a consequence of English predation of Spanish merchant ships.
Further confirmation of this hypothesis of the impact of war on the mission economies comes from the San Lorenzo Buenos Aires oficio accounts. The second period of deficits for San Lorenzo ran from 1746 through 1763, the last year for which accounts survive. This was a period of a generalized and prolonged crisis involving all seven of the Trans-Uruguay River mission economies. The first cause for the deficits may have been increased prices for imported goods as a consequence of the War of Austrian Succession caused by the disruption of trade between Spain and the Americas. Accounts of goods shipped to the Franciscan missions of Texas missions during the same period also showed rapid increases in prices during the war years. The missions continued to run deficits following the end of the war, and through 1763. This period coincided with the resumption of warfare in 1755, but also the crisis leading up to, including, and following the Guarani War (1754-1756), the Portuguese occupation of the missions and dispersion of the many of the Guarani residents of the missions, and the Spanish reoccupation of the mission territory in the early 1760s (see Tables 6 & 7).
The Jesuits sold a variety of goods to raise money to support the mission communities. Yerba mat,e initially collected from wild stands, was an important source of revenue for the missions. The Jesuits organized large expeditions to the sources of yerba mate, but later experimented with the development of plantations closer to the missions. The seven trans-Uruguay River missions achieved the greatest level of success in developing these plantations. The Crown first authorized the Jesuits to sell yerba mate in 1645, and in 1666 the audiencia set the limit for Jesuit production and sales at 12,000 arrobas (300,000 lbs) per year. By the end of the eighteenth century the mission communities produced 121,000 arrobas (1,512.5 tons) per year. Santa Rosa reportedly had some 38,000 trees, the largest number among the missions, followed by San Cosme y San Damian with 25,000. In addition to yerba mate, the missions exported cotton, wheat, sugarcane, hides, and wood. However, it was the export of yerba mate that caused the greatest friction with the settlers in Paraguay since the Jesuits competed with them, and in attacking the Jesuits the settlers claimed that the missions exceeded production quotas. Production figures are generally not available, but reports from 1787 and 1790 following the Jesuit expulsion did record the amount of yerba mate produced at six of the seven missions (see Table 7). The data are complete for 1787, and totaled 22,500 arrobas or 281.25 tons.
In 1787, yerba mate sales in six of the Trans-Uruguay River missions (administratively San Francisco de Borja was attached to a different jurisdiction) totaled 30,667 pesos, and ranked second in total sources of income behind cattle products, particularly hides, that totaled 45,174 pesos. Hide exports from the Rio de la Plata region to Spain increased following the loosening of trade regulations in the 1770s under the policy of ?free trade? (comercio libre), which meant freer trade within the Spanish trade system. In the years 1768 to 1771, exports from Buenos Aires totaled 177,656 hides, and this increased to 1,258,008 hides in the years 1779-1784. The civil administrators of a number of the missions took advantage of the growth in the hide trade to increase the number of cattle rounded-up, and to slaughter animals on the range. The administrators of several of the ex-missions restored the cattle herds following a decline in the numbers of animals immediately following the expulsion of the Jesuits. The number of cattle reported for Yapeyu dropped from 48,119 in 1768 to 24,500 in 1778, but then increased to some 76,000 in the early 1790s. This was accomplished by rounding-up wild cattle, and in some instances through the purchase of cattle from other missions. The number of cattle owned by six missions excluding San Francisco de Borja totaled 53,811, increased to 150,575, and declined again to 112,397 in 1801 when the Portuguese occupied the seven missions.
Unlike the Peninsula missions, the Jesuit establishments in the Rio de la Plata region supplied basic subsistence needs for the mission residents, as well as surpluses that helped defray the costs of running the missions as well as a variety of projects, including building projects. The ruins that remain at a number of mission sites in Paraguay, Misiones (Argentina), and Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), particularly those dating from around 1720 to 1767, attest to the ability of the Black Robes to direct and finance the construction of some of the largest and most complex mission churches in the Americas, as well as extensive cascos (building complexes) that in some instances covered scores of hectares of land. The following section outlines the building of the missions in both regions.
The Building of the Missions
The early reports on the Jesuit missions of Paraguay record the use of wood or wattle and daub as the primary building materials for the churches and other structures of the new communities. Building with wood, tapia (walls of earth compressed in a mold), or wattle and daub allowed the rapid completion of buildings, particularly larger structures such as churches. The cartas anuas record the construction of a number of churches in relatively short periods of time: at San Miguel between 1641 and 1643; San Ignacio and Santa Ana in 1644; Loreto 1645-1646; Corpus Christi and Martires in 1647-1649; San Francisco Javier in 1647; Candelaria in 1653; and at San Tome in the years 1663-1666. In the early phase buildings had thatch roofs, but the Jesuits later had burnt roof tiles added because of fires that destroyed mission buildings with thatch roofs. The first references to the use of tiles date to the 1630s and 1640s. As the threat of attack faded and the new mission communities achieved a greater level of stability, the Jesuits directed the construction of more permanent buildings with adobe walls. The first references to the use of adobe in construction date to 1644. The buildings at the second site of San Miguel, occupied from the late 1630s to 1687, reportedly were built of adobe.
In the eighteenth-century the Jesuits directed the reconstruction of many buildings of stone. Nevertheless, during this later phase of reconstruction the Jesuits did not have all buildings rebuilt of stone, and in particular the Black Robes often had housing for the Guarani populations built of less durable materials. In 1749, for example, a memorial for Loreto mandated the construction of housing for the Guarani neophytes with tile roofs to avoid the hazard of fire with thatch roofs. When the Crown ordered the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, local officials prepared detailed inventories of the missions including the buildings. The Guarani housing at Aposteles, for example, consisted of structures of stone, tapia or adobe, and wattle and daub, but all roofed with tiles. Substantial ruins of neophytes housing does not survive at most of the missions. One exception is at Trinidad, where the remains of arcades stone housing units can been seen today.
The missionaries themselves were amateur architects at best, as acknowledged by Antonio Sepp, S.J., the founder of San Juan Bautista. Sepp noted that he did not have formal training as an architect, but did state that he had traveled around Europe and took ideas for the planning of the new mission from that experience. Nevertheless, Sepp is recognized as having been one of the more skilled missionary-architects. However, during the eighteenth-century phase of reconstruction the missionaries received helped from several Jesuit lay brothers who worked on several churches. The first was Jose Brasanelli, who was also a painter and sculpture. He worked on the churches at Itapua, San Francisco de Borja, Loreto, and Santa Ana. He may also have worked on the churches San Francisco Javier and San Ignacio Mini. The most important of the eighteenth-century architects was Juan Bautista Primoli. Before working in the missions Primoli had designed buildings in Buenos Aires and Cordoba. Primoli was responsible for the churches of San Miguel and Concepcion, and also completed the church of Trinidad along with Fr. Jose Grimau, S.J..
The Jesuits directed the construction of large and impressive churches during the eighteenth-century building phase in the missions. The church at San Miguel is a fine example of the mission architecture. Built between 1735 and 1747, the stone church had three naves. The neighboring church at San Lorenzo, also built of stone, reportedly had five naves and measured 93 x 43 varas. (77.9 x 36 meters), although the church was later remodeled to have only three naves. Details on construction at the Jesuit missions is far from complete, but documents do provide some clues to the development of mission building complexes or at least the churches. The record indicates the construction of four churches at San Juan Bautista. The first two built in 1697 and 1698 respectively were temporary structures, and a new church was built in 1708. Six years later in 1714 work began on a permanent stone church, and a bell tower was added in 1724. Church ruins exist today at four of the Trans-Uruguay River missions: San Miguel; San Juan Bautista; San Lorenzo; and San Nicolas.
There were other structures in the mission building complex in addition to the church and Indian housing. Adjoining the church there generally was two squares of buildings. The first was the cloister that contained the residence of the missionaries, their offices, and store rooms. The second consisted of workshops. Surrounding the central square of the mission community was housing for the Guarani neophytes, built as rows of long multi-apartment structures for Guarani families. A diagram of San Miguel mission prepared around 1756 (see Figure 3) shows that the housing consisted of long buildings with multiple apartments for individual families. The housing units in turn were organized into blocks subject to one of the caciques who continued to govern the families that they brought into the mission. There were public latrines located in the area of neophyte housing. The Jesuits also incorporated a dormitory called the coti-guazu into the plan of the new communities. This was a dormitory for widows, single women, and girls entering puberty, and was a form of social control designed to insure that unmarried women did not have sixxual relations with men and did not entice men into illicit sexual relations. This dormitory was similar in purpose and function to the dormitories built at some of the Baja California missions. Diagrams of several missions prepared in 1784 show the general configuration of the mission building complexes (see Figure 4).
The construction of the Baja California missions followed a similar pattern as discussed above for the Guarani missions, with the construction first of temporary buildings followed by more permanent structures. There was also, as noted above, a major campaign in thje 1750s and 1760s to build more substantial churches at the older missions in the Peninsula, including Loreto, San Francisco Xavier, Mulege, and Comondu. The record of building construction at San Jose de Comondu, established in 1708, exemplifies the development of the cascos during the Jesuit tenure on the Peninsula.
San Jose de Comondu occupied two sites. The mission remained at the first site between 1708 and 1736. Julian Mayorga, S.J., directed the construction of an adobe church and a residence built of stones set in mud. Following the relocation of the mission at the end of 1736 and upon the arrival of Francisco Javier Wagner, S.J., in the following year, construction of a new casco began. Initial construction projects at the new site included the building of an adobe church, residence for the missionaries of the same material, a storeroom, and dormitories for single women and men. Comondu was one of the few older Jesuit missions where the missionaries imposed measures of social control. Writing in a 1744 report on Comondu, missionary Sebastian de Sistiaga, S.J., noted that: ?The boys and girls are brought up separately in the main mission or town with the proper reserve, especially the girls, who are placed in charge of some upright woman of prudent judgment, although an Indian, to take care of them.?
Comondu counted a sizeable population and hence labor force in the two decades following the relocation to the new site. In 1744, the mission had a population of 513, the numbers declined to 387 in 1754, and further dropped to 350 eight years later in 1762. The population experienced decline resulting from disease, particularly smallpox. However, the Franciscans still could mobilize a large labor force for a major construction project. From about 1754 to 1760, the Jesuits directed the construction of a new stone church at Comondu as part of the campaign to build larger churches at a number of the older Peninsula missions including Loreto, San Francisco Xavier, and Mulege. Joseph de Utrera, S.J., visited Comondu in January of 1755, and reported on the progress of the new church. It was designed to have three naves and an arched ceiling, and was the only three-nave church built in the Peninsula missions. The other churches, including the stone church at San Francisco Xavier, only had single naves. He reported that the construction had already progressed on the central nave, but that the two outside naves had not advanced much.
The 1771 report on the Peninsula missions written by Francisco Palou, O.F.M., one of the Franciscans who arrived in 1768 to replace the Jesuits, noted of Comondu mission that ?It has a church, which, like part of the dwelling, is of mason work with vaulted roof and the rest of stone, and all covered with tules.? The 1773 inventory prepared to complete the transfer of the Baja California missions from the jurisdiction of the Franciscans to the Dominicans provide additional information on the stone church and the other types of structures at Comondu and several other of the missions. The inventory described the stone church with three naves church, but did not provide dimensions. The stone church at Comondu was the only three nave church in the Baja California missions.
A later report from 1793 noted the size of the church as 30 x 13 varas, or 25.1 x 10.8 meters. The inventory described the church in the following terms: ?A church with three vaulted naves and three entrances, close to them on the
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