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By Daniel K. Lewis

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Spanish and Guaraní traditions did blend, but the establishment of a new mestizo, or mixed-race, elite produced resentment and resistance within the Guaraní settlements. Labor drafts, efforts by the descendants of Spanish invaders to take control of more and more land, and the concentration of political power in the hands of a few privileged families created tensions. Five times between 1539 and 1600, Guaraní communities rebelled against local authorities. Although the authorities successfully turned back each revolt, lingering tensions led Spanish T 33 34 A SOUTH AMERICAN FRONTIER: THE TRI-BORDER REGION Crown officials to consider new policies.

The settlers’ collective experience had created a separate world, with its own distinct political order. Citing the Royal Cédula of 1537, the rebels elected their own governor: Martínez de Irala. Disagreements that separated the town’s elite families into rival political factions soon led to a period of instability. Temporarily freed from Spanish supervision, the citizens of Asunción tried to extend their control over Guaraní laborers. This change in the encomienda system provoked a strong reaction.

Loreto, the first mission built in Guairá, closely followed the pattern of the cities that the Spanish had laid out throughout the Americas: square in shape, Jesuits and the Guaranís with an open plaza at the center, and the chapel set as the focus of the compound. Workshops, residences for the missionaries and the Amerindians, and storage sheds ringed the center. The Jesuits chose sites near Guaraní settlements. This choice was in part practical: The missions had to be where the “innocents” lived.

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