Caciques as placeholders in the Guaraní missions of eighteenth century paraguay

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This essay uses census data from the eighteenth century to examine the leadership role of caciques in the Guaraní missions. Cacique succession between 1735 and 1759 confirms that the position of cacique transitioned from the Guaraníes flexible interpretation of hereditary succession to the Jesuits rigid idea of primogenitor (father to eldest son) succession. This essay argues that scholars overstate the caciques leadership role in the Guaraní missions. Adherence to primogenitor succession did not take into account a candidate's leadership qualities, and thus, some caciques functioned as placeholders for organizing the mission population and calculating tribute and not as active leaders. An assortment of other Guaraní leadership positions compensated for this weakness by providing both access to leadership roles for non-caciques who possessed leadership qualities but not the proper bloodline and additional leadership opportunities for more capable caciques. By taking into account leadership qualities and not just descent, these positions provided flexibility and reflected continuity with pre-contact Guaraní ideas about leadership.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-251
Number of pages28
JournalColonial Latin American Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 4 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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