History, Spanish Settlement
reducciones, Paraguay River, Treaty of Madrid, original life, Viceroyalty
On August 15, 1537, Spanish adventurers seeking gold established a fort on the Paraguay River, calling it Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion (Our Lady of the Assumption), because that day was the feast day honoring the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Colonial Paraguay and the territory of present-day Argentina were ruled jointly until 1620, when they became separate dependencies of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
Beginning about 1609, the Jesuits, working under great hardship, established many missions called reducciones, which were settlements of Native American converts, whom the missionaries educated. The communal life on these settlements was similar to the original life of the Native Americans. Granted almost complete freedom from civil and ecclesiastical local authorities, the Jesuits, through the missions, became the strongest power in the colony. In 1750 King Ferdinand VI of Spain, by the Treaty of Madrid, ceded Paraguayan territory including seven reducciones to Portugal, and the Jesuits incited a Guarani revolt against the transfer. In 1767 the missionaries were expelled from Spanish America, including Paraguay; soon thereafter, the missions were deserted.
In 1776 Spain created the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, which comprised present-day Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia. Paraguay became an unimportant border dependency of Buenos Aires, the capital of the Viceroyalty, and sank gradually into relative insignificance until the early 19th century.
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