By Daniel K. Lewis

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When the settlers in Asunción rebelled again against Spanish authority in 1721, the missions provided troops and supplies to sustain the loyalist cause. This rebellion, which produced intermittent fighting from 1720 to 1735, was called the Comunero Revolt. Although nationalist historians in Paraguay regard the Comunero Revolt, or Commoners’ Rebellion, as a precursor of the Independence Wars of the nineteenth century, the defense of Crown interests and the pacification of the territory was the last great service that the Jesuit missions provided to Spain.

The development of its Asian and African trading links would consume what resources the Portuguese Crown had at its disposal for exploration and conquest. As a result of a disappointing initial exploration of Brazil’s coast, and in deference to the requirements of the Treaty of Tordesillas, Portugal essentially left the Americas to the Spanish. E 21 22 A SOUTH AMERICAN FRONTIER: THE TRI-BORDER REGION In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas mandated that the world outside of Europe would be divided between Spain and Portugal along a north-south meridian 1,100 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands.

The Jesuits chose sites near Guaraní settlements. This choice was in part practical: The missions had to be where the “innocents” lived. In addition, missions located far from Spanish settlements operated with fewer bureaucratic and political constraints. In effect, the Jesuits chose to operate within the boundaries of the American world and outside those that the Spanish hoped to impose. The Jesuits’ selection of sites for the missions led to problems: Many were subject to flooding and other unhealthy conditions.

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