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Indigenous Agency in the Amazon

The Mojos in Liberal and Rubber-Boom Bolivia, 1842–1932

Gary Van Valen

Publication Year: 2013

The largest group of indigenous people in the Bolivian Amazon, the Mojos, has coexisted with non-Natives since the late 1600s, when they accepted Jesuit missionaries into their homeland, converted to Catholicism, and adapted their traditional lifestyle to the conventions of mission life. Nearly two hundred years later they faced two new challenges: liberalism and the rubber boom. White authorities promoted liberalism as a way of modernizing the region and ordered the dismantling of much of the social structure of the missions. The rubber boom created a demand for labor, which took the Mojos away from their savanna towns and into the northern rain forests.
Gary Van Valen postulates that as ex-mission Indians who lived on a frontier, the Mojos had an expanded capacity to adapt that helped them meet these challenges. Their frontier life provided them with the space and mind-set to move their agricultural plots and cattle herds, join independent indigenous groups, or move to Brazil. Their mission history gave them the experience they needed to participate in the rubber export economy and the politics of white society. Van Valen argues that the indigenous Mojos also learned how to manipulate liberal discourse to their advantage. He demonstrates that the Mojos were able to survive the rubber boom, claim the right of equality promised by the liberal state, and preserve important elements of the culture they inherited from the missions.
The largest group of indigenous people in the Bolivian Amazon, the Mojos, has coexisted with non-Natives since the late 1600s, when they accepted Jesuit missionaries into their homeland, converted to Catholicism, and adapted their traditional lifestyle to the conventions of mission life. Nearly two hundred years later they faced two new challenges: liberalism and the rubber boom. White authorities promoted liberalism as a way of modernizing the region and ordered the dismantling of much of the social structure of the missions. The rubber boom created a demand for labor, which took the Mojos away from their savanna towns and into the northern rain forests.
Gary Van Valen postulates that as ex-mission Indians who lived on a frontier, the Mojos had an expanded capacity to adapt that helped them meet these challenges. Their frontier life provided them with the space and mind-set to move their agricultural plots and cattle herds, join independent indigenous groups, or move to Brazil. Their mission history gave them the experience they needed to participate in the rubber export economy and the politics of white society. Van Valen argues that the indigenous Mojos also learned how to manipulate liberal discourse to their advantage. He demonstrates that the Mojos were able to survive the rubber boom, claim the right of equality promised by the liberal state, and preserve important elements of the culture they inherited from the missions.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-7

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

This book would not have been possible without the help of many people. First of all, I would like to thank my parents, John and Emma Van Valen, for always being there for me. Their love, financial and emotional support, and encouragement to follow my dreams made this book and many other good things in my life possible...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-7

On a hot day in May 1887, a group of Bolivian soldiers halted their march across a fl at savanna laced by lakes and tributaries of the Amazon. They were taking ten indigenous prisoners back to their headquarters in Trinidad, the local capital, but stopped to administer several hundred lashes to each. The soldiers took special delight...

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1. The Llanos de Mojos: Geographical Situation

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pp. 8-27

Few countries are as obviously divided into two parts by their physical geography as is Bolivia. When outsiders consider Bolivia, they usually think of the Andes Mountains, llamas, potatoes, and Indian peoples descended from the Incas and earlier civilizations. This description fits the western portion of the country, the...

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2. Liberalism Comes to the Llanos: Bolivian Rule and Liberalism

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pp. 28-57

Although Bolivian independence brought little immediate change to the Province of Mojos, it stirred debate among national leaders regarding the constitution and government of indigenous communities. Liberal thinkers regarded the existence of corporate property and the separate legal status of Indians as barriers...

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3. A Country Vulcanized

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pp. 58-104

Life along the Bolivian tributaries of the Amazon changed dramatically with demands of the international market for tropical forest products, beginning with a limited trade in cinchona bark, the source of quinine, in the 1840s and 1850s. At the same time, Charles Goodyear’s 1839 invention of the vulcanization process...

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4. The Ventriloquist Messiah: Introduction and Sources

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pp. 105-141

By the early 1880s, many Trinitario Mojos had moved to San Lorenzo and other settlements to the southwest of Trinidad to escape the labor demands brought about by the rubber boom. By 1886, if not before, an organized movement had emerged in San Lorenzo. In 1887, Mojos and carayanas fought each other for several...

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5. The Citizen Cacique: After the Guayochería

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pp. 142-168

In September 1887, Andrés Guayocho’s community on the isla of San Lorenzo lay in ruins, its burned shells of buildings and silent plaza returning to cattle pasture, its people dead or dispersed. Few could have guessed that within a few years, that same isla would host a revived Mojo settlement that would not only...

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6. Trinidad and San Ignacio: The Mission Towns after the Guayochería

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pp. 169-189

For those Mojos who had remained in the mission towns, the decades between 1890 and 1930 were a time of fewer options than had existed during the early rubber boom. In this era, non-Indian immigration to Beni continued, as did the exploitation of the northern rubber forests. Carayanas secured their dominance of both the savannas and the rubber...

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Conclusion

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pp. 190-193

A relatively small country in terms of population, Bolivia is nevertheless well-known as one of only two nations with a Native American majority. Until recently, it seemed that the Spanish conquest of the region had determined its social structure for all time: a creole upper class would dominate politics, economics, and culture...

Notes

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pp. 195-222

Glossary

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pp. 223-230

Bibliography

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pp. 231-241

Index

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pp. 243-249


E-ISBN-13: 9780816599783
E-ISBN-10: 0816599785
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816521180
Print-ISBN-10: 0816521182

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 16 photos, 2 maps, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Mojo Indians -- Bolivia -- Beni -- History.
  • Rubber industry and trade -- Social aspects -- Bolivia -- Beni.
  • Millennialism -- Bolivia -- Beni -- History.
  • Agent (Philosophy).
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