Tongues aflame and swords of fire
Heath, Justin Michael
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The Jesuit Reductions of Paraguay have long been portrayed as remote intentional communities directed under the exclusive pastoral guidance of the Jesuit missionaries. The early accounts of these missions, however, show that this alleged segregation between these indigenous communities and the surrounding colonial environment belies the actual degree of cooperation between the missionaries and colonial authorities on either side of the Atlantic. Such distinctions – often embellished decades after the fact - reflect a shift in prevailing attitudes during the founding years of the Jesuit Reductions. This paper examines the dynamics of interdependency and opposition between the Society of Jesus and the nearby Spanish garrison towns both of which carried out the joint pacification of the borderlands. The author argues that the armed use of force as a privilege reserved for the King’s faithful vassals - that transcended racial categories in this instance - proved indispensable to the viability of the Jesuit enterprise when local prospects deteriorated precipitously along the borderlands of Brazil and Spanish America.