Terra Bolivia » The Jesuit Missions

The Jesuit Missions

The missions (or « Reducciones ») of the Chiquitania were established by the Jesuits at the end of the seventeenth century. The churches from this area have been beautifully preserved, restored and some even rebuilt; these gems of Baroque architecture have kept the religious and folkloric traditions alive.


As in the region of Moxos (the Bolivian Amazon) and Paraguay, the missionaries here were attempting to create an Utopia: the creation of a « City of God » on earth, and to peacefully convert the indigenous population. We can see how the missions were able to unify the native people with their different cultures under one religion, one language (the Chiquitano) and a set of common social principles.


When the Missions were established, the nomadic peoples of this area were not only initiated into agriculture, but also in painting, sculpture, music and dance; in all these arts they proved to be most skilful, and demonstrated a spectacular ability in learning. The success of this ambitious project resided in the adherence of indigenous people to the system established by the Jesuits, which embodied both democratic and humanistic qualities.