Where Empires End: The Spanish-Portuguese Frontier and Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance

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Based on Sevilla’s archival work pursued at the John Carter Brown (JCB) library during the Fall of 2021, her talk presents a deeper analysis of some of the seminal works of outsiders who experienced the montaña region—located at the eastern slopes of the Andean highlands in northern Peru— and wrote about their interactions with its local population from the Portuguese/Brazilian perspective. Sevilla’s presentation answers the main questions that have guided her research, such as what is the montaña? And, to what extent did the environmental features of this region affect the relationship between the representatives from the Spanish and Portuguese empires as well as the role of indigenous peoples? These questions are at the core of the presentation issuing plausible answers in which Sevilla discusses from a macro perspective what contextualizes these two empires’ struggles of power and dominance over the montaña and its native population.

Sevilla’s previous research has focused on Spanish and Quechua-written sources depicting only the views of Peru’s national elites and merchants who lived in the montaña region of northern Peru. This has excluded the sources discussing the Portuguese imperial attempts to expand their empire to the west, along with the maintenance of trade routes and the exchange of goods coming and going from Pará, Brazil to the montaña during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Based in Quito in present-day Ecuador Jesuits followed their missionary fervor and tributaries of the Great Marañón east and then south, creating a corridor that ran parallel along the montaña. However, among other reasons that derailed the Jesuits’ plans, the Portuguese bandeirantes represented a constant threat to their Christianization agenda. The presentation of Sevilla’s archival work at the JCB sheds light on the other forces that were part of this region’s dynamic overall.