A South American Frontier: The Tri-border Region (Arbitrary by Daniel K. Lewis

By Daniel K. Lewis

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He convinced a small group of Europeans to accompany him, and, according to his reports, his party and about 2,000 tribespeople set off on an expedition to the interior. In 1524, García began the march from the coast of what is today the southernmost state in Brazil; Rio Grande do Sul, and continued across Paraná to Mato Grosso. Struggling through dense forests and across marshes and rivers, the expedition moved across the Alto Paraná River. Their ambition to find the rumored kingdom made the area’s small settlements uninteresting to García and his men.

The governors tried to promote Spanish culture, but the distance between Asunción and other colonial cities left the settlement isolated. Asunción’s population grew slowly, and its authority over the people living in surrounding areas, who continued to live as they had before the Spaniards’ arrival, remained weak. In turn, the threat of invasion by indigenous groups forced cooperation. Spanish officers led Guaraní armies against shared enemies. Isolation and cooperation helped define the region as culturally and socially distinct.

Again, events in Europe served as a catalyst. 51 52 A SOUTH AMERICAN FRONTIER: THE TRI-BORDER REGION In 1807, Napoleon ordered the invasion of Iberia. He deposed the Bourbon king and named his elder brother, Joseph, as the new ruler of Spain and its colonies. Colonists across Spanish America declared their loyalty to the deposed order. In many cities, local councils asserted their right to rule in the place of the absent king. The councils in Asunción and Buenos Aires were among the first to declare outright independence.

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