Conquest and colonization in the Colombian Choco, 1510-1740
During the eighteenth century, the Chocó became an area of great importance to the Viceroyalty of New Granada. The region's sources of precious metal not only contributed to the economic recovery of the neighbouring cities of the Cauca Valley, but also enriched immensely the individual owners of the Chocô's mines and slaves gangs, the merchants who traded with them, and the royal officials and priests who served there. Despite the region's economic importance, it remained badly underdeveloped: a combination of climate and terrain discouraged Spanish settlement. While Spaniards were not attracted to the Chocô f or the purpose of settlement, slaves were nevertheless introduced in large numbers to exploit its gold deposits, and these were supported by the labour of the region's native inhabitants. This thesis will show, however, that it took the Spaniards nearly 300 years effectively to bring the Chocó under Crown control. Although the region had been known since the earliest days of conquest - Balboa, Almagro, and Pizarro had been among the first to explore the area - Indian resistance prevented the Spaniards from establishing a firm and lasting foothold in Indian territory until the 1660s. By the 1670s, a Franciscan mission had been established for the purpose of converting the Indians of the Chocô to the Christian Faith. Even at this stage, however, Spanish control was far from secure. By the 1680s, one of the Indian groups inhabiting the region - the Citarâ - had rebelled against the colonists and their increasing demands, and massacred as many Spaniards as they were able to surprise. It was the defeat of the rebel leaders which marked a turning point in the fortunes of the Chocó peoples. After the region had been finally pacified, Spaniards began to settle the area in growing numbers, the size of the slave population grew at a rapid rate, and the exploitation of gold deposits began in earnest. But while the Spaniards had undoubtedly established control of the native peoples by the beginning of the eighteenth century, the latter continued to resist both resettlement and conversion by fleeing from their settlements and refusing to accept the teaching of Christian Doctrine. Their continuing resistance was facilitated by the ineffective methods of administration introduced in the Chocó, controlled by corrupt tenientes, corregidores, secular priests, and Franciscan missionaries. These are the main themes that will be taken up in this study.