An Indigenous Leader and his Missionaries: A Biographical Account of the Salesian Mission of Puerto Casado, Paraguay, in the Twentieth Century

Valentina Bonifacio


This article narrates the history of the Salesian mission of Puerto Casado
in the Paraguayan Chaco, from its foundation in the 1920s to the end of the
century, by following the life story of René Ramírez, a Maskoy representative
and one of the most relevant Paraguayan indigenous leaders of the last
decades. In particular, it focuses on how Ramírez emerged as a leader, how
he successively negotiated his political power within the mission, and how
he finally decided to break his alliance with the church in order to be able
to forge a space of political autonomy on the same level as non-indigenous
people. Through this specific case study, the article also shows how the
Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and the Barbados Symposium of 1971
implied a fundamental change of direction for the Catholic missionaries in
Paraguay in their way of relating to indigenous communities, leading to
important struggles and alliances at a local level.


Salesian missions; Chaco; indigenous territories; Barbados Declaration; Maskoy

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