Comunero Revolt (Paraguay, 1730–1735)

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Comunero Revolt (Paraguay, 1730–1735)

The revolt originated in the longstanding hostility of Paraguayans to the Society of Jesus. Paraguayans coveted Jesuit lands, commercial privileges, and the monopoly on Guarani labor in Jesuit missions. This hostility first appeared in the violence of the 1640s, when Bishop Bernardino de Cárdenas articulated Paraguayan grievances; it surfaced again during the incendiary governorship of José de Antequera y Castro. Under Antequera, in 1724, Paraguayans routed a Guarani army from the missions, expelled Jesuits from their Asunción colegio, and remained largely unchastised when Antequera fled in 1725.

Although Paraguayans were relatively quiescent during the governorship of Martín de Barúa, resentment smoldered. Paraguayans disliked but accepted the return of the Jesuits to Asunción. In 1730 the appointment as governor of Ignacio de Soroeta, a client of Viceroy José de Armendáriz, marqués de Castelfuerte, the jailer of Antequera and the restorer of the Jesuits to their properties in Asunción, roused Paraguayans to renew their resistance. Soroeta's pro-Jesuit associations goaded Paraguayans past the boundaries of good sense and overcame the counsels of local moderates and Jesuit partisans.

Bishop José de Palos, a Franciscan who supported the Jesuit position, was unable to soothe tempers. A shadowy figure named Fernando Mompox De Zayas, a fugitive from Lima, encouraged rebellion. An acquaintance of Antequera's and a fellow prisoner in the viceregal jail in Lima, Mompox was a person to whom Jesuit writers and other critics of the rebellious Paraguayans ascribed inordinate influence. Modern Paraguayan patriots have suggested that he was a premature antimonarchist. The theory of natural rights that Mompox supposedly revealed to Paraguayans held that political authority was vested in the people, or común (thus comuneros), and they delegated it to the monarch. This view of the limited powers of kingship was reactionary, not revolutionary. It was an approach to monarchy predating eighteenth-century absolutism, and it flourished in provincial Asunción, where men treasured the exploits of the heroes of the sixteenth century.

Paraguayans in 1731 expelled Soroeta from the province, incidentally condemning to death Antequera in Lima. Some Paraguayans, whose leadership centered on the Asunción cabildo, created the junta gobernativa, a committee that hoped to direct the province. Although offensive to royal authority, this body was not a truly revolutionary creation. Its aim was to rival the city council. Direction of the insurrection came from the Asunción elite. For a time, the alcalde ordinario José Luis Barreiro, who expelled Mompox from the province, directed local affairs. Leadership then fell to Miguel de Garay and the former Antequera partisan Antonio Ruíz de Arellano. In 1732, Paraguayans again expelled the Jesuits from Asunción, showing the continuity between earlier uprisings and the 1730s. In July 1733, Governor-designate Manuel Agustín de Ruiloba y Calderón, another Castelfuerte appointee, arrived in Paraguay. Paraguayans shot him. The elderly bishop of Buenos Aires, Juan de Arregui, who was visiting the province, then served briefly as governor. Unable to command respect, he departed. Cristóbal Domínguez de Obelar, a Paraguayan encomendero and local magistrate, took charge of the government until 1735, when pacification of the province again fell to Buenos Aires governor Bruno Mauricio de Závala, who was more repressive than when he had suppressed the earlier insurrection in 1725. He sentenced to death four leaders of the uprising, ordered thirteen exiles, removed municipal officials from their posts, and prohibited public meetings.

Later interpreters have followed the argument of Father Pedro Lozano, the Jesuit chronicler of the revolt, who wished to discredit Paraguayans by picturing them as radicals. Many twentieth-century authors have also seen the rebellion as a precursor to modern revolutions, which it was not. Its leaders never pursued revolutionary goals. They saw themselves as patriots loyal to the Spanish monarchy. Nevertheless, present-day Paraguayans cherish the memory of the comuneros and consider them patriots and precursors of independence.

See alsoJesuits; Mompox de Zayas, Fernando.


Antonio Zinny, Historia de los gobernantes del Paraguay (1887).

Pedro Lozano, Historia de las revoluciones de la provincia del Paraguay, 2 vols. (1905).

Carlos Zubizarreta, Historia de mi cuidad: Etopeya de la Asunción colonial (1964).

James Schofield Saeger, "Origins of the Rebellion of Paraguay," in Hispanic American Historical Review 52, no. 2 (1972): 215-229.

Adalberto López, The Revolt of the Comuneros, 1721–1735: A Study in the Colonial History of Paraguay (1976).

Additional Bibliography

Castillo, David R. Reason and Its Others: Italy, Spain, and the New World. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2006.

Franzen, Beatriz Vasconcelos. Jesuítas, portugeses y espanhóis no sul do Brasil e Paraguai coloniais: novos estudos. São Leopoldo, Brazil: Editora UNISINOS, 2003.

Ganson, Barbara Anne. The Guaraní under Spanish Rule in the Río de la Plata. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Millones Figueroa, Luis and Domingo Ledezma. El saber de los Jesuitas, historias naturales, y el nuevo mundo. Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2005.

Techo, Nicolás del, Manuel Serrano y Sanz, and Bartomeu Melía. Historia de la provincia del Paraguay de la compañia de Jesús. Asunción: Centro de Estudios Paraguayos Guasch, 2005.

                                James Schofield Saeger