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Acuña, Cristóbal de


Spanish Jesuit missionary, explorer of the Amazon; b. Burgos, 1597; d. Lima, Peru, Jan. 14, 1670. He entered the Jesuit Society in 1612 and made his profession in 1634. In 1630 he was the first rector of the College of Cuenca (Ecuador), the base for the Jesuit mission of Maynas in the upper Amazon. Acuña was appointed by the royal court to take part in a scientific expedition to the Amazon River because he had "journeyed through almost all Provinces of Peru, Quito, Chile, Tucumán, and Paraguay, including the coast of Brazil, La Plata, and Pará," according to reports from his superior, Francisco Fuentes. Acuña and a companion, Father Andrés de Artieda, left Quito on Feb. 16, 1639, investigating the characteristics of the Amazon River, native population, products, and various other items of interest. They arrived in Pará Dec. 12, 1639, and in March 1640 both returned to Spain. In Madrid Acuña gave an account of his observations to Philip IV and the Council of the Indies, and requested permission and assistance to carry out further evangelization along the great river. A result of his exploration was the Nuevo descubrimiento del Gran Río de las Amazonas (Madrid 1641), immediately translated into several languages. With the political separation of Portugal from Spain in 1640, projects of colonization and missionary work came to a standstill, and Acuña returned to South America in 1644. He stayed in the New Kingdom of Granada and Quito, until he was persuaded to return to Lima in 1659.

Bibliography: j. jouanen, Historia de la Compañía de Jesús en la antigua provincia de Quito, 15701774, 2 v. (Quito 194143). e. torres saldamando, Los antiguos Jesuítas del Perú (Lima 1882).

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