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Local forces, however, sought to control the territory. They organized labor, exploited the land, and developed industry to fulfill their own desires. Brazilians plunged through the forests that separated Paraguay from the Atlantic in pursuit of their own interests: slaves and plunder. The pursuit of wealth created conflict within the tri-border region. As the conflict developed, the cultural, social, and material distinctions took precedence over the official borders of the region. In the territories of the Paraguay and Upper Paraná river basins, isolation and existing practices led to a blending of American and European traits.

A compromise reached in 1494 with the intervention of the papacy, however, produced the Treaty of Tordesillas. With only vague knowledge of the territories involved and well before the concept of the American continents’ very existence emerged, the rivals set a line between Spanish and Portuguese possessions. The treaty divided the Atlantic Ocean and the lands of the “new world” between the two imperial Catholic kingdoms, along a line set 370 leagues, or 1,100 miles, west of the Cape Verde Islands (off the West African coast), which Portugal had colonized.

23 The creation of such a powerful military force fundamentally transformed the region. The actions of the Jesuits effectively blocked the Portuguese invasions into the land that Spanish authorities claimed, but the Jesuits did not help establish colonial borders that served Spanish interests. Instead, the missions promoted lines of separation between the mercantile world based in Asunción and the missions themselves. ” 39 40 A SOUTH AMERICAN FRONTIER: THE TRI-BORDER REGION The Jesuits in the tri-border region pursued an ambitious policy that helped separate their mission operations from both Spanish authority and Portuguese incursions.

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