Chapter opens looking at the place of missions within political and philosophical structure of the Spanish empire. As Spain attempted to reform its empire in the eighteenth century in response to enlightenment concepts, it changed the way it conducted its frontier missions system. The history of the missionaries of Ocopa provided an interesting insight into these changes. They were generally seen as in line with enlightenment concepts, yet also a threat to the growing enlightenment inspired concept of royal absolutism. This study, therefore, fits within larger body of works on the Bourbon Reform period of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It argues that changes to the Spanish borderlands were a result of interactions between political actors throughout the empire.
Chapter one examines the first three decades of the Apostolic Institute's presence in Peru. As part of this narrative, chapter one will delve briefly into ethnohistory to illuminate the missionaries' difficulties with "converting" the local populace. It will explore the friars' initial attempts to culturally assimilate the natives of the region into mission life and how and why these ethnic groups resisted their efforts, sometimes violently. At the same time, Ocopa's emerging relationship with the Spanish colonial bureaucracy at its various levels. While Ocopa initially received promises of funding from the Crown, as the chapter discusses, a series of increasingly regalist viceroys refused to fund them consistently. These early failures to aid Ocopa's evangelization efforts, combined with indigenous resistance to the missionaries' political, economic, and cultural impositions, led to instability in the missions, which was easily exploited by Juan Santos leading up to the rebellion in 1742.
Chapter two focuses on the events surrounding the Juan Santos Atahualpa Rebellion. Specifically, it examines how the viceregal government ultimately failed to support Ocopa against the rebels. It narrates the initial expulsion and murder of the Ocopa friars and the unsuccessful attempt by local militia to end the rebellion quickly. The chapter then looks at the larger geopolitical context of the rebellion examining how the Lima earthquake and tsunami ultimately shaped the viceroy's decision to abandon attempts to dislodge Juan Santos from Ocopa's missions. At the same time, chapter two uncovers the role that Ocopa's support for one of their former missionaries, Friar Calixto, played in kindling the viceroy's animosity toward the College. It ultimately argues that the viceroy ordered military efforts against Juan Santos abandoned, not because of strategic concerns, but to limit the influence of Ocopa, which he saw as a threat to royal authority.
Chapter three examines the aftermath of the viceroy's decision to cede most of Ocopa's missions to the Juan Santos Atahualpa rebels. Ocopa successfully lobbied Madrid into ordering the viceregal government to commit enough supplies and manpower to expel Juan Santos. The viceroy, however, refused to honor the Crown's decree. The viceroy's actions was motivated in part by the missionaries' continued support for Friar Calixto, whom the viceroy had arrested and forcibly removed to Spain for his alleged complicity in fomenting indigenous unrest. Ultimately, the viceregal government relented on the issue of the College's annual stipend, but continued to hold Spanish forces in a defensive position along the frontier. In reaction to these events, Ocopa began the process of gradually ceding control of their operations to Crown authorities in exchange for increased material support.
Chapter four explores the resurgence of Ocopa after the Juan Santos Atahualpa Rebellion. The relatively more pro-Franciscan atmosphere, caused in part by the ascension of Charles III to the throne, gave Ocopa enough money and resources from the Crown to restart in earnest their evangelization efforts in the Peruvian Amazon. As the chapter narrates, they were aided even more when after the expulsion of the Jesuits, Ocopa received territory and property formerly controlled by the Society. While attempts to evangelize were not always successful, with one of them ending in another rebellion, Ocopa showed itself to be one of the most powerful Franciscan institutions in the New World. Ocopa needed this influence with the rise of new ideas regarding evangelization in the frontier. The "new method," sought to evangelize through colonization and commerce with minimal involvement from the regular clergy.
Chapter five explores how Ocopa's ability to resist government imposition began to weaken, due to philosophical changes from within its own ranks. As some of the missionaries themselves began to embrace reformist ideas such as evangelization through commerce, viceregal officials found a way to more effectively control Ocopa, through the voluntary participation of some of its own members. The end of this chapter recounts the election of the guardian of Ocopa in 1787, a moment where missionaries more aligned with reformists goals (later known as the Aragonese faction) took control of the leadership of the College with the help of the viceroy.
Chapter six explores Ocopa's history during the last three and a half decades of Spanish colonial rule in Peru. This period is the apogee of Ocopa's missionary enterprise under the control of the Aragonese faction. These new leaders fervently began to incorporate many of the economic and political principles behind the Bourbon reforms in their evangelization efforts. This new emphasis was in part an outcome of the new leaders' philosophical beliefs, but was also implemented to please Crown officials, who exercised more and more authority over the College. The new propaganda worked, and Ocopa was granted its largest concession from the Crown to date, almost complete pastoral control over the newly created diocese of Maynas. Their success, however, was hollow, as miscommunication and incompetence in the Spanish bureaucracy led to confusion and dissension in the diocese. The French invasion of Spain and the wars of independence ultimately sealed Ocopa's fate.
Conclusion explores the nature of the clerical Bourbon reforms during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The goal of this section is to suggest further implications for Ocopa's history in understanding the processes that shaped the Atlantic World as a whole. Ocopa was and remains the confluence of many local and global pressures and ideas.