I A gold nugget as large as a suckling pig; the treasure of Atahuallpa enriches 74 horsemen, 138 foot soldiers, and the king of Spain; El Dorado, a vain cacique covered in gold dust washes off in the lagoon; stories of Amazons and a Greek artilleryman.
II At the foot of the Andes, under water for five months of the year. The inhabitants of the great swamp: mild, ingenious, adaptable. Three men in a boat take a census. Vast quantities of land and water, but no gold, silver, or precious stones.
III The myth of Paititi, Father-Tiger, and the mysterious Incan migrations over the Andes. A rich and noble mestizo with fourteen men seeks to conquer half of America. El Dorado bogs down in the swamps of the Mojos. The citizens of Santa Cruz - eleven disorderly streets - look for slaves.
IV The round up of Indian slaves comes to an end while the contest for their souls begins. A chaplain-physician and a polyglot missionary. Hatchets, wedges, and knives in exchange for obedience. Three-naved cathedrals of mud and wood.
V The good fathers confront the loose habits of the Mojos. A straw mattress, two geese, and two spindles make up the bride's dowry. The Indios and disease: stoic or healthy? Portuguese and Spaniards at war on the edge of the swamp. The sad expulsion of the fathers in 1768: twenty-four leave but only fourteen arrive.
Massimo Livi Bacci is Professor of Demography at the University of Florence.
"Following in wake of Spanish explorers and missionaries centuries
ago, Massimo Livi Bacci enters the extraordinary world of Bolivia's
Llanos de Mojos. There he documents the European search for an
elusive El Dorado, finding instead sustainable, indigenous
adaptations that in time were modified and undone by outside
W. George Lovell, Queen's University, Canada
"Massimo Livi Bacci weaves together with masterful skill
narratives of European exploration, Jesuit relations, and
demographic data to tell a remarkable story of the Mojos,
indigenous peoples of what is today eastern Bolivia. Livi Bacci
places the Mojos' story within the totality of colonialism, its
ruthless quest for gold and slaves, its diseases, its religious
imperatives to save Native souls, and its imperial rivalries and
warfare. In doing so, Livi Bacci shows how the Mojos' history was
neither linear nor preordained. El Dorado in the Marshes provides
an even-handed account and is a must read for those who want an
accessible yet sophisticated telling of European colonization and
its impact on indigenous peoples."
Paul Kelton, University of Kansas