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The Jesuits were unique in attempting to create a theocratic "state within a state" in which the native peoples in the reductions, guided by the Jesuits, would remain autonomous and isolated from Spanish colonists and Spanish rule.With the permission of King Philip II of Spain a group of Jesuits traveled to the Viceroyalty of Peru in 1568, some 30 years after the arrival of the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians and Mercedarians.Properly, “Chiquitos” refers only to either a modern-day department of Bolivia, or the former region of Upper Peru (now Bolivia) that once encompassed all of the Chiquitania and parts of Mojos (or Moxos) and the Gran Chaco.The current provincial division of Santa Cruz department does not follow the Jesuits’ concept of a missionary area.After the expulsion of the Jesuit order from Spanish territories in 1767, most Jesuit reductions in South America were abandoned and fell into ruins.The former Jesuit missions of Chiquitos are unique because these settlements and their associated culture have survived largely intact.A popular biennial international musical festival put on by the nonprofit organization Asociación Pro Arte y Cultura The six World Heritage Site settlements are located in the hot and semiarid lowlands of Santa Cruz Department of eastern Bolivia.

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Xavier), Concepción (Concepc.), San Rafael de Velasco (S. Miguel), San José de Chiquitos (San Joseph) and San Juan Bautista (S. While the mission towns in Paraguay flourished, the evangelization of the Eastern Bolivian Guarani (Chiriguanos) proved difficult.

The Jesuits established themselves in Lima in 1569 before moving east toward Paraguay; in 1572 they reached the Audience of Charcas in modern-day Bolivia. Diego Martínez, arrived in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, located just south of where the future mission of San José de Chiquitos would be established.

Because they were not allowed to establish settlements on the frontier they built chapter houses, churches and schools in pre-existing settlements, such as La Paz, Potosí and La Plata (present day Sucre). In 1592 the settlement had to be moved 250 kilometres (160 mi) west because of conflicts with natives, although the remains of the original town exist in the Santa Cruz la Vieja archaeological site.

The westernmost missions are San Xavier (also known as San Javier) and Concepción, located in the province of Ñuflo de Chávez between the San Julián and Urugayito rivers.

Santa Ana de Velasco, San Miguel de Velasco, and San Rafael de Velasco are located to the east, in José Miguel de Velasco province, near the Brazilian border.

Distinguished by a unique fusion of European and Amerindian cultural influences, the missions were founded as reductions or reducciones de indios by Jesuits in the 17th and 18th centuries to convert local tribes to Christianity.

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