Nature, colonization, and utopia in the works of João Daniel

The article analyzes certain aspects of "Tesouro descoberto no rio Amazonas" (Treasure discovered on the Amazon River), written by João Daniel (1722-76) during his time in the State of Maranhão e Grão-Pará as a Jesuit missionary between 1741 and 1757; the priest was banished to Lisbon two years before the Company of Jesus was expelled from Portuguese America. This unique record of the mid-eighteenth-century Amazon is a compendium on the region's wealth and potential. Most importantly, it put forward a colonization project that was critical of the model then in place; the new proposal was an integrated whole which took environmental conditions, technology, and social relations into account in the organization of local society. In centering his project on the issue of labor, João Daniel revives, as a metaphor, the idea of the Amazon as an earthly paradise-a notion that had characterized seventeenth-century missionary literature but was practically abandoned in the eighteenth century.

Amazon; colonization; nature; missionaries

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