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    The Vilelas Settlement

    The Vilelas settlement was the first to be established in the territory of Santiago del Estero.

    Originally established on the banks of the Salado River in 1735, it was founded by the Vilelas, the Indigenous tribe that inhabited the area, together with countless minorities such as the Chunupies, the Pazaines, the Atalalas, and the Umuampas, among others.

    Unlike other settlements, it was not left under Jesuit control, but under the care of a local priest, Father Joseph Theodoro Bravo. It was not until 1751 that a Jesuit priest, Father Martin Bravo, took over the settlement, which had 380 natives at the time. He was succeeded by Father Bernardo Castro, who, eventually, in 1758, managed to move the dwindling settlement to Petacas, located eighty leagues to the north along the Salado River, thus acquiring its name.


    The Jesuit settlements were a response to the colonial geopolitical needs of domination over the Indigenous communities that inhabited the Chaco, which became increasingly significant along the border of the Salado River.

    They were political, military, and religious units, established by treaties and agreements between the Spanish forces and the native communities.Each settlement had a main area where you could find the church, the administrative offices, the priests’ quarters, and a fort which served as defence against external attacks or any insurrection by the native or already “settled” minorities.

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