Chiquitos, a once powerful Indian tribe of South America, inhabiting the country west of the river Paraguay, in the present province of Chiquitos in Bolivia. They are described by Charlevoix and other early writers as an intelligent and independent race, brave and with warlike instincts, and excelling in manly exercises. They occupied the hills and elevated plateaus, lived in families, united agriculture with the chase, and, possessing large resources, were always numerous. They were first visited by Alexis Garcia, a Portuguese, who, having been sent from the coast of Brazil to explore the interior of Paraguay, about 1525, conceived the bold project of reaching Peru across the wilderness of the Gran Chaco. Gathering a force of 2,000 Indians, he went up the Paraguay above the site of Asuncion, and thence passed in a N. W. direction through the S. portion of Chiquitos, fighting his way through the thickly populated country until he reached the Andes, where he was murdered by his Indian allies. In 1537 Juan de Ayolas perished in conducting a similar expedition. Other adventurers failed in bringing to subjection this brave people, and it was not till 1691 that a permanent settlement was made among them.
In that year Father Arce, a Jesuit, established the mission of San Xavier, and from that time till their expulsion the Jesuits retained an unbounded influence over the natives. Other missions soon followed. In 1696 San Rafael was built; in 1706, San Jose and San Juan; in 1707, Concep-cion and San Ignacio; and soon afterward Santa Anna and San Miguel. Santiago was founded in 1740, and San Corazon in 1751. Occupying a comparatively isolated position, these missions enjoyed a peaceful and harmonious existence. Under the instruction of the fathers the Indians acquired many industrial arts, cultivated the fields, established manufactories, and carried on a remunerative trade with the neighboring Spanish settlements. D'Orbigny and other writers assert that these towns were in advance of those of the Spaniards, that their manufactures were better, and the produce of their lands superior and more abundant. .Their churches and mission buildings rivalled any in the new world, and were remarkable for the costliness of their decorations. Music and singing were taught, and the church choirs were composed of natives, who attained a rare degree of excellence in the art.
Thus, in 50 years after the arrival of the fathers, the Chiquitos and the neighboring tribes had become moulded into a civilized race. One of the most wonderful changes effected was in the language. Until the latter part of the 17th century, so slight was the intercourse between the tribes that 13 different languages were spoken, of which the Chiquito was the most general. The Jesuits proceeded to supplant the others, with the object of making the latter the language of all the Indians settled in the missions. Chiquito Indians were sent among the surrounding tribes as instructors, prayers and services were read in that tongue only, and all business transactions were conducted in it. These efforts gradually became successful, and now none but the Chiquito tongue is used by the Indians of the province. At the time of the expulsion of the Jesuits, in 1767, the missions had acquired an extraordinary degree of prosperity; but with the withdrawal of the fostering care which the fathers had always exercised over their converts, and the bad administration of the government, they began to decline.
Many of the Indians fled to the forests and relapsed into the rude ways of their fathers; the thriving villages decreased in population, and the splendid buildings and churches of the missions fell into decay. In the beginning of the present century, 34 years after the decree of expulsion, more than two thirds of the original inhabitants had disappeared; and the population is estimated now at only about 25,000.
Chiquitos, a province of Bolivia, in the department of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, between lat. 14° and 21° S., and lon. 57° 30' and 62° 30' W., bounded E. by the Paraguay river, N. by marshes and immense forasts lying between it and the country of the Moxos, W. by the province of Santa Cruz, and S. by the Gran Chaco; area, 108,000 sq. m.; pop. about 28,000. It forms the middle part of a great plain extending N. and S. at the eastern base of the Andes, from which rises a mountain system, composed of several chains of hills, which divides the waters flowing into the Amazon from those which feed the Plata. The rivers belonging to the former are the San Miguel, Serre, Rio Verde, Baures, and Barbados, tributaries of the Guapore. On the other side of the mountains, the Tucabaca, San Rafael, Latiriquiqui, and San Tomas all flow into the Paraguay.
The country abounds in marshes and freshwater lakes; but the largest bodies of water are the salinas of San Jose and Santiago, which yield excellent salt. The climate is warm, but not so hot as its position would indicate, and is generally healthy, intermittent fevers not prevailing to any extent. The soil is rich, yet little cultivated, there being no markets for produce. Cotton, sugar, and tamarinds, however, are exported to some extent.