General Works
Historical Overviews
Cultural Overviews
Provincial Guides
Other Guidebooks


Accurate works on the Chiquitania are notoriously difficult to find, and harder still in English. (The vast majority are in Spanish, followed by German and French.) The following books are reasonably - in theory - accessible to the layman. If you're after scholarly texts and primary sources, however, that's another matter entirely. Regarding a useful selection of these, see footnotes 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 of the first .pdf document available below, or send me an email.

The task is complicated by the fact that there is no single, comprehensive treatment that joins the totality of the Chiquitania's cultural, economic, historical, and religious components and addresses them holistically. Querejazu's massive Las Misiones Jesuíticas de Chiquitos comes close, but treats only the Jesuit missions of Chiquitos, and almost exclusively during the colonial era. On the whole, the literature is highly compartmentalised, with each work focusing on one or two areas and scarcely mentioning (let alone synthesising) the others. It also needs to be remembered that some works are more reliable that others; even the best contain some errors, and scholarship on the Chiquitania has not progressed evenly across all areas.

It should be noted as well that the works of early historians such as Alcide d'Orbigny (see Voyage dans l’Amerique Meridionale, 1835-47); François Castlenau (Expédition dans les parties centrales de l'Amérique du Sud: De Rio de Janeiro à Lima, et de Lima au Para, 1850); Gabriel René-Moreno (Catálogo del Archivo de Mojos y Chiquitos, 1888); Plácido Molina M. (Historia del Obispado de Santa Cruz de la Sierra: Capítulos relacionados con la cuestión del Chaco Boreal, 1936); and Enrique Finot (Historia de la Conquista del Oriente Boliviano, 1939), whilst very important, are not as historically accurate as once thought.

Nonetheless, for those interested in reading more on this beautiful land, there are several books worth tracking down. Many are not available outside of Bolivia (except through certain academic sources, such as the University of Texas' LANIC system), and even there they can be hard to find but ocassionally are available in better bookstores.

Usually the parish office in any of the major towns of the Chiquitania will carry at least one or two of the books listed below. In Santa Cruz, Los Amigos del Libro (3.3327937) and Librería de Verbo Divino (3.3352179), both located on Calle Ingavi - the latter just a few doors down from the cathedral's side entrance - are excellent sources. There is also a small bookstore on the first floor of the Casa de Cultura's side entrance (at Calle Junín 151) that frequently has several paperback titles available.

General Works on the Chiquitania
If there is a single, must-have book on the Chiquitania, it is the above-mentioned Las Misiones Jesuíticas de Chiquitos, a monumental work edited by Pedro Querejazu, and published in 1995 by Fundacion BHN. However, at more than US$250.00, it's rather steep. It is in Spanish only and - take note - devotes the vast majority of its text to the Jesuit missions of Chiquitos in the colonial epoch, not the region as a whole.

Chiquitos: A Look at its History, by Alcides Parejas M. (perhaps Bolivia's foremost historian of the Chiquitania and certainly its most prolific) with assistance from Virgilio Suárez, published in 2004 by APAC's Fondo Editorial, is a good starting point for most readers, and costs only US$11.00. There are both English and Spanish versions available.

Reseña Histórica Social y Económica de la Chiquitania, by Oscar Tonelli Justiniano, published in 2004 by Editorial El País and in Spanish only is the only work I have come across that covers the Chiquitania to any extent in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Historical Overviews
Historical accounts of the Chiquitania almost invariably focus on the colonial and Jesuit mission eras. Serious studies of the Chiquitania after the secularisation of the Chiquitos missions are literally non-existent. However, there are some excellent titles, mostly in Spanish, covering roughly the two centuries between the foundation of Santa Cruz de la Sierra (1561) and the expulsion of the Jesuits (1767).

One appropriate for first-time readers, although not as accurate as one would wish, is Mariano Baptista Gumucio's Las Misiones Jesuíticas de Moxos y Chiquitos: Una Utopía Cristiana en el Oriente Boliviano (Centro de Estudios Sociales, 2003 [3rd ed.]). As its title indicates, it also covers the hostory of the Jesuit missions in the Moxos.

Another is a short but well-documented historical account of the Catholic Church in the area, La Iglesia en Santa Cruz: 400 Años de Historia 1605-2005, by Fr. Roberto Tomichá, OFM, published by Editorial Verbo Divino in 2005. Its chronology spans far more years than that of most accounts, and it does treat the region (i.e., the entire department of Santa Cruz) as opposed to merely the Jesuit settlements.

Tomichá also wrote the amazing La Primera Evangelización en Las Reducciones de Chiquitos, Bolivia (1691-1767) (published in 2002 by Universidad Católica Boliviana). This is an outstanding work, easily the best-researched account of the Chiquitos reducciones and gathered mostly from period sources, many of them overlooked by earlier researchers. It is historical in the sense that it treats the Jesuit missions era, although its primary purpose is to illustrate the role that the Chiquitano had as protagonists in the evangelisation of the region.

With the above caveats in mind, the best short work on the subject - including non-Jesuit evangelised territories - from an historical perspective is one by Fr. Antonio Menacho, SJ. An expert on the Jesuit missions, his Por Tierras de Chiquitos (published in 1991 by the Society of Jesus) is easy to grasp for all audiences and a peerless work of great accuracy and detail, replete with numerous primary source quotes and an excellent bibliography.

Dr. Eckart Kühne, the colleague and protégé in many ways of the great restorer (and former Jesuit) Hans Roth, is responsible for much primary research on the Chiquitos mission culture and its architecture. He wrote the definitive and much-needed biography of the great Jesuit Fr. Martin Schmid, so important in the history of the Jesuit missions, Las Misiones Jesuíticas en Bolivia: Martin Schmid 1694-1772. Misionero, Músico y Arquitecto entre los Chiquitanos, published in Spanish only in 1996.

Werner Hoffman's Las misiones jesuíticas entre los Chiquitanos (1979) and Vida y obra del P. Martin Schmid (1981) are also recommended reading, although now a bit dated given the discoveries made by Roth and Kühne during the subsequent restoration of the Jesuit templos.

Finally, the first two parts of my work on the history of the Chiquitania, which as with any other book on the subject, treats principally the Jesuit missions, are available here as .pdf downloads. Sad to say, these two pieces are still the only English-language titles that treat the topic; a third installment will be added in late 2013.

Evanescence and Permanence: Toward an Accurate Understanding of the Legacy of the Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos (revised December 2012)

The Long Silence: The Jesuit Colonial Missions of Chiquitos After the Extrañamiento

Cultural Overviews
The sine qua non for a cultural introduction to the Jesuit missions of Chiquitos - an account of the missions seen through their artistic output - is María José Diez Galvez's Los bienes muebles de Chiquitos: Fuentes para el conocimiento de una sociedad (Madrid: Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional, 2006). In fact, arguably this is the finest work on these missions ever produced.

.Misiones Jesuíticas, by Jaime Cisneros and Hugo Richter (published in 1998 [2nd ed.] by Industrias Offset Color S.R.L.) is a lovely coffee table-size work, with Spanish and (atrocious) English text. (The first edition is in Spanish only.) It focuses on the art, architecture, and daily life of the Jesuit missions of Chiquitos.

Chiquitos: The Utopia Endures, by Willy Kenning and Raúl Arrázola (published in 2003 by Willy Kenning Edición y Fotografía) is another oversized photoessay treatment of the Chiquitania as it exists now. There is side-by-side Spanish-English text, and the focus is more the geography and daily life of the area, as seen through the eyes of Bolivia's best-known aerial photographer.

An excellent, brief synopsis in English of the Chiquitos missions' musical heritage is Dr. Gauvin Alexander Bailey's "Missions in a Musical Key", originally published in the Jesuit magazine, "The Company", in 2003.

Somewhat apart from these works but largely cultural in scope is Richard Gott's Land Without Evil: Utopian Journeys Across the South American Watershed (published in 1993 by Verso Books). Whilst not as accurate as one would wish for, and treating sections of Brazil and Paraguay as well, it is engaging reading and offers a decent recapitulation of four centuries of history, albeit with a gloomy prediction.

Provincial Guides
Provincia Velasco, edited by Jaime Cabello and published in 2005 by Organización y Gestión del Destino Turístico Santa Cruz (OGD-SCZ) and CEPAD is a Spanish-language work that provides useful overviews of Velasco Province, with much interesting information on its four main municipalities: San Ignacio de Velasco, San Miguel de Velasco, San Rafael de Velasco, and Santa Ana de Velasco. There are no other provincial overviews in existence.

Other Guidebooks
Guidebooks to Santa Cruz - the department and city - are usually an admixture, often hilariously so, of fantasy and fallacy. Every year another self-appointed "expert" comes out with one. The key is to remember that the city is growing at a phenomenal pace, and literally hundreds of establishments change names, go under, move, spring up, or otherwise change each year. In the Chiquitania, however, things are a little different, and change is not quite the constant it is in la gran ciudad. All of which means that for almost any guide, you can disregard the parts that focus on Santa Cruz (unless you enjoy getting lost in swelteringly hot foreign cities). In reference to those that deal with the hinterland, be prepared for a big letdown, as most of the text is recycled and rarely updated. Yet a few guidebooks do stand out from the rest, at least where the Chiquitania is concerned. Some of these are the following.

Santa Cruz Turístico, by APAC Fondo Editorial, published in 2002. Although technically out of print, it is available in person at APAC's offices (Avenida Busch 552, 3.3332287). This emphasis here is squarely upon regional culture, although the text iis in Spanish only.

Destino Turístico Santa Cruz Bolivia, last published in paper format in 2005 by OGC-SCZ. This is marginally the best of the lot, with English and Spanish text running side by side. It shouldn't run you more than US$10.00, which is overpriced, but government functionaries need that extra cash to dig up yet more texts they can copy shamelessly from other this one. You can pick it up at OGC-SCZ's offices on the fifth floor of the Torre CAINCO, at Avenida Las Américas 7 (3.3392925). The online version is a better bet, as although it is available only in Spanish, it is updated.

The Official Tourism Travel Guide of Santa Cruz Bolivia, by Bismark A. Cuéllar was published in its third edition in 2009. It's far from official, and riddled with English so poorly translated as to make parts of it incomprehensible. Notwithstanding, it does contain some useful material on the Chiquitania, and at 517 densely packed pages, well...Bismark's heart was in the right place. You can call him at 3.3496264 (or email him) and order a copy.

If you want to travel light and prefer to concentrate on the city of Santa Cruz and the province as a whole online, apart from the Destino Turístico Santa Cruz Bolivia Web site mentioned above, Charis Barks' Web site,, is remarkable. And in case you can't find what you're after on her site, Charis herself is a wealth of information on all things Bolivian.

And of course, there is the best travel guide of all, Footprint's Bolivia. If you are considering a trip to Bolivia, let alone the Chiquitania, do yourself a favour and buy the most accurate and up-to-date guide as most of them are jokes. Bolivia (now in its fifth edition) is consistently rated the best travel guide to the country by travellers and in-country experts alike.