The CHIQUITANIA is an immense region covering an enormous part of Santa Cruz that is inhabited by the Chiquitano peoples. The Jesuits did not build missions and temples in all of the Chiquitano towns. This section will occasionally contain information on some towns that are not part of the Jesuit Mission circuit or tour because they are nearby. There are also some Jesuit Missions further north in the Department of Beni, and in the Bolivian Pantanal to the South.
The Chiquitania region receives its name from the native inhabitants of this area, the chiquitos or chiquitanos. Here Jesuit reductions (mission towns) were settled during the second half of the 17th Century (between 1691 and 1760). They remain in time as an extraordinary legacy because they are the only Jesuit missions in South America which were not destroyed after the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish colonies. They are not ruins but villages full of life, with people who still go to mass in the same majestic churches or to enjoy the same
concerts, much in the way they used to when the Jesuits established these missions three centuries ago.
The major attractions of this region are its churches, architectural jewels guarded by different villages which still possess interesting cultural manifestations from the period of the Missions. The Missions represented the voice of the Catholic Church in the middle of this savage world. This region remained hidden for nearly two centuries until the release of the movie "The Mission" featuring Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro, which awoke interest in the region internationally.
Today it is possible to appreciate the beauty of the religious architecture thanks to the German architect Hans Roth and his team of experts who restored the churches of these centuries-old Missions, recovering their ageless splendour.