reductions, Span. reducciones, settlements of indigenous peoples in colonial Latin America, founded (beginning in 1609) to utilize efficiently native labor and to teach the natives the ways of Spanish life. Best known were those established by the Jesuits in old Paraguay (many of them in present-day Argentina)—about 30 among the Guaraní and about 7 in the Chaco wilderness. Each Jesuit reduction was directed by two priests, a spiritual overseer and an administrator; their rule was absolute but usually benevolent. The missions prospered in agriculture, trade, and manufactures, and printed thousands of volumes, contributing greatly to geographic and scientific knowledge about South America. Some reductions were established and run by civil authorities.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.