Paula Peña writes in El Deber:
The project of the patriots for Santa Cruz
The Governorate of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, founded in 1560, was the guardian of the frontier of the Spanish empire in this part of America. The rivers Iténez and Paraguay marked the confines between Spain and Portugal. From the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra had been populated and maintained that vast territory.
The Gobernación was composed of Moxos, Chiquitos, Cordillera, Vallegrande and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, with its enclosure. As a military border, it had permanent troops: in Moxos, in Chiquitos, in two forts of the Cordillera: Saypurú and Membiray, and 450 soldiers in the capital, besides the indigenous militias of cambas archer and horsemen on horseback.
The war of independence began on September 24, 1810, when the patriots Antonio Vicente Seoane, Antonio Suárez and José Salvatierra deposed the representative of the Spanish crown and formed a Governing Board to govern this immense province. The war lasted 15 years, was extended to the entire territory of Santa Cruz and finally on February 14, 1825 it was proclaimed its independence.
At that time the Santa Cruz people developed a project for their territory that we can analyze in the instructions given to the two deputies, Seoane and Caballero, who attended the Deliberative Assembly that gave rise to Bolivia. There are 21 instructions that reflect the will of the population in relation to their political, economic and social concepts and, in turn, mark the course that the first decades of our department will follow.
In political terms, they bet on “the free and general vote”, for a democratic republic. They also defend territoriality “discovered, founded and sustained at the expense of the neighborhood” Santa Cruz. They insist that “the dismemberment” of their territory will not be allowed, as well as to fix the “terms of this province all the extension that it embraces”.
Economically, they raise the need to establish “free trade” with both Brazil and Paraguay, they considered that “trade being one of the main bases of opulence and prosperity”, it was very important to develop a policy of linkage road to all its borders. They also understood that industry and manufacturing had to be developed, such as discoveries in mining. In the same way, in their more liberal conception of the economy they proposed the elimination of the estancos of tobacco, which was a monopoly of the crown, and that the citizens are those who “sell and expend freely” their products.
Socially, they asked that “schools of first letters and partial studies be established” throughout the territory, as well as an “establishment of General Studies” in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, that was the name of the university studies at that time. In the same way, they requested for Moxos and Chiquitos, where there was a lot of crafts, to send “artists that cultivate and advance those arts … and other liberal and mechanical arts”. For these territories and the one of Cordillera, the “barbaric plans of the Spanish economic system” became extinct and the payment of tribute to its citizens was waived.
The instructions also called for “the current contributions to be extinguished and for others to be arbitrated and meditated on, which are proportionate to the current situation”, because the Crown’s tax burdens only suffocated the possibilities of improving after a 15-year war that had exhausted all resources.
This valuable document includes topics such as the importance of the Church, the establishment of parishes so that parishioners have “spiritual as well as temporal” assistance. They also worry about the public jail, in which the prisoners live decently.
Once the Republic of Bolivia was formed, the Mariscal de Ayacucho appointed José Miguel de Velasco as its first prefect, who governed from December 1825 to 1828. Velasco was to administer Santa Cruz and all of its territory with a budget of 40,746 pesos, while La Paz received 777,834 pesos. Despite this, Velasco had an indestructible optimism, he was certain that soon all the evils left by the war of independence would end and that the department of Santa Cruz would be crossed by means of communication and that its inhabitants would be farmers and merchants, the indigenous would be educated and they would know their rights, since he was convinced of the “sacred liberal system”.
That is the wake that we were bequeathed by those who, from their beginnings as a department, thought about our future.