Chapter 14 – How Candide and Cacambo Were Received by the Jesuits of Paraguay


Candide had brought such a valet with him from Cadiz, as one often meets with on the coasts of Spain and in the American colonies. He was a quarter Spaniard, born of a mongrel in Tucuman; he had been singing-boy, sacristan, sailor, monk, pedlar, soldier, and lackey. His name was Cacambo, and he loved his master, because his master was a very good man. He quickly saddled the two Andalusian horses.

“Come, master, let us follow the old woman’s advice; let us start, and run without looking behind us.”


Candide shed tears.

“Oh! my dear Cunegonde! must I leave you just at a time when the Governor was going to sanction our nuptials? Cunegonde, brought to such a distance what will become of you?”

“She will do as well as she can,” said Cacambo; “the women are never at a loss, God provides for them, let us run.”

“Whither art thou carrying me? Where shall we go? What shall we do without Cunegonde?” said Candide.

“By St. James of Compostella,” said Cacambo, “you were going to fight against the Jesuits; let us go to fight for them; I know the road well, I’ll conduct you to their kingdom, where they will be charmed to have a captain that understands the Bulgarian exercise. You’ll make a prodigious fortune; if we cannot find our account in one world we shall in another. It is a great pleasure to see and do new things.”

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“You have before been in Paraguay, then?” said Candide.

“Ay, sure,” answered Cacambo, “I was servant in the College of the Assumption, and am acquainted with the government of the good Fathers as well as I am with the streets of Cadiz. It is an admirable government. The kingdom is upwards of three hundred leagues in diameter, and divided into thirty provinces; there the Fathers possess all, and the people nothing; it is a masterpiece of reason and justice. For my part I see nothing so divine as the Fathers who here make war upon the kings of Spain and Portugal, and in Europe confess those kings; who here kill Spaniards, and in Madrid send them to heaven; this delights me, let us push forward. You are going to be the happiest of mortals. What pleasure will it be to those Fathers to hear that a captain who knows the Bulgarian exercise has come to them!”

4 As soon as they reached the first barrier, Cacambo told the advanced guard that a captain wanted to speak with my lord the Commandant. Notice was given to the main guard, and immediately a Paraguayan officer ran and laid himself at the feet of the Commandant, to impart this news to him. Candide and Cacambo were disarmed, and their two Andalusian horses seized. The strangers were introduced between two files of musketeers; the Commandant was at the further end, with the three-cornered cap on his head, his gown tucked up, a sword by his side, and a spontoon in his hand. He beckoned, and straightway the new-comers were encompassed by four-and-twenty soldiers. A sergeant told them they must wait, that the Commandant could not speak to them, and that the reverend Father Provincial does not suffer any Spaniard to open his mouth but in his presence, or to stay above three hours in the province.

“And where is the reverend Father Provincial?” said Cacambo.

“He is upon the parade just after celebrating mass,” answered the sergeant, “and you cannot kiss his spurs till three hours hence.”

“However,” said Cacambo, “the captain is not a Spaniard, but a German, he is ready to perish with hunger as well as myself; cannot we have something for breakfast, while we wait for his reverence?”


The sergeant went immediately to acquaint the Commandant with what he had heard.

“God be praised!” said the reverend Commandant, “since he is a German, I may speak to him; take him to my arbour.”

7 Candide was at once conducted to a beautiful summer-house, ornamented with a very pretty colonnade of green and gold marble, and with trellises, enclosing parraquets, humming-birds, fly-birds, guinea-hens, and all other rare birds. An excellent breakfast was provided in vessels of gold; and while the Paraguayans were eating maize out of wooden dishes, in the open fields and exposed to the heat of the sun, the reverend Father Commandant retired to his arbour.
8 He was a very handsome young man, with a full face, white skin but high in colour; he had an arched eyebrow, a lively eye, red ears, vermilion lips, a bold air, but such a boldness as neither belonged to a Spaniard nor a Jesuit. They returned their arms to Candide and Cacambo, and also the two Andalusian horses; to whom Cacambo gave some oats to eat just by the arbour, having an eye upon them all the while for fear of a surprise.

Candide first kissed the hem of the Commandant’s robe, then they sat down to table.

“You are, then, a German?” said the Jesuit to him in that language.

“Yes, reverend Father,” answered Candide.

As they pronounced these words they looked at each other with great amazement, and with such an emotion as they could not conceal.

“And from what part of Germany do you come?” said the Jesuit.

“I am from the dirty province of Westphalia,” answered Candide; “I was born in the Castle of Thunder-ten-Tronckh.”

“Oh! Heavens! is it possible?” cried the Commandant.

“What a miracle!” cried Candide.

“Is it really you?” said the Commandant.

“It is not possible!” said Candide.

They drew back; they embraced; they shed rivulets of tears.

10 1 “What, is it you, reverend Father? You, the brother of the fair Cunegonde! You, that was slain by the Bulgars! You, the Baron’s son! You, a Jesuit in Paraguay! I must confess this is a strange world that we live in. Oh, Pangloss! Pangloss! how glad you would be if you had not been hanged!”
11 1 The Commandant sent away the negro slaves and the Paraguayans, who served them with liquors in goblets of rock-crystal. He thanked God and St. Ignatius a thousand times; he clasped Candide in his arms; and their faces were all bathed with tears.

“You will be more surprised, more affected, and transported,” said Candide, “when I tell you that Cunegonde, your sister, whom you believe to have been ripped open, is in perfect health.”


“In your neighbourhood, with the Governor of Buenos Ayres; and I was going to fight against you.”

13 1 Every word which they uttered in this long conversation but added wonder to wonder. Their souls fluttered on their tongues, listened in their ears, and sparkled in their eyes. As they were Germans, they sat a good while at table, waiting for the reverend Father Provincial, and the Commandant spoke to his dear Candide as follows.

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6 Responses to “Chapter 14 – How Candide and Cacambo Were Received by the Jesuits of Paraguay”

The suspension of disbelief takes on heightened language here of wonder added to wonder. The clunky English translation (what is listening in their ears? Their souls? A soul could probably flutter and sparkle, but listening doesn’t seem like the right verb.) is in some ways reflective of the weirdness of the scene, like a parody of a New Age philosophy which elides agency and makes everything happen from its own volition. The French deal with transitive verbs differently: “Chaque mot qu’ils prononcèrent dans cette longue conversation accumulait prodige sur prodige. Leur âme tout entière volait sur leur langue, était attentive dans leurs oreilles, et étincelante dans leurs yeux.”

Compare the Commandant’s rich lifestyle in Paraguay to his small castle in Westphalia, where there were mostly pigs, and perhaps there is an underlying irony to this attention to his conspicuous consumption.

The dead do not stay dead for long in Candide. I was interested earlier in how Voltaire signals the fantastic reappearance of so many of his characters who are presumed dead: Pangloss and Cunegonde have both reappeared under mysterious circumstances. The Commandant’s reappearance is called a miracle, perhaps a funny way to account for his newfound religious order. His appearance gets considerable attention in an earlier paragraph: “a very handsome young man, with a full face, white skin but high in colour; he had an arched eyebrow, a lively eye, red ears, vermilion lips, a bold air, but such a boldness as neither belonged to a Spaniard nor a Jesuit.” Cacambo has kept his eye on the Commandant’s horse “for fear of a surprise” but the surprise turns out to be something much stranger!

Here Cacambo gives a short history of the Jesuits in South America, who established missions, or reducciones, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the Guarani region. Through a deal with the Spanish crown established in 1609, the Jesuits controlled areas of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay for more than 150 years. When the Spanish ceded part of the land to Portugal through the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, the Guarani Indians revolted and fought both governments to maintain their stake in the land.

Voltaire describes a state of poverty and subjugation—but it is noteworthy that he uses the same comparative trope to make his case. In this paragraph Cacambo describes how “the Fathers possess all, and the people nothing” and he uses a similar comparison in a paragraph in this chapter: ”An excellent breakfast was provided in vessels of gold; and while the Paraguayans were eating maize out of wooden dishes, in the open fields and exposed to the heat of the sun.” This is a reflection of the wide gap between those in power and those without, but it’s lacking some of the inventiveness or strangeness that of other satirical passages in the book. There are plenty of details of the Commandant’s excessive wealth that he has extracted from the labor of his subjects, but this attention seems to work at the most obvious level of comparison, without an extra layer of irony.

Mgarcia2784 says:

Cacambo also is referring to the dark side of colonization which has already emerged. The horrors of slavery, the oppression of natives and the control of wealth. In these lines and those that follow, Voltaire portrays Paraguay and the rest of The Americas as a region vastly corrupted by the vices of the Old World.

This is a really good point. I was looking at Voltaire’s Essai sur les moeurs, a universal history of Europe, Africa, the Americas started in the 1740s and published as a three-volume set of 196 chapters in 1756, where he’s trying out some of these critiques in a different form.

In the chapter on the conquest of Peru from the second volume (I’m using the English translation from 1754-57), Voltaire relies on the work of Bartolome de las Casas, the Bishop of Chiapas, who wrote A Short History of the Destruction of the Incas in 1552. For its strong criticism of the Spanish conquistadores, that book was contested as a source for the history of colonization, and Voltaire registers his own skepticism at the same time that he devotes considerable space to detailing the abuses of the native peoples and the importation of African slaves for labor. His critique of religion appears in the first paragraph, in a devastatingly ironic tone to describe the arrival of the Spaniards in the sixteenth century:

“As soon as the Inca’s army, and the small body of Castilians came within sight, the latter wanted to have some appearance of religion on their side. A monk named Valverda, who had been made bishop of that country, though it did not belong to them, advances towards the Inca with an interpreter, and a Bible in his hand, and tells him, that he must believe the contents of that book. He then preaches a long sermon to him concerning the several mysteries of Christianity. Historians are not agreed in regard to the reception this sermon met with; but they are unanimous, that it concluded with a battle. …

“The Peruvians worked at those mines for the Spaniards, as the real proprietors. Those slaves were soon assisted by negroes, who were purchased in Africa, and transported to Peru like brute beasts designed for human service. And indeed neither those negroes, nor the inhabitants of the new world, were treated as human creatures. Las Casas, the Dominican, and Bishop of Chiapa, … seized with indignation at the cruelty of his countrymen, and moved to compassion at the extreme misery of such multitudes of people, had the courage to complain thereof to Charles V as well as to his son Philip II; and his memoirs are still preserved. He represents the generality of the Americans as a mild sort of people, and of weak constitutions; a circumstance which naturally fits them for subjection. He says, that the Spaniards viewed this weakness of constitution in no other light than as an opportunity to destroy them; that in Cuba, in Jamaica, and in the neighboring islands, they massacred above 1,200,000 men, just as huntsmen clear a forest of deer. I have been present, says he, in the isle of St Domingo, and in Jamaica, when they have covered the country in gibbets, and hanged those unhappy wretches thirteen in a row, in hour, as they said, of the thirteen apostles. I have seen them give the infants to be devoured by their dogs.

Voltaire continues to relate the Bishop’s story: Thousands of those Americans were employed by the Spaniards as beasts of burden; and when no longer able to walk, they were knocked on the head. In short, the same ocular witness [the Bishop] affirms, that in the islands, and on the Terra Firma, this handful of Europeans murdered above 12,000,000 of Americans. In order to justify yourselves, continues this writer, you pretend, that those wretches had been guilty of human sacrifices; that, for instance, in the temple of Mexico they had sacrificed 20,000 men; I take heaven and earth to witness, that the Mexicans exercising the barbarous right of war, never sacrificed 150 prisoners in their temples.

Voltaire’s note on his source’s story is interesting for the way he accounts for elements of exaggeration for the purpose of strong comparison and highlighted compassion. Voltaire writes, “From the whole that has been said, it may probably be inferred, that the Spaniards greatly exaggerated the depravity of the Mexicans; and that the Bishop of Chiapa was sometimes too liberal of his invectives against his countrymen.”

How do we see Voltaire’s mixture of skepticism and compassion present in these stories of Candide?