By Judy J. Pinegar
Misiones Jesuitico Guaranies, (Jesuit Missions of the Guarani Indians)
Now this is another small town, population 6,000, better paved, some asphalt and paving stones on other roads before getting to dirt. The Mission San Ignacio Mini is the main attraction down street lined with “tiendas turisticos” (little shacks selling stuff for tourists to buy). I don’t know why they call it “mini” because the Mission was self sustaining and quite large with over 4,000 inhabitants in the years from 1696 to 1767, when the Jesuits were ordered to leave by the King of Spain (so other people could take advantage of the Guarani Indians and what they produced). Then the site was ravaged by the Portugese and the Paraguans in 1817, and rediscovered, covered by the jungle in the 1940’s.
The rock work is fantastic, and most of the walls, anyway are intact. It must have been something to see in full operation. The mission was well ordered around a large square, with the church, school and cemetery on one end, housing for widows and others on the far end with family housing, wood and metalworkers around the sides in the shape of a cross.
Behind the main mission was the area for a huge garden, which was divided into plots for each family, and one for the church (where all worked) and which was used to feed the church officials, widows and others who couldn’t work. Although the church taught about the Jesuit beliefs, they also allowed the native music, art and other practices to continue, and the sites provided protection to the Indians as well. At the peak of the mission period over 100,000 Indians lived in the 30 mission area, and mortality had dropped greatly. The Jesuits made no attempt to force the Indians to speak Spanish and the people were governed by their own chieftains under the spiritual authority of the priests. The Jesuits only sought to change the polygamy and occasional cannibalism that were practiced previously.
Next we will be off to Iguazu Falls or “La Cataracts”.
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