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Natives
Oct, 01/2020
09:09pm
(GMT -3)

Jesuit Missions

Jesuit Missions in Argentina 
THE JESUIT MISSIONS HISTORY
The Jesuits
The generous reward
Where in South America?
Guarani Natives
The first settlement
ABOUT THE JESUIT MISSIONS IN SOUTH AMERICA
Urban Planning and Architecture
How were the missions built?
Art
How were the missions run?
Missions Autonomy
Why did the Jesuits leave?
Is there something left today?
 
THE JESUIT MISSIONS HISTORY
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The Jesuits
click to enlargeThe Jesuits, members of a Catholic missionary holy order, were spread worldwide. Founded by Inacio de Loiola in 1534 in France and given the name "Compania de Jesus", the Jesuit fathers played a very important role in the education of many people in many countries from the 16th century until recent times. To become a Jesuit, a student was required to study hard for many years. Only the best students with excellent skills were sent to South America.
"JHS" stands for Jesus Hominis Salvatus.
 
The generous reward
click to enlargeThe Jesuits promised generous rewards in the form of tributes to the King of Spain in exchange for the exemption of the Guarani from the encomiendas (hard labor to which all other natives were subjected). The Jesuits assured the King that the region would remain an imperial dominion and that the Gospel would be taught to the new people). For about 160 years, the Jesuits succeeded in protecting the Guarani from the raids of the slave-hunters from Sao Paulo (Paulistas). They founded many missions or reducciones and developed a kind of evangelism that was a bit peculiar for the time. They put into practice the precepts of the Gospel, isolated the Guarani from the bad influence of the Europeans and developed the creativity of the Indians.
 
Where in South America?
click to enlargeThe Jesuits conducted this bold experiment in religious colonization in the 17th and 18th centuries. The area of the reducciones encompassed a vast region of modern day Argentina, Paraguay, southern Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia. They were one of the most singular creations of Catholic missionary activity.
 
Guarani Natives
click to enlargeGuarani is the word for "warrior". The Guarani was one of the several groups from Amazon region of what is currently Northern Brazil from where they originally came from. At the height of their expansion, tribes could be found from what is currently Argentina, Paraguay, center and south of Brazil to the Atlantic coast. They existed in a Paleolithic stage of development until the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century. Most schools teach that democracy has its roots in ancient Greece, but if one studies the history of South America, one can find that a similar form of government was used to run some tribes in the New World. The Guarani natives of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil would have become another indigenous people victimized by the colonization of South America if the Jesuits had not been able to persuade the King of Spain to grant the vast region they inhabited to their care.
See also: The Guarani Natives
 
The first settlement
click to enlargeThe first settlement was founded in 1587. In the region of the Parana river the first reduction was established in 1609. Many other Missions were established along rivers, in the Chaco region in Paraguay, Guaira and Parana territory in Brazil. The missions founded in Brazil were soon abandoned due to the continuous raiding of the Brazilian Paulistas throughout the 1630s and 1640s.
 
ABOUT THE JESUIT MISSIONS IN SOUTH AMERICA
 
Urban Planning and Architecture
click to enlargeA single urban model with small variations was used in the construction of all the Missions. The main street always led through the square to the front of the church because the church was considered the most important building. The natives houses, the town council building, and the councilors houses were built around the huge square. The square was the center of each mission. All the processions, military parades, games, festivals, and religious theater occurred in the square. Next to the church there were communal buildings; at one side the monks house, the school and workshops, on the other side the cemetery and the asylum (cotiguassu) where the elders and orphans lived. Behind the church were the vegetable garden (quinta) and the orchard. On the periphery were located fountains, brickworks and leather workshops. There were also pools, chapels, ranches and herb fields. The itacuru stone was often used in the construction of buildings. In some missions, iron was extracted by melting this rock. The buildings were made of stone or stone bricks called ardune. They were covered with clay tile and all of them had a porch. The administrative building always had a big internal courtyard.
 
How were the missions built?
click to enlargeThe reducciones were centers of community life. The main buildings, the church, the school, and the churchyards, were concentrated on one side of a wide square. The Indian natives houses faced the other three sides of the square. The villages also contained a house for widows and orphans, a hospital, and several warehouses. In the center of the square on a tall base, rose a huge cross and a statue of the patron Saint for which the reduccione was named.
 
Art
click to enlargeThe Baroque style influenced the urban planning, architecture, sculpture, paintings, theater and music of the Missions. The monks brought their artistic knowledge from Europe and together with the Guarani created a style know as Mission Art (Arte Missioneira). The churches were ornamented with stone sculpture and carvings in polychromed wood. Sandstone carvings on the outside walls represented religious themes and native flora and fauna. Native orchestras performed music with American and European instruments.
 
How were the missions run?
click to enlargeGuided by the Jesuits, the natives created advanced laws; founded Schools and hospitals and free public services for the poor and suppressed the death penalty. A society based on the principles of primitive Christianity was established. In addition to built facilities and churches, there were two very important areas, which were related to agricultural production and, consequently, the system of self-management of Jesuit Missions: amambaé (in Tupi, “what belongs to the individual”) and tupambaé (“what belongs to God ”). The inhabitants of the reducciones for 3 days worked on the "tupambae", land belonging to the community, and all the products that were produced were fairly divided among them. The exceeded was trade. On the other days, the Indians worked on private land, called "amambae", which were located in a place far from the community, from which they could produce their crops and trade. This activity has always been a point of friction with the priests since, according to the indigenous tradition, agriculture was a woman´s business and men were responsible for hunting and fishing.
 
Missions Autonomy
click to enlargeThe missions assumed almost full independence, as if they were real nations The Guarani were very skilled as artisans, sculptors and woodcarvers making the reductions the first "industrial" state of South America. Indeed, advanced products such as watches, musical instruments, etc. were produced in the reductions. The first printing press in the New World was built in the reductions. The working day was about six hours long (in Europe at that time it was 12-14 hours long), and free time was dedicated to music, dance, bow-shot contests and prayer. The Guarani society was the first in the history of the world to be literate (according to some books only part of the communities were literate). The missions were self-sufficient and even exported goods to Europe paying taxes to the Spanish kingdom.

 
Why did the Jesuits leave?
click to enlargeTrouble started in the 1750s, when the King of Spain ceded to Portugal a portion of the territory in which the missions were located. The Potuguese, who wanted to take economic advantage of this region and of the work of the Indians, caused the so-called Guarani Wars, which concluded in 1756 with the defeat of the Indians. The era of the missions ended in 1767 with the expulsion of the Jesuits. At that time some of the missions emptied and the Indians returned to the forest. Later on another congregations try to keep some of the missions running without any success. Some of the reductions went on war against the Portuguese.
 
Is there something left today?
click to enlargeWe are left today with the beautiful ruins of some of the reducciones and the indigenous language, Guarani, which is the native official language in Paraguay. The Guarani Indians have almost disappeared; their numbers now reduced to more than 50.000 people.

click to enlarge
Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in Rome. The dome inside the church.
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Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius in Rome.

How to visit them in Argentina 

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