San Ignacio Mini, Argentina

The Impossible Jesuit Missions of San Ignacio Mini

green missions
View of the San Ignacio Mini garden.
work in the jungle of Misiones
Foreman of a farm in the jungle around El Soberbio.
endless falls
Sequence of upper waterfalls on the Argentine side of the Iguaçu Falls, in which the Jesuit missionaries also operated.
brick sky
Window reveals the blue sky over the Argentine province of Misiones
Illustration of old missions
Painting recovers what life was like in the mission of San Ignacio Mini
History class
Group learns the story of the mission of San Ignacio Mini in the shade of a tree.
Stem and Capital
Column of a church in ruins of San Ignacio Mini. Shaft and capital
mate time
Native of Misiones drinks mate tea.
Peasant & Goat
Campones de Misiones drives a cart.
Damaged facade of one of the biggest buildings in San Ignacio Mini.
San Ignacio Mini
The figure of San Ignacio, mentor of the Jesuit order, at the entrance to the ruins named in his honor.
The pediment of one of the buildings of San Ignacio Mini. jesuit baroque
In the century. In the XNUMXth century, the Jesuits expanded a religious domain in the heart of South America by converting the Guarani Indians into Jesuit missions. But the Iberian Crowns ruined the tropical utopia of the Society of Jesus.

We walked through the region between the Paraná and Uruguay rivers, which, by affinity to the river duo of the Fertile Crescent, the colonists baptized Mesopotamia Argentina.

Tired of waiting for the bus that never shows up again. Uncomfortable due to the winter cold that invaded the Southern Cone of South America, we took another bus and proceeded to the next bus station. There, we went back to buying tickets for a trip that had everything to take.

Darkens before our eyes. We took refuge in the only open cafe. We order hot chocolate or something that makes us feel cozy. “Sorry but we are already closing. You can sit a little longer but we don't have any of that.” secures the owner, hands over to cleanings.

In desperation, we asked if we could be served mate tea, which we had been trying to taste for some time. "I no longer have boiling water." Answer us without embarrassment. "want i will terer??? We forgot the need to rewarm. Instead, we gave in to the challenge of another one of the unavoidable drinks in those parts.

Nate tea, Argentina

Native of Misiones drinks mate tea.

The Yerba Mate Stimulating Ritual

Like children trying beer for the first time, they are disappointed by the bitter aftertaste, the large floating leaves and the low temperature of the drink.

We know, however, that we are getting a taste of part of the region's history and culture. We encourage ourselves to insist. For some reason there would be so many Argentines and Uruguayans, among others, traveling with terms under their arms and guampas (bombs) around the world.

This, when the infusion wasn't even created by your Old World ancestors.

It is believed that the Guarani indigenous people were already consuming yerba mate long before the arrival of the first conquerors and missionaries to their territories. The Indians presented the ka'a to the Jesuits. These immediately recognized the miracle of strength and vigor given by the caffeine present in the leaves.

It was just one of the many teachings the natives imparted to them. According to what was normal at the time, the religious would soon assume a position of supremacy in what would prove to be a long and fruitful cultural exchange.

Illustration, Missions San Ignacio Mini, Argentina

Painting recovers what life was like in the mission of San Ignacio Mini

The Conversion of Guaranis in the Jesuit Missions

Around the XNUMXth century, the Society of Jesus perfected a strategy for controlling indigenous populations blessed by King Philip III of Spain. The method involved bringing together indigenous peoples in missions to annul their nomadic habits and their political structure.

In this way, sometimes under the auspices of the chiefs themselves, their evangelization, administration and taxation were simplified.

The method was first implemented in the area of ​​present-day Paraguay. It was extended to areas of Bolivia, Brazil, and even the far northeast of Argentina that we were now exploring.

It dawns when we leave the alternative transport at the gates of San Ignacio Miní, one of the 16 congregations that, from 1607 onwards, the Jesuits founded around the Upper Paraná in Argentina.

Early Arrival at San Ignacio Mini

A modern building adapts the structure of a church nave, blessed by the figure of San Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, who seems to oversee the visitors' intentions from a raised niche above the center of the front.

Image of San Ignacio Mini, Argentina

The figure of San Ignacio, mentor of the Jesuit order, at the entrance to the ruins named in his honor.

Inside, we find exposed paintings that recover what might have been episodes from the life of the congregation, with indigenous people near cathedrals. And Jesuits in the company of the military.

Outside, we come across a wide lawn rescued from the jungle. There are ocher ruins that have survived over time, around the remains of an enormous church.

San Ignacio Mini Missions, Argentina

Damaged facade of one of the biggest buildings in San Ignacio Mini.

The Vast Complex of Guarani Ruins

The roof of the buildings erected in Guarani Baroque does not resist. Many of the rooms have been rebuilt and have exposed facades and pediments worked with an eccentric look of ecclesiastical pottery.

In one of them, you can see the trigram Christological de hejus divulged in the XNUMXth century by the preacher Saint Bernardino de Siena, the IHS symbol that Ignatius of Loyola admired and recovered for the order.

Pediment San Ignacio Mini Missions, Argentina

The pediment of one of the San Ignacio Mini buildings. Jesuit Baroque

On the west side of the church, there is still a sequence of columns. One of them was swallowed by a banyan tree. We found out that they call it the tree with the heart of stone.

This is more or less what the Jesuit missionaries thought of the arch-rivals who attacked them from the East, from the coastal lands of the Portuguese Empire.

French-British director Roland Joffe was one of several interested in this fascinating historical context. In the 80s, he created an epic that won the Palme d'Or, awarded an Oscar for best cinematography and held a prominent place in cinematography.

Later, in Posadas, we are questioned by two brothers who are happy and curious about our origins. “Oh, are they Portuguese?? You were the bad guys, remember?” The approach intrigues us.

“The Mission”: The Epic of the Seventh Art that Narrates the Epic of the Missions

"They don't remember "The mission” ?, by Rodrigo Mendoza?” (nda: character played by Robert de Niro). You were the ones who came here to kidnap the poor indigenous people.

As if that wasn't enough, they even destroyed the reductions!” they continue to satirize with an at ease that embarrasses their mother at their side but amuses us.

Iguacu waterfalls, Argentina

Sequence of upper waterfalls on the Argentine side of the Iguaçu Falls, in which the Jesuit missionaries also operated.

According to the plot filmed around the waterfalls of Iguaçu, the Jesuits had already converted the natives and continued to train them in a series of Old World virtuosities such as musical mastery and vocal skills, in great religious choirs.

Based in São Paulo, the pioneers disdained this progress. They remained obsessed with the profits that the slaves guaranteed them and took advantage of the fact that some of the missions occupied Portuguese or dubious territories to continue their attacks.

The Jesuits reacted. They moved some congregations to Hispanic lands. With the permission of the Spanish Crown and the contribution of the Guarani Indians, they created defense militias that defeated the bandeirantes.

With security stabilized, the missions developed an impressive social, labor and military organization that guaranteed the self-sufficiency and production of cattle and mate that the Jesuits turned into profits.

Your armies have become mighty. To the point of nullifying the expansionist pretensions of the Portuguese forces and the attacks of belligerent indigenous peoples. They also supported the Hispanic Crown against the region's first independence intentions.

Missions, San Ignacio Mini, Argentina

Group learns the story of the mission of San Ignacio Mini in the shade of a tree.

The Long Take There Gives Here from the Portuguese and Spanish Crowns

Despite the strategic utility of the Missions, Fernando VI considered the pacification of the conflict with Iberian rivals a priority. Agreed to change the Colonia del Sacramento square (which had changed sides several times since its foundation and which the Guaraníes had helped it to conquer before) for about 500.000 km² held by the Society of Jesus in the Alto Uruguai basin.

In 1750, the Treaty of Madrid made this exchange official. It forced seven missions, ranches belonging to five others, and almost 30.000 Guaraníes to accept the sovereignty of the Portuguese or to move west of the river.

Column of the Missions of San Ignacio Mini, Argentina

Column of a church in ruins of San Ignacio Mini. Shaft and capital

It also gave rise to the Guaranitic War (1754-56) that pitted Jesuit and indigenous forces against Portuguese and Spanish forces.

We, like the brothers from Posadas, of course, still remembered the epic scenes from “The Mission” that showed the repentant Father Mendoza, converted to leader of the indigenous resistance.

Tied to a cross and, falling in one of the Iguaçu Falls, at the end of a battle that accelerated the more than probable victory of the colonial powers.

We also easily retrieved the great soundtrack that Ennio Morricone created to set those images to music.

And the Tragic End of the Jesuit Missions

In 1759, the Marquis de Pombal decided to remove the obstacles to his absolutism and expelled the Society of Jesus from Portugal.

Eight years later, King Carlos III promulgated the Pragmática Sanción which decreed his expulsion from the Spanish territories and ordered the end of the missionary project in South America.

San Ignacio Mini Missions, Argentina

Window reveals the blue sky over the Argentine province of Misiones

By that time, the Hispanic governor of Montevideo would have entered the Mission of San Miguel – one of the congregations he did not know – and exclaimed angrily: “And is this one of the peoples who send us to the Portuguese? These people in Madrid must be crazy!”.

Colony of Sacramento it was never given to the Spaniards. In 1761, during the Seven Years War that followed, the Treaty of Madrid was nullified by the Treaty of El Pardo.

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