The location for one of the 7 Paraguayan Jesuit Mission ruins & the country’s only UNESCO World Heritage site.
Very Latest From The Paraguayan Road
I left Brazil today for one more night in Paraguay. Not getting stamped out of Brazil or into Paraguay when crossing the Friendship Bridge connecting the two countries means I’ll have to try avoid the authorities again tomorrow when returning to Brazil. Based on today that shouldn’t be a problem given the lax border controls.
|| On an Illegal Mission in Trinidad ||
So today was all about ignoring international border immigration laws & spending 6 hours on a bus to get here to Trinidad, a small village in southern Paraguay & the location for one of 7 Paraguayan missions, or Trienta Pueblos. Collectively these missions, visiting all of which would see you plying the so-called Paraguayan Ruta Jesuitica, are considered to be some of the most impressive creations of the religious work of the Jesuits, the religious order of Catholic missionaries that came to Paraguay in 1607 at the behest of the ruling Spanish in a bid to gather the native populations into centres called “Indian reductions” in order to Christianize, tax, and govern them more efficiently.
Jesuit Mission of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná
One of the last missions to be built in ths region of South America, the Trinidad Mission, formally known as the Jesuit Mission of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná, was founded in 1706 but wasn’t completed until 1760. Accommodating 3000 people at its height in the 1730s, today its ruins are located some 30 kilometres from the present-day southern Paraguayan city of Encarnación. A large, uniform complex of lush green manicured lawns interspersed by crumbling stone buildings & wide civic spaces, it’s the most important, complete & best-preserved of all Paraguay’s surviving missions &, twined with the nearby mission of Jesús de Tavarangue, the country’s only UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s also Paraguay’s most visited tourist attraction, but don’t read too much into that – (very) few people come to Paraguay meaning today I had one of the world’s least visited UNESCO World Heritage sites all to myself as I wandered around the complex in the late afternoon sun; there wasn’t even anyone around to check my ticket. The tranquility & sense of isolation was glorious.
– UNESCO commenting on the Jesuit Missions of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue
The Jesuits were a religious order of Catholic missionaries who came to Paraguay in the early 17th century at the behest of the ruling Spanish, their strategy being to gather native populations into centres called “Indian reductions” in order to Christianize, tax, and govern them more efficiently. The Jesuits set about the task at hand by forming various fully self-sufficient mini-cities, Trienta Pueblos, where they not only taught the natives religion, thus converting them to Christianity, but where they also introduced them to rules of public order & society, culture, & education, all of which had great influence in the later development of the region. Of their 30 settlements in South America, seven of them were in present-day Paraguay with the rest in present-day Bolivia & neighbouring regions of Argentina & Brazil. Operating totally isolated from the colonial Spanish & Portuguese worlds surrounding them, the missions flourished becoming centres of importance & being both economically powerful & influential.
All was rosy in the Jesuit world for over 150 years but in the 1760s things turned sour – they were ultimately expelled from the continent in 1768 having worn out their welcome with the colonial rulers as a result of their insular governance & protection of the indigenous community from exploitation. Their once grand settlements went into terminal decline & today survive only as ruins dotting this central region of South America.
Archived Entries From The Paraguayan Road (In Chronological Order)
Another South American day, another border crossing – this one from Argentina into Paraguay, & another story to tell. I could tell not many foreigners use the crossing I used today. Not because of the scarcity of other foreigners (I didn’t see one other gringo all day long) but because the Paraguayan Immigration official I finally presented myself to was clearly not too sure what to make of both me and my Irish/EU passport. He gave us both a good once-over before, and very half-heartedly, he proceeded to try and extract money from me. At least that’s what I thought he was up to when pointing to a worn & rather random figure of 258,264 Paraguayan Guarani (PYG), a tad north of €40, that was posted on the inside of the immigration hut window.
I’m in the Paraguayan capital now. It’s a place called Asuncion. With a population of 2.3 million, over a third of the country’s 6.5 million population, it is easily the largest urban centre in the country billed as the “Heart of South America“. It’s too soon to comment on the city itself – Rough Guides claims it to be ‘quirky’ – other than to say I doubt that it will deviate from the tried & tested Latin American norm of noise, pollution, plazas, & colonial architecture in various stages of upkeep. I’ll explore tomorrow but right now I’m tired after my bus & border exploits. The heat isn’t helping (at 29 Degrees, Asuncion is as warm as I have been in a good few months, since the heat of northern Colombia in mid-June) so I’m taking it easy in room 3 of El Nomada Hostel, a real find & probably the most friendly, laid-back place I’ve frequented in South American so far.
Oh yes, the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion is a quirky place alright. Here’s a few captures from a day walking the streets of what I found to be a rather unique South American capital.
Asuncion’s historic centre, casco historico, lacks any real postcard-perfect monuments. It has a few structures worth pointing a camera at, none of which will really get the juices flowing.