Asuncion’s government has come up with the idea of creating a road following the path of the Jesuit missionaries in Paraguay, after the example of the pilgrimage of Compostela.
“We wish to create a road, a path of the Jesuits, in order to unite the 30 villages with pilgrimages, walks, and tourist events somewhat like the road to St. James of Compostela,” announced the spokesman for the Paraguayan Secretariat for Tourism, Benjamín Chamorro, to the AFP on February 14, 2019.
Several villages founded by the Jesuits have survived to this day, San Ignacio Mini, in Argentina, for example, and La Chiquitania, near Santa Cruz, in Bolivia, in the middle of the virgin forest.
The mission of San Ignacio Mini is famous for having inspired Roland Joffé’s movie “Mission”: founded in 1697, this Guarani reduction had 3,000 inhabitants at the height of its prosperity. It survived for half a century after the Jesuits were expelled, before it was finally destroyed.
When they brought Christ to the Guarani Indians, the Jesuits also brought them a spatial, economic, and social organization that was perfectly adapted to their land: farms, mate plantations, a network of paths and waterways around the Uruguay and its tributaries.
This system was called a reduction for it included several smaller structures with distinct and complementary potentials, destined to provide for the basic needs of larger establishments.
These Jesuit missions that were once encouraged by the Church were intended to give the Indians a community life and social framework, in order to prepare them to exchange peacefully with the Western culture. They also sought to help them develop harmoniously and to protect them from the inordinate greed of certain settlers. The Jesuits did the same for the American Indians on the East Coast of the United States. This particularly contradicts the black legend of missionaries imposing their Faith and way of life while sapping the local resources.