Aleixo Garcia first discovered Paraguay in 1524. Over the next nearly one hundred years Spain worked to develop it by conquering the native people and establishing cities and colonies. Struggles ensued for decades as the Spanish King issued various decrees for the new lands. Jesuit Missionaries were first sent over in the 1580s and in the first decade of the 1600s work began to establish 30 missions in an area of central South America that now forms parts of Paraguay, southern Brazil, northern Argentina and eastern Bolivia.
One of the best preserved missions left today is the Jesuit Missiones of La Santisima Trinidad de Parana and Jesus de Tavarangue.
We ride out of Encarnacion one day to visit the missions, just 20 miles up the road.
The Jesuits determined the way that the local people, the Guarani, would live, forcing them to live in small villages and to stop their nomadic way of life. Their language was preserved by the Jesuits in a written method, something the Guarani had never done before.
I wander through the Guarani housing quarters, reserved for Guarani working within the mission itself. Most villagers lived near the mission in a village of their own. The enormous grounds sprawl out onto the flat plain. Two large chapels, one like a grand cathedral, are the center of the ruins, along with a bell tower and other buildings and residences for the Jesuits.
There is a small open air storage area filled with artifacts from the aged buildings. The stone work is so intricate…and I’m amazed so much has survived the centuries of decay.