October 25, 2012

Jesuit Missions in Paraguay

Have you seen The Mission, with Liam Neeson and Robert De Niro?  You gotta get yourself out to Blockbuster--uh, Netflix--and rent a copy if you haven't.  The last time I watched this tragic movie, it was a bootleg copy filmed on someone's cell phone, complete with jiggles and folks getting up for popcorn.  But this time, I saw a good copy, and I watched it just a couple of days after we visited a couple of the historic places the movie is based on.  Tough to sit through.

The story always makes me reflect on my dedication to the mission call.  I don't want to spoil the movie and elaborate too much on that, but let's just say I hope I'm able to hear God's voice clearly each day, especially as it relates to my responsibility to those I came to serve.

In case you aren't familiar with the history, the gist of it is that Jesuit priests in the 1600-1700's evangelized and colonized the indigenous in an area that is now in Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil.  Thousands of native people lived in these "colonies," referred to as missions, where they were protected from the slavers that captured those living in the surrounding jungles and forests.  

Spain and Portugal were in land wars for this territory, and the politics involving these countries and the Catholic church resulted in the eventual massacre of these people who had come the the missions to be protected.  
Hundreds of years later, the ruins of these missions are in remarkable shape, eerily empty and vast and elaborate.  We've visited them several times, but I'm impressed each time and can't help going into great detail with whatever American we're hosting for the tour of this important part of Paraguayan history.  
We had the place to ourselves, except for the vendors selling the arts and crafts made locally, and these parrots who put on a show over the coconut tree where they were nesting.

We were hosting visitors for one week, and it stormed the first few days and last few days of their time with us. Thankfully, we were able to run out to this beautiful site on the sunny day in between, taking advantage of the cool breezes, the sunshine, and the haunting silence in this sad but impressive place.


  1. It's a breathtaking place; it's hard to believe its past was so... colorful.

    Very glad you were able to take your guests there to see it. It would be a shame to get all the way down there and then miss such a beautiful and historically significant site.

  2. I have wanted to see "The Mission" as well as "Code Talkers" and "Hotel Rwanda". I have owned the latter two movies for several years after buying them in a bargain bin, but haven't got the "guts" to see them yet. They seem like powerful but painful movies to watch.

    The pictures from the mission are beautiful. Doesn't it seem like a great place to worship, even with no roof?


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