On the way up we managed to drive straight past these ruins. I think the call of the raging Iguazu falls was too much for us. But on the way down we made a point of not missing it.
Missionary stations are always something that make me stop and think and I often have very mixed feelings about them. On the one side they bring education and health. On the other side to get these benefits you need to believe in their form of religion and culture. I remember in Africa when we were driving in Uganda we met up with a volunteer who was working for a church. We asked him how he felt and these were his words. The local people were taught that if they believed God would provide. And provide he did when a large truck of supplies arrived every month. So much so that it was not worthwhile for the locals to grow their own food anymore……
A similar story which was even more poignant was in Sudan. Here there were a few local farmers who had start to grow grain and had quite a business going. When an aid agency decided that they needed to help they flew in bags of grain. The local farmers went out of business and the grain that flooded the market was sterile. Not great for future farming….
We had watched the film the mission before coming to South America and were aware of how the missionaries were pushed southwards by the Portuguese. When we arrived in San Ignacio we found the ruins and a very kind security guard recommended that we attended the night tour as it was already late in the afternoon. It sounded exciting to visit ruins at night but we really had no idea of what we were in for.
What a show. While walking around there were holographic displays depicting how the missionary started, what life was like and how it ended. All in all it was a spectacular evening.
In the missions young children stayed with their families in houses around the main square until the age of six. At six years the children were separated from their families and were divided according to sex. The girls then got to choose who they wanted to marry (this happend very young) and if the marriage was approved by the church they got their own house and so the cycle continued.
The mission stations were very successful. So much so that they were eventually a threat to the Spanish. Eventually in xxxx the Spanish King banished the missionaries as they were considered a threat to Spanish rule. The mission stations were then abandoned and this one was lost in the jungle until it was rediscovered in the 1900”s.
It was really interresting walking around this long deserted mission at night and the holographic displays almost made you feel as if you were walking in the past.