A happy life for God and the King. A daily adventure in the reductions of Paraguay
A daily life defined by the Christian event: in short, this is the experience of the reductions in Paraguay. This experience developed in the space of 150 years, from the end of the XVI Century to the middle of the XVII Century; it has a very rich history, where the adventurous lives of very famous people (just think about Father Antonio Ruiz de Montoya or Father Antonio Sepp, defined as “the genius of the reductions”) are entwined with those of humble Indios Guaranì.
A totally unique, original, and different experience was born exactly from the meeting between the Indios Guaranì and Christianity lived in its entirety. Only Christianity could originate such an experience. As Fr. Aleksandr Men wrote: “Christianity’s point of strength consists in negating nothing; in its affirmation; in its abundance; in its wide horizon that affirms everything.” Therefore, the Jesuits that came from Europe wishing the Glory of Christ -as their motto says: “Ad majorem Dei gloria,”- were able to create, after meeting with the Indios Guaranì -wanderers searching for the “Tierra sin mal”, the land without evil- a social, economical, civil reality that still fills with wonder today.
The same wonder that one feels thinking about how it was possible to create 400 years ago, in the middle of the forest, impressive basilicas, the beauty of which we can only imagine today, by visiting their ruins in Trinidad and Jesus, Paraguay, or in San Ignazio Minì, Argentina, or admiring the few statues still present in the local museums. The same wonder that one feels discovering the private property system and the economical model that were developed in the reductions, where people that used to live by hunting and bartering until a few years before were led to create a productive system able to support more than 140,000 people in 30 reductions.
The same wonder that one feels in front of the model for education proposed and lived, according to which everybody was able to write, and school was mandatory for the children, when in Europe most of the population was still illiterate. The same wonder made in the reductions, like for example the studies performed by Fr. Bonaventura Suarez, who created an astronomical observatory, collaborated with the greatest astronomers of that period in Vienna and Saint Petersburg, and wrote a “perpetual” almanac, in the forest, far from the civilization of that period. The same wonder that one feels discovering that the first typography in South America was born in the reductions and published books not only in Latin, but also in Guaranì and by Guaranì writers.
The same wonder that one feels in front of the legal system, the health system, and the urban system (just think about the fact that in the reductions a sewerage system existed that was implemented in the main colonial cities only around the year 1850). The same wonder that one feels listening to the music created in the reductions by great maestros like Zipoli and Sepp, which accompanied the most solemn liturgy as well as the most usual moments of the day.
The wonder that today fills us in front of all of this is the same wonder that filled the contemporaries of the reductions, the historians or the intellectuals of that period, from Muratori to Voltaire. It was a new civilization in the middle of the forest. It was a new civilization where all aspects of life were recognized and appreciated. The purpose of the exhibition is to participate in the daily life of the reductions; this is why we thought about recreating one of these reductions, with a square, the church, houses, the school, laboratories.
The exhibition moves among these places, following its history and showing its daily routine through photos, panels and videos. It will be possible to listen to the music created in the reductions, admiring at the same time the art born there by learning from famous European artists, such as Brassanelli or Primoli. Probably, it will be possible to admire artworks coming from museums in Paraguay. A final video will take the visitor to discover places in Paraguay where the rich experience of the reductions lives again today, the experience of a faith that generates a new civilization.