Le ‘riduzioni’ of the Jesuits in paraguay


‘This exhibition is dedicated to the most original experiment carried out in favour of the indigenous peoples by the Jesuit Missionaries between the early of the 17th and the mid of the 18th century in the heart of Latin America, in a wide region now divided between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay: the contract, set up between the Spanish government and the Jesuits, related to the submission and civilisation of the Guaranì Indian tribes living in East Paraguay. The Franciscans had already tried to evangelise these peoples, but with little result. When the Jesuits took over from the Franciscans, they realised that there existed two insurmountable obstacles: the hatred towards the Spanish and the passive resistance to any attempt at education. They therefore decided to separate the Guaranì from the colonists, to “reduce” them into civilisation within strictly enclosed communities. A complex system of villages, called “Reductions”, was then born, where the roaming Indians were reduced to sedentary life and where a very particular type of civilisation started to prosper. There were around 30 territories with a population of 150.000 natives. The administration was run by the Indians themselves, under the supervision of the missionaries. Even the surveillance of the territory was autonomous. In this way the natives learnt how to build houses, to cultivate the land and to use weapons. The way of life was communitary. Everyone would work on the land entrusted to him, and everybody was granted a fair distribution of the crops. The missionaries would dedicate themselves to the task of evangelisation and education and the faithful took it in turns to cultivate the land. There were many opportunities for artistic expression, above all in music. The Jesuit ‘State” lasted over 150 years (1609-1768) and suffered a harsh and dramatic end with the expulsion of the Company of Jesus from the Spanish colonies, decreed by King Charles III. The Gua-ranì managed to survive after the ‘State’, and became one of the few ethnic groups spared from genocide thanks to the valid work of the missionaries, during the difficult years of South-American colonisation. Today the Guaranì stock makes up the majority of the Paraguayan population and its language competes with Spanish as the main language of that republic.’


25 Agosto 1984 - 09 Gennaio 1984


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