Portal to the Past

Embraced by the dense Argentine rainforest near the Paraguay border, the remains of the seventeenth-century Misión San Ignacio Miní bear silent witness to Jesuit efforts to indoctrinate the region’s indigenous Guaraní, as well as manage Spanish economic interests in South America. Abandoned in the wake of the Guaranitica War of the 1750s and the subsequent expulsion of the Jesuits from Spanish lands in 1767, many of the 30 missions built at the junction of what are now Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil, were destroyed. Others were harvested for building materials or left to decay. San Ignacio Miní is one of perhaps a dozen to have survived to the present day, albeit as a sublime ruin. Vestiges of its baroque grandeur, however, are evident in its magnificent east portal, which has only recently been restored. 20 fall 2005 Santa Maria la Menor San Ignacio Guazu Santa Rosa Santiago Paraguay, Argenitna, Brazil, Trinidad Itapua Posadas Corpus Christi San Ignacio Miní Nuestra Señora de Loreto Santa Ana San Cosme Viejo Candelaria San Carlos Santos Martires San José San Javier Santa Maria la Mayor Concepción San Nicolas de Bari San Luis Conzaga San Lorenzo San Ángel de las Guarda San Juan Bautista San Miguel San Francisco de Barja Santo Tamé La Cruz Yapeyú San Cosme Nuevo Jesús The missions, which exhibit a unique blend of Spanish architectural forms and indigenous symbolism, served as a catalyst in the preservation of Guaraní culture and language, which was recorded in an extensive series of documents printed on mission presses. Since its inclusion on WMF’s 1996 list of 100 Most Endangered Sites, San Ignacio Miní—along with the sites of São Nicolau in Brazil and La Santísima Trinidad de Parana in Paraguay—has served as a proving ground for the development of a comprehensive conservation, management, and sustainable development program for all of the surviving missions, seven of which have been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

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