Jesuit Missions 1630–1730

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Map Code: Ax02414

The Jesuits arrived in Brazil in 1540 just six years after the foundation of the order, reaching the highlands of Paraguay in 1587. They set out to found Christian societies in the impenetrable jungles of the continent. The model communities the Jesuits set up in Latin America were known as ‘reductions’. Here the indigenous peoples could be governed, taxed, and evangelized. The Jesuits reductions in Paraguay, Argentina and the Rio Grande do Sul area of Brazil, the area occupied by the Guarani people, were established in the early 17th century and there were 30 Guarani missions in what came to be known as the Guarani Republic. These religious communities reflected the Jesuits’ own sense of organization and self-discipline, and became increasingly elaborate, with banks, postal centres, roads and river transport, schools, hospitals and workshops. Reductions were laid out according to a standardized plan, with a main plaza, a church, college, hospital, warehouses and housing. The reductions traded services – the main products were cattle hides and yerbah mate (leaves that were drunk like tea). But the Jesuits increasingly came into conflict with Spanish landowners and the new economic elite.

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