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Published: April 19th 2006
The Holy Trinity of Parana was one of the last Reducciones (reductions or townships) built by Jesuit led communities of Guaranís in what was possibly the most interesting social experiment conducted during the European colonization of the Americas. Motivated by their desire to both convert and protect the native populations of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, the Jesuit (Society of Jesus) Missionaries created these small cities as a place of shelter, worship, education and commerce that operated independently of the secular colonial governments. In these communities the Guaranís worked together for the common good, and not as the slaves of some colonial master.
A part of the Wikipedia entry on the Reducciones states: Guided by the Jesuits, the Guaraní had advanced laws; they founded free public services for the poor, schools, hospitals, and abolished the death penalty. A society based on the principles of primitive Christianity was established. All the inhabitants of the Reductions worked the communal land - and all the products they produced were divided fairly among them.
The Guaraní were very skilled in handicraft works such as sculpture and woodcarving. Even advanced products such as watches and musical instruments were produced in the Reductions. The working
day was about six hours, compared with 12-14 hours in Europe at that time. Free time was dedicated to music, dance, archery contests and prayer. The Guaraní society was the first in the history of the world to be entirely literate.
Of course all of this was too good to last long within the reach of the greedy colonists and the colonial governments of Spain and Portugal. After 150 years of successfully protecting the Guaranís the Jesuits were expelled in 1767, after losing the support of the Spanish king (Charles II). The Guaranís who were not enslaved fled back to their lives in the forest. The Reducciones fell into ruin.
La Santisima Trinidad de Paraná, more commonly referred to as “the ruins of Trinidad,” was one of the last settlements built (1706) and so is one the best preserved. It has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. A fictionalized account of the destruction of the missions can be seen in the 1986 Robert DeNiro film "The Mission" (which also features the Falls of Iguassu).
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