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Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis

The Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis are the archeological remains of towns created by the Jesuit Order.

The towns existed between 1609 and 1818, and aimed to socially, culturally and religiously elevate the local Guarani Indians. They also provided protection and economic stability. Originally there were 30 missions, spread out over Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. The two Jesuit missions in Paraguay are now a separate WHS.

This designated site consists of five different missions:

- São Miguel das Missões (Brazil)

- San Ignacio Mini (Argentina)

- Nuestra Señora de Santa Ana (Argentina)

- Nuestra Señora de Loreto (Argentina)

- Santa María la Mayor (Argentina)

Map

Visit October 2008

San Ignacio Mini is the most popular of these 'Missions' (the locals more aptly call them Las Ruinas). I went there by public bus from Posadas. This trip takes over an hour, passing fine scenery of endless green fields and forests. I was the only one to be dropped off at the church of San Ignacio, and was given directions by the bus boy to get to my destination. San Ignacio is a sleepy little town, where the selling of souvenirs seems to be the main trade. Before entering the San Ignacio Mini complex, you first have to brave 250 meters of souvenir stalls.

Entrance was free today (normally it's 25 pesos for foreigners). I don't know why I didn't have to pay, it could have been a holiday / a protest / a malfunctioning computer / lack of change or whatever. I've been in Argentina now for less than a week, and I've seldom paid any entry fees (I rode for free in the Buenos Aires metro for 3 days). The same observation counts for the double pricing system: they do tend to differ prices between Argentinians, Other Latin Americans and Other foreigners, but aren't strict in following this through: they just assume everybody is Argentinian. Personally I can't believe the money they're throwing away (especially at the Buenos Aires metro, which could use some new paint).

Back to San Ignacio Mini - what kind of site is this? It was a small town with a church (of course), a large central square, houses for the residents (the Guarani) and other communal buildings. Now it is almost completely in ruins. The new life that has entered the ruined buildings did fascinate me the most - pretty and big lizards lazing in the sun, lots of birds, trees and plants taking over from the stones again. The site management tries to keep all ruined buildings 'clean', but I like it when nature claims it back. It's a very pleasant place to wander around for an hour or two, but I wouldn't be sad when it would disappear and become part of the jungle again.

Community Reviews


João Aender Campos Cremasco - February 2013

Last weekend I visited the Brazilian part of this WHS, that is São Miguel das Missões. I had previously visited the Argentinian ruins of San Ignacio Miní, and these two sites are probably the best preserved of all inscribed Jesuit Missions of the Guarani ruins (the Paraguayan ones are a separate WHS).

The former São Miguel das Missões church has a remarkable façade and also a very interesting museum of guarani christian art, including a bell used when the mission was active.

There are some other ruins nearby, worth visiting, but only the São Miguel ruins were declared WHS in Brazil.


Birgit - April 2011

I've been in San Igancio Mini in 1995. At this time it was very amazing... and I would recommend this place for everbody who is interested in American History...


Sandra Neubauer - February 2010

As far as the sound and light show is concerned I very much disagree with Davis C. Bales opinion. I saw the show in February 2010 and found it truly amazing! Excellent lighting, great effects and a good mixture between entertainment and information. I am a media engineer and have seen many multimedia shows before. And even with that background this show really stood out. So it looks like you have to go and see for yourself wether you like it or not. :-) The only thing that wasn't so great was that the mp3 player you get for other language versions didn't work properly. But still I loved the show!

How we got there: We took a bus from Iguazu to San Igancio. What you read in various forums is true: It is really no trouble at all to simply walk into the bus station and buy a ticket to go to San Igancio. Buses leave every hour or sometimes even more often. They drop you off right in front of the tourist info which comes in handy aswell. There we booked our next busride to Salta with Flecha Bus.

Oh, one more thing: If you use long distance buses, always put your luggage in a waterproof bag or something. Water from the aircondition flows on the luggage. One of your bags was soaking (with all clothes inside dripping wet). It also helps to ask the guy who loads your luggage into the bus to put it somewhere dry while you give him an extra tip.


Robert Jackson - June 2005

I visited some 20 Jesuit mission sites in Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil, including San Ignacio, Loreto, Santa Ana, and Sta Maria la Mayor. There are other mission sites in the region that need protection and the support that inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites lists confer. At the top of the list I would include several mission sites in Brazil, particularly San Lorenzo Martir, and San Cosme in Paraguay. Other sites, such as Corpus Christi and Martires, need protection and rehabilitation.


Davis C. Bales

San Ignacio Mini is well worth the visit for anyone at nearby Iguassu Falls, whether on the Argentine or Brazilian side. Though there are guided tours available from Iguassu, driving on your own is quite easy. It is possible to drive to San Ignacio and back in the same day though spending the night adds to the experience. However, the town offers few accomodations, the best of which are hard-pressed to earn a 1-star rating. From Buenos Aires it is not so easy to reach Argentina's State of Misiones.

On certain nights there is a sound and light show. The slightest hint of rain and the show will be cancelled; the equipment is simple and not water resistent. So, as can be expected, the show is rather primitive and its simplicity could hardly be expressed as charming. Boring may be a better descriptive. The lighting is uneventful and the sound is a recorded narration (in Spanish) of the mission's history with some music of the jesuit-educated natives as a background mixed with some booms and crashes to depict the battles with they fought with the Brazilian slave traders. Not emotionally stirring!

In the summer it is barely dark when the light show begins, reducing even more the already limited effect. Needless to say, it was a disappointment and one should spend the night to experience the simplicity of the village and not for the light show. But catch it if you are already there and reach your own conclusions.

All that said, I would recommend making the effort to visit San Ignacio Mini to anyone with an interest in South American history or who enjoyed the 1986 Academy Award winning film "The Mission" starring Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson. Walking tyhrough the mission's grounds is walking through history. In the past 2 years I have made the trek twice by motorcycle from Rio de Janeiro and have a feeling I will return.


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Site Info

Full name: Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: San Ignacio Mini, Santa Ana, Nuestra Senora de Loreto and Santa Maria Mayor (Argentina), Ruins of Sao Miguel das Missoes (Brazil)

Site History

Locations

The site has 5 locations.

  • 'Nuestra Señora de Loreto
  • 'Nuestra Señora de Santa Ana
  • 'San Ignacio Mini
  • 'Santa María la Mayor
  • 'São Miguel das Missões

Connections

The site has 15 connections.

Architecture

Ecology

Geography

Human Activity

Religion and Belief

Timeline

Trivia

  • Longest WHS names Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: San Ignacio Mini, Santa Ana, Nuestra Señora de Loreto and Santa Maria Mayor (Argentina), Ruins of Sao Miguel das Missoes (Brazil)- 129 letters
  • Minority communities Connected to the Guaranis who still inhabit the Missiones province in Argentina (they constitute the majority in Paraguay so only Argentina-Brazil counts)
  • Sound and Light Show Sao Miguel das Missoes (som e luz), San Ignacio

WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process