A short bus ride out of Encarnacion bus station and we landed in the seemingly middle of nowhere. Assured by the driver this was the right place to get off and pointed in the direction in which we should walk, we set off with a French chap named Michael we had met at the bus station.
We were here to see the country’s only UNESCO World Heritage site of Jesuit Missions of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná.
We had been warned it wasn’t that interesting and only come if you are in the area already, unless it is your life’s mission to tick off every Unesco site in the world. It isn’t but we thought why not! However it is Unesco’s least visited site in the whole world so we didn’t know what to expect.
The walk up to it was deserted. Not another tourist in site. When we got near, we first stumbled across some old rocks that had been placed in a ring. We noticed they had faces carved in them and we assumed this was Jesus. All the descriptions here are in Spanish (where there are any at all) and we had to translate as best as we could however there was nothing here at all to explain why they were here.
Then we went into the site – no ticket office here which we thought was very unusual for UNESCO.
The first thing we noticed inside (after the obvious ruins lying around everywhere) was the noise of birds. So many birds – louder than even the walk through the nature reserve in Ybycui.
The main culprits were these little green parakeets. Gosh they could squawk! Everywhere we went inside our ears were bashed by these little green birds but it was good to see them. Mainly we just saw their silhouettes as they were all hiding up in the tops of the palm trees.
Anyway, UNESCOs website has this to say about the ruins. The Jesuits arrived in the Guayrá in 1588. With the permission of King Philip II of Spain, the missionaries’ goal was to Christianise the indigenous population as well as to protect them from the colonial labour system of encomienda, a condition of virtual slavery. The inhabitants were brought together and encouraged to adopt a sedentary form of life and the Christian religion but unlike other missions in the New World, they were not forced to “Europeanise”. Many indigenous traditions were retained and encouraged such as the cultivation of yerba mate, which continues to be a representative regional product today.
Although today the missions are essentially archaeological ruins, their original layout followed, generally, a similar form with the church providing the basic unit, the urban core and the centre of spiritual life. The rest of the mission was composed of the yard, cloisters of workshops, garden, the Tupa Mbaé, cemetery, and jail.
The Mission of Santísima Trinidad del Paraná stands as the best preserved urban complex. Although it was established in 1706, later than many of the reducción, it was also the most ambitious of the missions with a complex of buildings covering an area of about 8 hectares.
The large stone church had a fine dome and impressive decoration. It was built around 1745 and in addition to the main church, evidence survives of the small church, college or school, cloister, cemeteries, kitchen gardens, belfry, native houses, and workshops.
Ok so now you know all about it and that is as interesting as it gets unfortunately.
Apart from one little highlight, As we stood looking around, two little owls flew in and landed in a tree not far from us. First one which we were thrilled by. Then another which got us really excited! It’s funny what excites you sometimes.
On the way out we found the ticket booth and bought our tickets as we think UNESCO does good work and we are happy to contribute. They also took extreme delight in telling us they had a video in English and we dutifully sat and watched it. We thought it was going to be all about the ruins but it turned into a Tourist Board video for Paraguay. Oh well!
We said goodbye to Michael at this point as strangely enough, he wasn’t bored enough yet and decided to get a taxi the 12km to the other set of Jesuit ruins on the other side of the town.
We decided it was lunchtime and found a nearby restaurant for some food and a drink.
Not our most exciting day ever but actually it was a nice day out.