The Jesuit Reductions of Paraguay, one of the most singular and beautiful creations of Catholic missionary activity, have contributed more than any other factor to fix the name of Paraguay in history. They have been the object alike of the most sincere admiration and the bitterest criticism. An exact account, based on the best sources, should be their best justification.
The founding and the plan of the reductions cannot be understood except in the light of colonial and political conditions as they prevailed in the Spanish La Plata territory at the time of the arrival of the Jesuits. The country discovered in 1515 by Juan Díaz de Solís had gradually by slow stages been conquered in sanguinary, and in the beginning, disastrous battles with the warlike, liberty-loving tribes. Until 1590 the Spaniards had founded ten cities and forty colonies. The natives, subdued by force of arms or submitting voluntarily were brought under the yoke of the Spanish encomienda system which in its more severe application made them yanaconas, or slaves, in its milder form mitayas, or serfs, to the conquistadores and the white colonists. The Spanish kings sought to better the lot of the natives by wise and humane decrees for their protection, but the difficulty of exercising control over them, and the unreliability, weakness, or selfishness of many of the officials permitted the abuse of this system to flourish. This system resulted in frequent uprisings of the subjugated race, and an implacable hatred of the foreigners on the part of the numerous tribes still retaining their freedom, accompanied even the earliest expeditions to La Plata, and churches and parishes were founded in the new steppes and forests in the interior, harassed the colonies, still in their youth, with inroads, and frequently laid them waste. It was not until the Reductions were founded that conditions were essentially improved in this respect also.
The kings of Spain having the conversion of the native peoples sincerely at heart, missionaries accompanied even the earliest expeditions to La Plata, and churches and parishes were founded in the new colony as soon as possible. Here, as elsewhere, the first pioneers of the Faith were sons of St. Francis. Besides them we find Dominicans, Mercedarians and, to conjecture from the oldest lists of bishops, also Augustinians and Hieronymites. The immense territory was divided into three dioceses:
They did not, as has been asserted, owe their origin to a previously-outlined idea of a state after the pattern of Campanella's "Sun State", which should form the realization of the longing of the Jesuits for power; on the contrary they grew in the most natural manner out of the efforts to obviate the three principal difficulties in the way of the conversion of the heathen resulting from the prevailing encomienda system, namely:
The Cedula Real of 30 January, 1607 provided that the Indians who were converted and became Christians could not be made serfs, and should be exempt from taxation for a period of ten years. The so-called Cedula magna of 6 March, 1609, declared briefly that "the Indian should be as free as the Spaniards." With these royal decrees (which were followed by a long list of others) as a basis, the Jesuits began, in explicit understanding with the highest ecclesiastical and civil authorities, who had been commanded by the Government to render efficient aid, to found Reductions, first of all, in the distant northeastern Province of Guayra (approximately the present Brazilian Province of Paraná), where, in 1609, the Loreto Reduction was founded on the Rio Paranápanema, which was followed in 1611 by the Reduction S. Ignacio Miri, and between then and 1630 by eleven others, altogether numbering about 10,000 Christians. The Indians hastened in entire bands to these places of refuge, where they found protection and safety from the robbers who harassed them. All ecclesiastical and civil decrees notwithstanding, the traffic in slaves had experienced an astounding development among the mixed population of the captaincies of São Vicente and Santo Amaro (in the present Province of São Paulo, Brazil) composed of adventurers and freebooters from all nations. Well-organized troops of man-hunters, the so-called Mamelucos, had in a short time depopulated the plateau of Sao Paulo, and from 1618 onwards threatened also the Reductions to which the startled Indians hastened from all sides. One by one the Reductions fell into the hands of the marauders. In 1630 alone no less than 30,000 Indians are said to have been murdered in Guayra or carried off from there by force as slaves. In vain the missionaries had appealed to the Spanish and Portuguese authorities for protection. They could not or would not help. As a last resort it was decided to take the remaining Christians and those still coming in to the Reductions founded on the Paraná and Uruguay rivers, and in 1831 the exodus was accomplished under the leadership of the heroic Father Simon Maceta. Some scholars have called this exodus one of the greatest achievements of its kind in history. Scarcely 12,000 reached their destination. In similar manner also the nine Reductions which had been founded between 1614 and 1638 on the Rio Jacuhy and in the Sierra dos Tapes in the present Brasilian Province of Rio Grande do Sul, and which numbered in all some 30,000 souls, were soon after destroyed and partially transferred to other places. The neglect of the Spanish governors to come to the aid of the missions in their peril was bitterly avenged by the subsequent destruction of the Spanish colonies in Guayra, by the Portuguese, and the loss of the entire province. Cast upon their own resources, the Jesuits organized, with the king's consent, an Indian militia, equipped with firearms, so that, as early as 1640, they could place a well-disciplined army in the field against the Paulistas, and could effectively suppress robbery and pillage. Henceforth the Reductions continued to form strong bulwark against the inroads of the Portuguese.
The main part of this "Christian Indian State", as the Reductions have been called, was formed by the 30  Guaraní Reductions, which came into being during the period from 1609-1780 in the territory of the present country of Paraguay, the Argentine Provinces of Misiones and Corrientes, and the Brazilian Province of Rio Grande do Sul. Many of these Reductions repeatedly changed their location in consequence of the frequent inroads of the Mamelucos and savage Indian tribes, retaining, however, their former names a circumstance which has given rise to no little confusion in older charts. The growth of the Guaraní Mission can be seen from the annual statistical records.
Besides the Guaraní missions, the Chiquitos Mission was founded in 1892 to the northwest, in the present Bolivia; in 1765 this mission numbered 23,288 souls (4981 families) in ten Reductions. The connecting link between the Guaraní and the Chiquitos missions was formed by the Mission of Taruma with three Reductions: San Joaquin (1747); San Estsanislao (1747), and Belen (1760), to which 2597 souls (547 families) belonged in 1762, and 3777 souls (803 families) in 1766. Far greater difficulties than in the Guaraní missions were encountered among the numerous many-tongued "mounted tribes" of the Gran Chaco, whose depredations continually kept the Spanish colonies on the alert. At the urgent request of the Spanish authorities the Jesuits attempted to found Reductions among these tribes also. Fifteen Reductions came into existence between 1735 and 1767, which about 1767 harboured Indians of eleven different tribes, among them about 5000 Christians. Scattered Reductions were founded in Tucuman, particularly among the Chiriguanos and Mataguayos (1762: 1 Reduction, 268 Christians, 20 pagans) and in North Patagonia (Terra Magallonica) where the Reduction of Nuestra Señora del Pilar was established in 1745. Altogether the Jesuits founded approximately 100 Reductions, some of which were later destroyed; 46 were established between 1638 and 1768. Consequently, the accusation raised by Azara and others that their missionary activity had become stagnated is unfounded. Until 1767 new reductions were continually being formed, while a constant stream of converts gained by the missionaries on their extensive apostolic journeys kept pouring into the older Reductions. Between 1610 and 1768, 702,086 Indians of the Guaraní tribes alone were baptized.
The founding and preservation of these Reductions were the fruit of a century and a half of toil and heroic sacrifice in the battle against the terrors of the wilderness and the indolence and fickleness of a primitive people, as well as against the reckless policy of exploitation followed by the Spaniards, to whom the Reductions were ever an eyesore. Down to 1764 twenty-nine Jesuits of Paraguay suffered death by martyrdom.
The Reductions were almost always laid out in healthy, high locations, the great central stations, as for instance Candelaria and Yapeyu, on the large waterways (Paraná stnd Uruguay) of the country. The general plan was similar to that of the Spanish pueblos. The was square, all streets running in straight lines, the main streets frequently being paved. The latter gave upon the plaza the large square where the church was situated generally shaded by trees, and ornamented with a large cross, a statue of the Virgin and frequently also with a pretty village well; at the head of the plaza stood the church, and adjoining it, on one side, the residence of the Fathers, called the "College"; on the other, the cemetery, enclosed by a wall with a pillared hall. The dwellings of the Indians, until the end of the seventeenth century, were frequently plain huts; later solid, one-story houses, built of stone or adobe, and invariably covered with tiles because of the danger of fire, about fifteen by eighteen feet in size, and divided into various apartments by partitions of wicker-work; they formed comfortable quarters for families of from four to six members, and, at all events, were incomparably better than the dwellings of the Indians of the encomienda. A portico, resting on stone or wooden pillars, and extending the entire width of the building, projected from the front of each house, so that one could walk through the entire town in rainy weather without getting wet. The houses were arranged in separate groups (vici, insulae) of six to ten dwellings each, to diminish the danger of fire. The "college" was separated from the plaza by a wall and a small courtyard, and by another wall from the adjoining buildings, which contained the schools, workshops, store-houses etc. Behind lay the carefully-kept garden of the Fathers.
The churches, mostly three-aisled, built of massive blocks of stone, with a richly-decorated façade, a main door, and several wide entrances, convey an impression of grandeur even as ruins. In the massive belfries, which mostly stood apart from the churches, hung six or even more bells, which latterly were cast in the Reductions. The rich interior furnishings would have graced any cathedral. Besides the church, each village had one or more chapels for the dead, in which the corpses were exposed and whence they were taken away, also a churchyard chapel. The cemetery, laid out alongside the church and enclosed by a wall with a pillared hall, was, with its rows of orange trees and its wealth of flowers, truly "a sacred garden of the dead." To the left of the cemetery, isolated and surrounded by a wall, stood the cotiguazu (the big house), which served as an asylum for the widows, who lived there in common; as a reformatory for women; as a home for cripples; and as a common spinning-room. Beyond the village, just at the village limits, stood the chapel of St. Isidore, the ramada or lodging-house for travelling Spaniards, and farther off the tile-kilns, mills, stamping-mills, tanneries, and other buildings devoted to industry. The villages mostly lay open; only the Reductions more exposed to the inroads of bands of savages, and the estancias or farms, and the cattle-corrals were protected by moats, palisades, walls, or thorn hedges. To facilitate communication and traffic between the various villages, serviceable roads were laid out, often to great distances. Besides, the splendid network of rivers served as an excellent waterway, the mission operating no less than 2000 boats of various kinds on the Paraná alone and approximately as many on the Uruguay with its own wharves, as, for example, at Yapeyu. The population varied widely in the different villages, ranging between 350 and 7000 souls.
The plan of the Jesuits of forming, with rude tribes of nomads, large commonwealth, separate from the Spanish colonies, and far in the interior of a country but little explored placed before them the difficult problem of making the commonwealth economically independent and self-sustaining. If the Indians were obliged, day by day, to gather their means of sustenance in the forest and on the plain, they would never have heen lifted out of their nomad life and would have remained half-heathens. The financial support of the Crown consisted, for the first reductions, of a moderate appropriation out of the state treasury and of bells and articles for use in the church, and later were reduced to a temporary tax exemption, and a small salary for the missionaries doing parish duty. In the eighteenth century this salary amounted to 300 pesos annually for the cura and his assistant. Consequently the natural resources of the fertile soil had to be exploited, and the Indians, lazy and careless by disposition, had to be trained to regular work.
(1) Conditions of Property
The economic basis was a sort of communism, which, however differed materially from the modern system which bears the same name, and was essentially theocratic. "The Jesuits", writes Gelpi y Ferro, "realized in their Christian commonwealth all that is good and nothing that is bad in the plans of modern Socialists and Communists." The land and all that stood upon it was the property of the community. The land was apportioned among the caciques, who allotted it to the families under them. Agricultural instruments and draught-cattle were loaned from the common supply. No one was permitted to sell his plot of land or his house, called abamba, i.e. "own possession." The individual efforts of the Indians, owing to their indolence, soon proved to be inadequate, whereupon separate plots were set aside as common fields, called Tupamba, i.e. "God's property" which were cultivated by common labour under the guidance of the Padres. The products of these fields were placed in the common storehouse, and were used partly for the support of the poor, the sick, widows, orphans, Church Indians, etc., partly as seed for the next year, partly as reserve supply for unforeseen contingencies, and also as a medium of exchange for European goods and for taxes (see below). The yield of the private fields and of private effort became the absolute property of the Indians, and was credited to them individually in the common barter transactions, so that each received in exchange the goods he desired. Those abamba plots which gave a smaller yield because of faulty individual management were exchanged from time to time. The herds of livestock were also common property. The caballos del Santo, which were used in processions on festal occasions, were especially reserved. Thus the Reduction Los Santos Apostoles at one time owned 599 of these.
The Indians themselves were content for their needs, with the cultivation of maLe Manioc, various indigenous tuberous plants and vegetables, and a little cotton. But the work conducted by the communities continued constantly to assume larger proportions, and surpassed by far the work of the Spanish colonies, both in regard to the variety of the products and to rational cultivation. Besides the common cereals (wheat and rice were grown scarcely anywhere outside of the Reductions) and field produce, tobacco, indigo, sugarcane, and above all, cotton were cultivated. Much care was devoted also to fruit culture, and that successfully. Even today one may find in the wilderness traces of former splendid orchards, particularly orange groves. Vine culture was attempted, but with only moderate success.
One of the most important products of the territory comprised by the Reductions was the so-called Paraguay tea (herba), which is still the largest article of export of the country. It consisted of dried leaves of the maté tree (Ilex Paraguayensis), crushed and slightly roasted, and drawn in boiling water; it was then, as it is now, the favourite beverage of the country and almost entirely displaced the intoxicating drinks to which the Indians had been addicted to a deplorable extent. Because the herba forests (herbales) frequently lay hundreds of miles distant, and the Indians there employed had to be deprived of regular pastoral care for too long a period, the Jesuits attempted to transplant the tree into the Reductions; their endeavours were successful here and there, but the jealous Spanish colonists used every means to frustrate their endeavours. The other abundant natural resources, choice sorts of wood, aromatic resins, honey bees, and the like, were converted to useful purposes, and attempts were even made, on a small scale, to produce pig-iron. Cattle-raising attained a magnificent development, the entire country being rich in grass, and some estancias numbered as many as 30,000 sheep and more than 100,000 head of cattle, numbers which were not unusual in some of the Spanish haciendas. The herds were increased from time to time by the capture of wild cattle, and the breed improved by careful selection and breeding. Horses, mules, donkeys, and poultry were also raised on a large scale. In addition, hunting and fishing aided in providing support; these forms of sport were, however, restricted in the Guaraní Reduction for reasons of discipline. The individual Reductions devoted themselves more or less to one or the other branch of production, and supplied their wants by exchange with other Reductions. A written almanac of 1765, which the Salesian Fathers of Don Bosco discovered about 1890 at Asunción, contains on its parchment leaves, besides the calendar, an adviser for agriculturists, with particular reference to the climate of the country; the manuscript shows what knowledge and solicitude the apostolic missionaries devoted to agriculture.
The vast needs of such an enormous establishment and the difficulties and expense of import necessitated the foundation of domestic industries. Thanks to the exceptional native gifts of the Guaranís, the abilities necessary for almost all the trades and crafts were soon developed in these people. Some were carpenters, joiners, wood-turners, builders; others blacksmiths, goldsmiths, armourers, bellfounders, masons, sculptors, stone-cutters, tilemakers, house-painters, painters and gilders, shoemakers, tailors, bookbinders, weavers, dyers, bakers, butchers, tanners, instrument-makers, organ-builders, copyists, calligraphers etc. Others again were employed in the powder-mills, tea-mills, corn-mills etc. Each man remained true to the craft once adopted, and provided for the transmission of his trade by teaching it to apprentices. The wonderful quality of the products of the workshops in the Reductions is shown by the beautiful cut-stone work of the churches. In some of the Reductions there were printing establishments, as for instance in Corpus, San Miguel, San Xavier, Loreto, Santa Maria la Mayor, where principally books of a liturgical and an ascetic nature were printed. It should be noted particularly that the remarkably high industrial development was not reached until after the end of the seventeenth century, when Jesuits from Germany and the Netherlands came to Paraguay in larger numbers. In 1726 a Spanish procurator of the missions admitted that "Artes plerasque [missionarii] erexerunt, sed eas omnes Germanis debent." Arts and the crafts were completely neglected in the Spanish colony at that time, the houses in Buenos Aires being built of clay and covered with rushes. A German lay brother of the Society of Jesus, Joh. Kraus, erected the first larger brick buildings (college and novitiate) in Buenos Aires and Córdoba; Brother Joseph Klausner of Munich introduced the first tin-foundry in the Province of Tucuman; while Indians from the Reductions, under the direction of the missionaries, built the fortifications and ramparts of Buenos Aires, Tobati, San Gabriel, Arecutagui, and other public works.
(4) Distribution of Labour and Manner of Control
The economic machinery of the Reductions could be kept in motion, and the Indians, naturally averse to work and thoughtless, brought up to systematic labour only by a well-regulated direction and control. Even the children were taught to work, and day by day some of them were occupied in the workshops and spinning-rooms under special overseers, while others were led out into the fields and plantations, to the joyous strains of music, following a statue of St. Isidore carried before them, and employed there for a few hours.The women were obliged, in addition to the performance of their household duties, to spin a certain amount weekly for the use of the community, to help during the sowing and harvesting of cotton and the like. Men who followed no particular trade were obliged to work at least two days weekly at communal undertakings, in the fields, or at public buildings, etc. All had to work during harvest time. Relaxation and recreation were provided in the hours set aside for leisure, which were passed in arranging common games, military drill-horse races, and so on, by the many feast-days and the days set aside for hunting trips and other expeditions. Cards and dice, however, were strictly forbidden. The heads of each community were entrusted with the direction of their communities (see below). Besides, each branch of trade had its own superintendents and guild-masters, who constantly remained in touch with the missionaries, who watched over all and whose presence and authority formed the driving-wheel of the whole community. All officials were obliged to give exact account of their administration, and it is a matter of fact that the accounts and administration reports were in exemplary order, according to the testimony of the government inspectors. The superiors of the order also conducted an exact inspection every year. Labourers and such public employees as hospital attendants, sextons, and others were kept at public cost, and the private fields of draymen and ferrymen, shepherds and others, who were engaged in public service, were tilled by others for their benefit.
(5) Distribution of Rations
Food and dress were the same for all, with some slight concessions in favour of the caciques and public officials. The produce of the private fields provided the secondary dishes for the daily table. Whatever was missing was provided out of the common storehouse in equal measure. The principal article of diet of the Indians was meat, which they obtained from the common slaughterhouses at regular intervals. Ordinarily, animals were slaughtered three times a week; in Yapeyu, with about 7000 inhabitants, about forty beeves were killed each day. In order to prevent the Indians from consuming their entire rations of meat in one day, they were induced to make charqui (meat dried in the sun and pulverized) of a portion of it. The sick were given special food prepared in the parsonage; the children received their morning and evening meal in common in the courtyard of the parsonage also. On high feast-days public banquets were held in common. The common storehouses also furnished additional provisions of a special nature for wedding feasts and the like. Strong liquors were almost entirely replaced by maté in the Guaraní Reductions.
Twice a year each family received the necessary woven woollen and cotton goods, of which the women made clothing. In addition, each family could bring its private cotton crop to the parish mills. Only a coarse, plain cloth was woven. Goods of better quality, for the altar linens vestments, and garments of state had to be imported. The dress of the natives was plain but decent; the attire of the men consisted of short, loose breeches, a cotton shirt, and two woollen ponchos, one for everyday wear, the other for holidays; the women wore long, loose, shirt-like gowns, with many folds. Ordinarily all went barefoot. The official garments and uniforms for festive occasions, neat and made of fine, coloured materials, were kept in separate chests in the "college," as also the banners, theatrical costumes, insignia, and so on.
The accusation that the Jesuits acquired immense wealth in the Reductions is a fable, spread broadcast by their enemies and those jealous of their success, but long since disproved. "I dare to maintain", the Bishop of Buenos Aires, Dom Pedro Taxardo, wrote to Philip V of Spain in 1721, "that if the Jesuits were less virtuous, they would have fewer enemies. I have visited their missions frequently, and I can assure Your Majesty, that I have nowhere found greater order and more perfect unselfishness than among these religious, who take nothing that belongs to their converts, whether it be for their own attire or for their sustenance". The fact is that the Fathers bore the expense of their own sustenance, as far as possible out of the salary appropriated by the king for them (about 250 pesos) although it was smaller than the salary of the other priests, both secular and religious (600 pesos). In compensation for the provisions taken by the Fathers from the common stores, such as fish, milk, eggs, vegetables, the procurator sent each missionary a supply of salt, soap, knives, shears, glass beads, fish-hooks, pins, medals, and the like for distribution among the Indians, who were very fond of these things. Southey, himself a Protestant, published as the result of his investigation covering this question, that nothing can be more certain, than that the Jesuits have not amassed any treasures in Paraguay. The myth concerning their vast trade transactions must be classed with that of the gold mines in the Reductions, which never existed, notwithstanding the fact that hatred and envy have so persistently clung to this assertion, that the Government was forced more than once to institute investigations. Thus an investigation was conducted in 1640 by Don André" de León Gacavita, and another, still more searching, in 1657 by Don J. Blasquez Valverde. In both cases the inquiries led to a clear demonstration of the untruth of the accusations, and to the severe punishment of the accusers. The gold mines have never been found, even after the expulsion of the Jesuits. The estimates that have been made of the alleged vast income and trade profit are founded upon purely arbitrary or false suppositions. The vast herds of cattle, for example, were not representative of wealth, because of the great numbers of ownerless cattle in which the land abounded, the price of a healthy steer in consequence being half a peso in Dobrizhoffer's time, while later the price rose to one and two pesos in consequence of the reckless destruction of these animals by the Spaniards. The single carved high altar in the Church of San Borja was valued at the price of 30,000 steers.
In addition, the expense of keeping up such a vast community should be borne in mind; the high prices of the new products and iron goods that had to be imported (a Spanish hundredweight, about 102 lbs. of iron from Buenos Aires cost 16 aurei, 1 ell of linen cloth 4 old rix-dollars, and even more, a fine lace alb about 120 rix-dollars); the tribute to the crown, which according to experts, amounted to 24,000 pesos; the building and decorating of the numerous churches far in the interior; the equipment of Indian auxiliary troops in the service of the king (see below); all of which, "taken together, alone required the expenditure of almost the entire income. As a matter of fact, the entire commerce was confined to the exchange, justified by canon law, of such products as cotton, tobacco, hides, various kinds of timber, horse-hair, honey, and in particular of the highly-prized mission herba, for goods which the Reductions themselves either could not produce or at least not in sufficient quantities, such as fine cloths, silks, linen for vestments and altar use, instruments, iron and glassware, books, paper salt, wine, vinegar dyes, etc. The trade by barter netted an average annual income of 100,000 pesos, according to the report of the royal investigating commission, or 7 reals per capita of the population. One instance may illustrate how arbitrarily the calumniators of the Jesuits juggle with figures. Some scholars assert that the Jesuits sold 4,000,000 pounds of herba annually, while the amount officially certified is only about 6000 arrobas (150,000 lbs.); he also places the number of Indians employed in its cultivation and production at 300,000, or twice the total number of men, women, and children living at any one time in all the Reductions.
How purely imaginary the wealth of the Jesuits had been was proved by the inventories taken of their houses and colleges at the time of their expulsion in 1787. These buildings mere seized suddenly, without previous warning, so that the Jesuits might not be able to conceal anything. But the only treasures found were the precious church articles. Only a trifling amount of money was found. The college that was most prominent, that of Córdoba, was barely self-supporting, according to the documents. "The Jesuits," writes one scholar, "strange as it may appear, did not conduct the missions after the fashion of a business concern, but rather as the rulers of some Utopia those foolish beings who think happiness is preferable to wealth."
The local administration of the Reductions was arranged according to the provisions of the lex indica, after the Spanish pattern, and was composed of the corregidor or burgomaster (in the Guaraní language poro puaitara, i.e. one who gives commands); the teniente, or deputy; three alcaldes, i.e. bailiffs or inspectors, two for the work in the town and one (alcalde de la hermandad) for the work in the rural districts; four regidores or councilmen (Guaraní icabildo iguata, i.e. one belonging to the council); one alguazil mayor, a sort of prefect of police (Guaraní ibirararuzu, i.e. "the chief of those who carry the stick"); one procurador or steward, and one escribano or writer (Guaraní quatiaapobara, i.e. "one who draws or writes"). Besides these there were the alferez real or standard-bearer (Guaraní, aobebe rerequara, i.e. "he to whom the care of the banner is entrusted," and a number of subaltern officials and assistants. The annual election took place at the end of December. The list of new candidates was drawn up by the retiring officials and submitted to the cura for approval, who had the jus indicum of challenging the nominations. On the first of January the installation of the new officials and the investiture with the insignia of office took place in very solemn fashion at the entrance to the church. Besides their insignia, the public officials had a place of honour in the church. Their final confirmation was obtained in each instance from the Spanish governor. On 1 January also the sextons, superintendents of works, the boys' directors, and others were elected. Each day after Mass the corregidor gave the cura a report of all current affairs and received from him the necessary directions, which he transmitted to those concerned. It should be noted that the old hereditary caciqueship, and also the hereditary Indian nobility retained their rights and were honoured in the Reductions, and, it appears, were especially considered in the allotment of higher offices and military charges. The plan of Philip V to make the five hundred caciques of the Guaraní Reductions Knights of Santiago was not carried out, owing to the fact that the caciques attached no value to such a distinction.
The organization for armed self-defense against the frequent inroads of hordes of savages and of the Portuguese neighbours was not only permitted by repeated royal decrees, but was carried out in accordance with the declared wishes of the king. In conformity with these decrees arsenals were erected in all the Reductions, in which weapons of the best quality, principally firearms, were stored, together with ammunition. The king repeatedly sent new supplies of arms, among them some 800 guns, about 1730. Later gunpowder was produced in the Reductions themselves. Each Reduction was divided into eight companies, with a maestro de cumpo, generally a cacique, a sergeante mayor, eight capitanes, and other officers at their head. Regularly arranged military exercises and armed drills, together with sham battles, preserved and increased the military efficiency of the people. The governors repeatedly sent Spanish officers into the Reductions, to instruct the Indians in the use of firearms. The main strength of the Reductions, however, lay in their cavalry. This force had already proved itself very efficient in the defence against the Paulistas; from 1841 onwards it was called into service by the governors almost year after year to help in the wars with the savage tribes, with the Portuguese, the English who threatened Buenos Aires, and, last but not least, rebellious colonists and encomienda Indians, and rendered splendid service. Time and again kings and governors expressed their sincerest gratitude for these services, which were all the more valuable because they cost the Crown nothing. The Reduction Indians between 1637 and 1735 entered the field no less than fifty times for the cause of the king, repeatedly with a large force and under considerable sacrifice of time and life.
The Reductions of Paraguay are justly called a model of a theocratic commonwealth. Religion ruled the entire public and private life. The entire community attended Holy Mass and the evening devotions daily. Prayers and religious songs accompanied and encompassed work and recreation alike. Religious instruction was given daily for the children, on several days each week for catechumens, and every Sunday for the entire parish. Through the medium of easily sung catechismal hymns the doctrines and the principal events of the life of Christ and those of the saints were impressed upon the minds of the people. A sort of religious handbook bearing the title "Ara poru aguiyey haba yacoa ymomoeoinda" (On the Proper Use of Time) written by P. Jos. de Insauralde (born at Asunción; d. 1730), printed at Madrid in 1759-84 in two volumes, and which was very popular, gave directions concerning the performance of various acts at home and in church in a holy and meritorious manner.
Public religious life in the splendid churches found its expression in an exceedingly brilliant manner, particularly on feast-days. Church music was carefully cultivated, especially under the direction of Italian and German Fathers, and its production would have been, according to the testimony of Don Franc. Xarque, a credit to any Spanish cathedral. In consequence, the church choirs of the Reductions were frequently invited to the Spanish cities. The reports of the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christ, the patronal feasts, the Rogation and penitential processions, the devotion to the saints (particularly to the Blessed Virgin), the representations of the Crib and the Passion, mystery-plays, sacramental dances, and so on, convey a charming picture of the religious life in the Reductions. Religious societies also, especially the Sodalities of the Blessed Virgin, attained to a remarkable growth. The reception of the sacraments, after the Reductions had become firmly grounded, and a solid body of older Christians had been obtained, was, according to the annual reports, and in accordance with ecclesiastical practice of the times, very good. The members of the religious societies received Communion monthly, many of them weekly. The early marriages (boys were obliged to marry at 17, girls at 15), strict discipline, and surveillance fostered chastity among the natives, which aided the natural increase of the race, ordinarily not very fruitful (the average number of children in was four). Careful control and strict segregation of all objectionable elements did the rest. "Such innocence prevails among these people," Bishop Faxardo wrote, 20 May 1720, from Buenos Aires to Philip V, "who are composed exclusively of Indians naturally inclined to all kinds of vices, that I believe no mortal sin is ever committed there, the vigilance of the shepherds foreseeing and preventing even the slightest fault." A number of authentic testimonials of bishops and royal visiting inspectors speak with the greatest admiration of the religious zeal, the devotion, purity of morals, Christian brotherly love, and conscientiousness of the Indians, as well as the unshirking devotion and the edifying lives of the priests.
Each Reduction had, at least during the later period, an elementary school with Indian teachers educated by the Fathers; there at least the boys, above all the sons of the caciques and the more prominent Indians, from whose ranks the heads of the villages and other officials were mostly taken, could learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. In this respect also the Reductions were in advance of the Spanish colony. Even Bucareli, who later carried out the decree of expulsion in such relentless fashion, acknowledged the work of the Reduction schools. Boys who were especially gifted also received instruction in Latin sufficient to enable them to perform sexton's duties and to read at table in the college. The schools for singing and music were conducted very successfully, so that each Reduction had a capable church choir and orchestra. The accusation that the Jesuits studiously prevented the Indians from learning Spanish, in order to preserve their secrets the more securely and to prevent intercourse with the colonists, is untrue, as Bucareli attests, and is, besides, altogether absurd, since the Guaraní language, then as now, was the common language of the Spaniards also. The women knew no Spanish. The fathers surely sought to introduce the Spanish language in their own interest, although it was very difficult for the Indians to learn and very unpopular with them; still they followed the jus indicum (Tit. I, c. vi, leg. 18) which did not oblige the natives to learn Spanish.
It was necessary to accustom the Indians to Christian morals and love of work by mildness linked with severity. The daily routine, marked by the ringing of the bell, the strict segregation of the sexes in public community life demanded by the jus indicum, together with a prudent system of surveillance demanded by the commingling of older Christians, neophytes, and the new arrivals constantly coming in from the wilderness, helped to achieve this result. Another precaution was the segregation, as far as possible, of the Indians from the Spaniards, and from the encomienda Indians, who were mostly of questionable moral character, a measure which some, referring to the sad experience in Peru, consider entirely appropriate, and the observance of which the missionaries of the Gran Chaco even today deem necessary. Regarding the penal discipline, even Asara, who is so averse to the Jesuits, admits "that they exercised their authority with a mildness and moderation [suavidad y moderación] which one must admire." Minor offences, such as laziness, public disturbances etc., were punished by sentences of fasting or a few blows with a whip, transgressions of a more serious character by arrest and confinement in jail on small rations. Refractory women were confined for a time in the cotiguazu, or house for the women. To prevent abuse of authority on the part of the Indian officials, they were not permitted to inflict punishment of any kind without having previously reported the case in question to the Fathers. Capital punishment was never inflicted. Crimes deserving capital punishment, which occurred but rarely, were punished by expulsion from the Reduction and surrender of the perpetrator to the Spanish authorities. The fact that these tribes, so enamoured of liberty, did not undertake a single uprising against the missionaries, while on the other hand revolts among the encomienda Indians were very frequent, and the additional circumstance that two or three Fathers were sufficient to keep a population of 1000 to 2000 souls in order and discipline, surely speaks very strongly in favour of the system and proves the untruth of the accusation of Jesuit despotism.
The care of the sick was well organized in all the Reductions. In each village there were four to eight nurses, well-instructed in the use of medicines, and devoted absolutely to their profession; they were called curuzuya, or cross-bearers, from the shape of their staffs which terminated in a cross at the top. They made a round of the village each day, and were obliged to give the Fathers an exact report of the condition of the sick, so that as a consequence scarcely an Indian died without the last sacraments. The remedies principally used were the indigenous medicinal herbs. In addition, each "college" had a pharmacy. Some Fathers and Brothers who possessed a knowledge of medicine compiled special medicinal handbooks for use in the Reductions. Several German Fathers and a few lay-brothers, the latter having been apothecaries before entering the order, deserved particularly well of the Reductions in this respect; pre-eminent in this regard was the Tyrolese Father Sigismund Aperger. Usually a healthy race, the Guaraní showed absolutely no power of resistance to certain contagious diseases, such as measles and smallpox. Repeated severe epidemics of these diseases, such as occurred in 1618, 1619, 1635, 1636, 1692, 1718, 1733, 1739, and 1764, decimated the population of the Reductions in a frightful manner. Thus in the one year 1735 measles brought death to 18,773 persons, and in 1737 smallpox claimed more than 30,000 victims. In 1733 12,933 children died of smallpox. Were it not for these epidemics, the population of the Guaraní missions would have been twice or three times as large. These epidemics demanded heroic efforts on the part of the Fathers.
Nothing can be more absurd than the myth of the "Independent Jesuit State of Paraguay," mendaciously constructed by Ibañez and other writers. The entire foundation and development of the Reductions took place with the consent of the Spanish kings and on the strength of the royal decrees and privileges, which were summarized, confirmed and enlarged in the famous decree of Philip V of 28 December, 1743. As late as 1774 the Hieronymite P. Cevallos could truly maintain that all that the Jesuits had done in Paraguay "era todo probado por reales cédulas ó procedia de ordenes expresas." The territory covered by the Reductions was under the direct jurisdiction of the crown, in such a manner, however, that part of the sovereign rights were exercised by the governor in the name of the king (from 1736 onwards all the Reductions were under the authority of the Governor of Buenos Aires). All royal commands and decrees were announced and executed in the Reductions also, unless the latter were expressly excepted. The governors confirmed the new officials in the Reductions after the annual elections, as also the newly appointed curas belonging to the Society of Jesus; they made regular official visits to the Reductions, and sent reports to the king regarding their visitations. The Reductions were ready for war at the call of the governors and the latter could always depend absolutely upon their loyalty, a fact which they acknowledged frequently and in glowing terms in their reports to the king. Further, the Reductions paid the taxes imposed and tithes laid upon them, faithfully and punctually, and moulded their conduct in accordance with all the laws of the Spanish crown, inasmuch as they were not suspended or modified in their application to that territory by special royal privileges (Decr. Phil. V., art. 5). Controversies with the governors arising in consequence of unjust encroachment were always adjusted through the royal audiencia in Charcas, by royal inspectors or by investigating committees, especially named and appointed by the king himself.
Loyalty to the king and enthusiasm for his cause and person were instilled deeply by the fathers in the hearts of the Reduction Indians, Philip V himself declaring in his famous decree of 28 December, 1743 that in his entire colonial possessions in America he had no more faithful subjects. On all patronal feasts the royal standard was borne to the church with great ceremony, and the alferez real, who carried it, received with regal honours at the church door. Thereupon the banner was planted on the plaza, with a picture of the king, and the entire militia with their officers renewed their oath of homage before it in a solemn manner amid shouts of: "Mburu bicha guazu: toi cobengatu ñande Tey marangatu: toi cobengatu ñande Rey N." (Long live our King, the great Caciquel! Long live our good King; long live our King N.). Indians took pride in calling themselves "Soldiers of the King." How they risked and sacrificed life and property on many occasions, under the leadership of the Fathers, for the cause of the crown, has been told already. The loyalty of these Indians to the king is characterized by their conduct during the time of the Antequera disorders, and the so-called Comuneros revolt, that troublesome period (1721-1735) which composed the first attempt, on a large scale, of the colony to secede from Spain. The usurper Antequera as well as the Comuneros vented their rage first and above all on the Jesuits and the Reduction Indians, who proved themselves the strongest bulwark of the Spanish rule. Their destruction was consequently soon followed by the revolution and secession from Spain.
The isolation of the Indians and the exclusion of the Spaniards from the territory of the Reductions, prompted by reasons of principle and strictly enforced, have given the opponents of the Jesuits ample material for sinister insinuations. These measures, however, were sanctioned by royal decrees and were necessary for the attainment of the purpose of the mission. "Nothing can justify this procedure better," writes Ulloa, "than the sad example of the decline of the doctrinas in Peru." It is surely a significant fact that even Governor Bucareli after the expulsion of the Jesuits strongly urged the continuance of this system of isolation in the interest of the Indians in his instructions to his successor, written in 1768. Moreover, officials of the crown always had free access to the Reductions, and where no danger was to be feared, friendly relations were maintained with the neighbouring Spanish colonists, and the latter were frequently invited to festivities, asked to act as sponsors in baptism etc. Further, the villages nearest to Asunción: Santa Maria, San Ignacio Guazu, Santa Rosa, Santiago, San Cosme, and Itapua were at the king's request opened on certain days of each month to Spanish merchants for the purpose of selling their goods. A number of trustworthy Spaniards in the service of the missions lived in the Reductions, and each Reduction had a separate lodging-house for travelling strangers.
A portion of the Guaraní Reductions was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Asunción (erected 1647), another under the authority of the Bishop of Buenos Aires (1582), while the Reductions of the Chiquitos belonged to the Diocese of Santa Cruz de Ia Sierra (1605), and the colleges and missions of Tucuman to the See of Cordóba (1570). The jurisdiction of the bishops was limited only by the exemptions of the Society of Jesus, which it held in common with the other orders and which were clearly determined by papal bulls. For the rest, the bishops exercised their episcopal authority and functions freely in the territory of the Reductions, confirmed the curas proposed by the superior of the order, drew their tithes, performed their pastoral and confirmation visits regularly and sent reports to the king and to Rome. The visits to the distant Reductions being attended by great difficulties, the bishops conferred extensive rights and powers upon the superiors of the missions; the relations between the Jesuits and the bishops, although the latter mostly belonged to other orders, were very good throughout.
One single exception is found in the case of the Bishop of Asunción, D. Bernardino de Cardenas, O.S.F. (1642-49), whose actions brought confusion upon the entire country, and whose antipathy to the Jesuits threatened to ruin the Reductions. In 1649 he was removed to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, and later became sincerely reconciled to the Jesuits. The Cardenas affair was eagerly taken advantage of by the anti-Jesuit party particularly under Pombal. There can be no doubt on which side right and wrong were, the representation of Marcellino da Civesas to the contrary notwithstanding. From 1654 onwards the name Reductions was officially altered to Doctrinas and the mission stations treated as parishes, a procedure which, in missionary lands, was by no means contrary to the rules of the order, as the apostate Ibañez maintains. Each parish had a cura (pastor) and a vicario, in larger towns several. The entire territory of the Reductions was under the authority of a superior, who resided at Candelaria and had, in order to lighten his burden, a vice-superior in the Paraná and one in the Uruguay territory. The Doctrinas together formed a collegium, according to the rule of the order; the superior missionis acted as rector and as representative of the mission in relation to the ecclesiastical and secular authorities. He was surrounded by a council of eight consultors, chosen from among the oldest and most experienced fathers. Every three or four years the territory of the Reductions was visited once or twice by the Provincial of Paraguay. The discipline of the order was strictly enforced, and the good religious spirit of the members is confirmed by the official testimony of the bishops, governors, and royal inspectors. A document written in Cuaraní, which was found during the forcible occupation of San Lorenzo, and in which the Indian Neenguiru describes the life and activity of the father, is touchingly beautiful.
The singular nature of the Reductions has roused the interest and admiration of numerous thinkers, philosophers, historians, economists, and explorers to an exceptional degree. Men of the most divergent callings and denominations have expressed their warmest appreciation. These opinions, in conjunction with the brilliant testimonials of the Spanish kings, of governors, inspectors, bishops and others should be sufficiently weighty to characterize as lies and slanderous accusations the spiteful attacks of professed enemies of the Church and the Jesuits. It is to be regretted that prejudice against the Jesuit Order still spreads these lies of history. The Reduction system undoubtedly had its weak points and imperfections; they may be advanced against the system, but this should be done in a manner consistent with objective historical research. It is certainly inconsistent to bestow immoderate praise upon the system of the Incas, and at the same time to find fault with the Reduction system, which adopted and Christianized all the good features of that system. An objection frequently advanced against the Reductions, even by well-meaning writers, was that the Reduction system did not educate the Indians up to autonomy but allowed them to remain in a state of tutelage. This policy, they maintain, explains the decline of the Reductions after the expulsion of the Jesuits. In answer it may be briefly stated that
The tragic decline of the Reductions is but an episode in the war against the Jesuit Order, which was begun about the middle of the eighteenth century, of which the trio of free-thinking ministers of France, Portugal, and Spain (namely, Choiseul, Pombal, and Aranda), were the principal leaders, and which ended with the dissolution of the order in 1773. The principal factors can be enumerated only briefly here.
The difficulties existing between Spain and Portugal because of the boundaries of their American possessions supplied the all-powerful Minister of State, Pombal, the mortal enemy of the Jesuits, with the longed-for opportunity of perfecting a clever diplomatic coup, and which simultaneously furthered the interests of Portugal and his hatred of the Society of Jesus. The treaty, secretly entered upon in Madrid on 15 January, 1750, contained among its provisions the agreement that Spain retain the long-contested colony San Sacramento at the mouth of the Uruguay, and transfer to Portugal, in exchange, the seven Reductions lying on the left bank of the Uruguay, i.e. about two-thirds of the present Brazilian province of Rio Grande do Sul and one of the most valuable sections of the territory of La Plata. The treaty further provided (article 16) that the missionaries and their thirty thousand Indians leave their home, founded during a hundred and fifty years of patient toil, with bag and baggage and without delay, and settle on the opposite bank of the Uruguay. This change of location was, even from the viewpoint of colonial policy and political economy an incomprehensible miscarriage of justice towards the missionaries and the Indians alike, whose wishes had not been consulted in any manner; it was "one of the most tyrannical commands that was ever issued in the recklessness of unfeeling power" (Southey, loc. cit., III, 449). Southey correctly adds that the weak Ferdinand VI had no idea of the importance of the treaty.
The treaty caused surprise and indignation in the Spanish colony of La Plata. The Viceroy of Peru, the royal Audiencia of Charcas, and the secular and ecclesiastical authorities unanimously sent protests of the most emphatic nature to the Spanish Cabinet. They were as unsuccessful as the earnest petitions of the Jesuits, who declared that it was impossible to approach the Indians with the cruel demand to give up their home and their possessions, solemnly granted them by so many royal decrees, and to surrender them without any cause or provocation to their enemies and oppressors, the Portuguese. It was all of no avail. Ignazio Visconti, the General of the Society, over-compliant to the wishes of the king, issued a strict command to the members of the order to yield to the inevitable and to prevail upon the exiled Indians to submit, a task which they performed, at first indeed without success. In begging earnestly for a respite and in making every effort to have the cruel measure revoked they merely performed their duty; to present their conduct as insubordination, as has been done, is unjust. Their position was infinitely aggravated by the imprudent and domineering behaviour of the Spanish and Portuguese plenipotentiaries, and especially by the impassioned attitude of the commissary of the order, P. Luis Altamirano, S.J., who was appointed by the general and the king, and who treated as rebels his own brethren, who advised him to proceed with care and moderation. In spite of all the appeals of the Fathers, the Indians, goaded beyond bearing, rose in arms, but having no leader and lacking unity, were defeated in battle in February, 1758. Those who did not submit fled into the forests, where some of them carried on an unsuccessful guerilla warfare. The greater part of the Indians, following the advice of the Fathers, emigrated and settled in the Reductions on the Rivers Paraná and Uruguay (right bank). In 1762 there were still 2497 families, numbering 11,084 souls, scattered there in 17 Reductions; 3052 families, numbering 14,018 souls, had returned to their old home in 1781. For in that year Spain had cancelled the unfortunate treaty of 1750, acknowledging thereby the mistake that had been made. This War of the Seven Reductions was made to serve as one of the principal points of accusation advanced by the enemies of the Jesuits. A flood of defamatory pamphlets, falsified documents, and ridiculous fables, as, for instance, the tale of a king, Nicholas I of Paraguay, went out from an unscrupulous press which Pombal controlled, and was spread broadcast over Europe by the anti-Jesuit faction. Although their absolutely unhistoric character has long been clearly proven, these publications continue even now to vitiate the historical presentation of this period.
The rest is known. On 2 April, 1767, Charles III of Spain, weak and duped, signed the edict which decreed the exile of the Jesuits from the Spanish possessions in America. It was the death-warrant of the Reductions of Paraguay. The expulsion was carried out by force by the Governor of La Plata, Marquess of Bucareli, in the most brutal manner. "The Jesuits in Paraguay, at least, by their conduct in their last public act, most amply vindicated their loyalty to the Spanish crown.... Nothing would have been easier, depleted as the viceroyalty was at the time of troops, than to have defied the forces which Bucareli had at his disposal and to have set up a Jesuit State, which would have taxed the utmost resources of the Spanish crown to overcome" . . . [but] "they made no fight, nor offered any resistance, allowing themselves to be taken as the sheep is seized by the butcher" (Cunninghame Graham, loc. cit., 267). The Jesuit Province of Paraguay numbered at that time 564 members, 12 colleges, 1 university, 1 novitiate, 3 houses for conducting retreats, 2 residences, 57 Reductions, and 113,716 Christian Indians. The leave-taking from the Indians was heart-rending. In vain they pleaded in the most fervent manner to be allowed to keep their Fathers or to be assured that they would return. They never returned.
The first fruits of the expulsion was the keenest disappointment. Except the splendid decorations of the churches, of which entire wagonloads were carried away, none of the hoped-for treasures were found. The spiritual administration of the Reductions was transferred to the Franciscans and others, the public administration to Spanish civil officials. Attempts were made to retain most of the institutions introduced by the Jesuits, which had previously been so severely censured a fact which sheds a characteristic light upon them but the rapid decline of the Reductions (in 1772 the Guaraní Reduction numbered 80,881 souls; in 1796 only 45,000; soon after there were only a few remnants left) showed that their vitality had been destroyed. The beautiful churches fell to pieces; the magnificent economic institutions stood forsaken. Terrific uprisings, the revolution, and its accompanying battles, and finally the despotic rule of the first republican presidents, Francia and Lopez, destroyed in less than fifty years what the spirit of Christian sacrifice had laboriously built up during a period of one hundred and fifty years. Today only beautiful ruins mark the place where once this great Christian commonwealth stood. But "the memory of the missionaries still continues to live in blessing among the Indians, who talk of the rule of the Padres as of their Golden Age" (Stein-Wappaeus, loc. cit., 1013). "The fact is," says the famous German traveller and ethnographer, Dr. Karl von der Steinen, "that the expulsion of the Jesuits was a severe blow for the native inhabitants of La Plata and the Amazon territories, from which it has never recovered."
APA citation. (1911). Reductions of Paraguay. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12688b.htm
MLA citation. "Reductions of Paraguay." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12688b.htm>.
Transcription. Dedicated to Kenna Moreira.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.