Argentina-Misiones. The Guaranì and the City of God
62 images Created 30 Sep 2009
The "Green Corridor of the Province of Misiones." covers an area of 1.108,000 hectares of Parana forest, a mosaic of landscapes including protected areas, largely covered by subtropical forest. Misiones is also the site of the 275 waterfalls of Iguazú, scattered along 2.7 kilometers of the Iguazu River, declared UNESCO World Heritage Site and this is also the place of the Guarani Aquifer, the second largest known underground aquifer system in the world and is an important source of fresh water covering 1,200,000 square kilometres (460,000 sq mi), with a volume of about 40,000 cubic kilometres (9,600 cu mi). It is said that this vast underground reservoir could supply fresh drinking water to the world for 200 years. Due to an expected shortage of fresh water on a global scale this important natural resource is rapidly becoming politicised and the control of the resource becomes ever more controversial. But this wilderness is also the theatrical backstage of a fascinating history starting with the Guaranì, one of the most important peoples of South America. For this people the land is the origin of all life but invasions by ranchers have devastated their territory and nearly all of their land has been stolen or burned. The white culture surrounds the almost 90 Mbya Guarani communities of Misiones and they must protect themselves from alcohol, drugs and TV. The Guaranì are best known for their connection to the Jesuit missions, the “land without evil” for many Guaranì and a controversial chapter of the history, described as jungle utopias or as theocratic regime. The first mission of Loreto was established in 1610 and in 1732, the year of their greatest prosperity, in the reducciones, as the mission were called, lived 150,000 Guaraní. The missions were grouped about a great central square, with a church of stone, elaborate sculptures and richly adorned altars. But the economic success combined with the Jesuits independence became a cause of fear and when the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish colonies in 1767, the reductions slowly died out. All that remains today are ruins of some of the Reductions. The Guaraní are reputed also to be the first people who cultivated the matè plant, Argentina´s national drink, and the Jesuit missionaries the first Europeans to do this. Yerba maté thrives on fertile soil and a subtropical climate of Misiones, with the leaves collected from the trees, roasted briefly over direct fire and dried. Finally, the leaves are mixed to obtain exactly the right blend.