Friday, March 16, 2012

Stationing in Encarnacion for the visit of Jesuit Guarani Missions - I

Thanks to Cesar, an English teacher and a welcoming host, we could stay in Encarnacion for one week and visit the major historical sites. All of which were small town set up by the Spanish missionaires coming to the new land to spread the word of God to the aboriginal Guarani people. The sites were scattered around the area covering south-western Brazil, north-eastern Argentina and much of Paraguay. They brought technology, agricultural skill, medicine, literature, music to the local people, who could garantee some food consistency and safety from attack of other tribes, but in return the ethnic identity of these aboriginals faded as generations went on.

We went to the ruins (called reduccion locally) in both Paraguay (Trinadad, Jesus, San Cosme) and Argentina (San Ignacio Mini, Nuestra Senora De Loreto). When I thought back, I did not see much of the point why we visited these ruins so much. In terms of history, this 16 century archeology could not be compared to other ancient culture like Eygpt, India and China; how the missionary diluted local aboriginal was also less interesting to me, who always detests such practice in the name of God. We turned out doing what the tourists mostly did in this area. 

According to the advice from guidebook and tourist information center, we went to Jesus. There was no direct transport but we took a very old taxi from the main road. It was so old that it needed to be push from the back to slide down and start the engine. After one hour and a half we reached the site, which was only the remain of half a church. It was so quiet that there were only us there at some point, also a cat, which we took many pictures of her and the ruin that could make a profile. We were there till late afternoon and found that the expected bus did not show up. Preparing to walk all the way back to the main road (11km, about 2hours), we were lucky that we did the first hitch-hiking in life by having a small working truck taking us back to the main road. Then we turned to Trinidad.

the relic guardian

curious cat

waiting for 1.5 hour and still no bus

It was a larger and more established site. With more remains of the houses of the “Indian”, a larger church with museum showing many sculptures. We were a bit late when we got there and missed the sunset view of the site. It was the night show in mind that we stayed longer. Before that we took pictures of the stars with the ruin by over-exposing the camera, but we must stay away from the night of the nearby residence. I really disliked them being so near to the ruin; it would have been a good stary scene with the ruin but their lights were enough to take away the athestic of the scene. Finally the night show came. Although it was led by a Spanish speaking guide, the mixture of music and light made the whole ruin so transquil that our tireness of the whole day was swept away. In fact I like the stars background more than the artificial light, of which the different colors made the natural color of the wall (commonly redish brown) so unnatural. After the show finished, we went to the road and waited for the night bus back to Encarnacion.

The next day we went to San Cosme, where the ruin was built for astrological purpose too. Due to that purpose a new planetarium was built for the visitors, it introduced basic astrology like eclipes, solar systems etc. Being the only visitors of the day, we were given the one-to-one lesson (in spanish) on basic astrology. At least we learnt how to recognize the stars such as the southern cross and the scorpion. Then we were shown the relic, which was the church still in use for mass and sunday school.

Although we brought lunch, Maria seemed eager to try a local restaurant. We went to Stella’s house next to the relic; only it had a board saying “restaurant” and we were the only customers in there. With a lot of writing and sign language, we ordered a fish soup and a hardly grilled steak with onion and rice, costing 50,000G. Then we walked to the riverside as suggested to a staff in the museum, with Eduardo’s photo (a bikini girl enjoying sunshine on the beach with open sight without another side of the river), in mind. Finally in 20 minutes we walked to side and only saw a very small beach with lots of branches on the coastline; also a military station with a big guy who suspected we were infiltrators and asked us for passport. I just gave him a photocopy and said my passport in hotel, for fear that he took away our passport for money. We were then let go and the mood of finding another beach ceased. Our bubble burst too.

That's our best picture on the coast of San Cosme

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