Thursday, February 19, 2009

About San Ignacio Mini . . .

Maybe you saw the movie The Mission with Jeremy Irons and Robert de Niro. We visited the historical site of San Ignacio Mini, one of 30 missions established by the Jesuits to convert the native peoples to Christianity, back in the early 1600s when Portugal and Spain vied for control of South America. The movie did a good job of showing the political maneuvering between church and state (the church lost), but visiting this mission helped me see the degree to which the Guarani people contributed -- their music, singing, their wooden violins, and their exquisite carving in wood and stone.

The Guarani carved red sandstone into a stunning Baroque facade for the San Ignacio church. Only ruins remain. But we can wander through the open plazas, along the walkways which once were cloisters, and through the belly of the church, now open to the sky.

A curious pediment (now restored) above the portal connecting the church with the cloisters remains. At the center, we see the Jesuit seal and a curious allegory between a serpent and a "sirena" (a mythical mermaid). The serpent is twined around a cactus, a theme repeated throughout central and south America and rather interesting to spot here.

We're truly now in Argentina. Yet before leaving Brazil behind, I wanted to mention sandals. Imelda would have loved Brazil. The women (of all ages) wear these dainty and sexy little sandals with the most outrageous decorations. Even the run up to Carnival is worth mention. We stopped in San Ignacio one night on our way to Buenos. As we checked in to our hotel, the clerk apologized for the noise. We looked over at the quiet dusty plaza in the center of town, the lack of any traffic, and wondered what she was talking about. We found out after dinner.

About 6 pm, children and their families came out to practice their marching and drumming skills. By 10 pm, the older kids were out in full force. They drummed with exhuberance until 4 am. It was a long and delicious night, several weeks before Carnival, but somehow Allen slept through it all. We leave tomorrow for Uruguay, Montevideo and Colonia del Sacramento, a short ferry ride of an hour and will return to Buenos Aires next week. All is well here . . . and I hope where you are.

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