On the way to Iguazu, we thought we’d make one final stop at the town of San Ignacio in the state of Misiones. This was the site of some ruins that James had heard about of a 17th century Jesuit Mission. Apparently these Missions were a social experiment that is still held in much esteem. Usually around two Jesuit priests lived alongside 2 – 6000 indigenous Guarani, providing shelter from the “bandeirantes” who were attacking the Guarani to capture them and sell them as slaves. Both the Jesuits and the Guarani managed to mix their cultures without facing any violent conflicts. Apparently, it was one of the few cases in which colonists did not suppress indigenous culture but taught the Gospels and encouraged new ways of work and social organization. Many of the local traditions were kept, and the arts (music, sculpture, architecture) became highly developed within the Missions. The style of architecture is called Baroque Guarani and once we saw it, we understood why. Incredible arches, engravings and immaculate town planning (all around a central plaza) are still evident in stunning red sandstone. The place had an incredible sound & light show – we had no idea to expect, but were bowled over by talking trees, music from the ruins and images of children running around (made by light projections onto misted water) made for a truly haunting sensory experience.
But aside from the ruins, we loved San Ignacio. It was a tiny town, with only about three paved roads in the place and a laid back atmosphere to match. Lounging around the pool in glorious sunshine, cycling around the town, visiting the house of my dreams (overlooking Rio Parana, which unfortunately already belongs to a museum of Horacio Quiroga – a Uruguayan writer) sipping cold beers in hammocks, playing with the hostels gorgeous puppy Chino and losing (sorely!) to James at table tennis countless times all made for a very enjoyable stay. Inevitably, we ended up staying longer than we intended and enjoyed every second.