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Paraguay -- City of Santa Marie De Fe

Updated on March 21, 2012

It is a peaceful village that was formerly a Jesuit “Reduction” (Mission for the Indigenous). The department it’s situated is called Misiones. The Missions for the Guarani spanned just over 150 years, from 1609, when the neighbouring Reduction of San Ignacio was set up, to 1768, when the Jesuits were expelled.

Santa Maria de Fe (Saint Mary of Faith) was founded in 1647 by French Jesuit Fr. Emmanuel Berthod. He had a special devotion to the French image of Our Lady under the title of Notre Dame de Foy, hence the phrase ‘de Fe’ in the title. It was built initially further north and moved to its present site in 1669. It is highly regarded as the finest of the museum of the Reductions. Santa Maria is unspoilt and lays in the heart of the Paraguayan countryside. It is probably the prettiest of all the former Guarani Reductions, though a very poor place with massive unemployment where the villagers struggle to make a living.

It’s museum is an original casa de indios (house of Indians), and has been beautifully restored with international aid. The hotel faces it directly across the square. The museum houses 50 carved wooden statues of saints and holy figures. It has one room devoted to the Passion of Christ and is considered a mystical experience.

One of many missions for the indigenous built through the Spanish colonies of South America by the Jesuits. They were run as virtually independent and self-sufficient settlements and were successful until the Jesuits were expelled in 1768 by royal decree.

The Reductions tried to offer safety from the slave traders. Music and art flourished. It was political forces that led eventually to their destruction.

The Guarani showed profound gifts for all kinds of arts and craftwork, and filled their churches with pictures, sculptures and carvings. In Santa Maria a restored building dating from the Jesuit period houses a collection of treasures including a crib scene, statues of various saints and a moving “Room of the Passion”.

Women of Santa Maria today are continuing the traditions with fine craftwork. The Taller Hermandad (workshop of Sisterhood) comprises of about 30 women and meets every afternoon. They sew appliqué work, making bags, hangings, clothes and other things including stoles for priests.


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