reductions of Paraguay

Term applied to the communal mission villages established in South America by the Jesuit missionaries. Their purpose was to provide a settlement and refuge for the Indians of Paraguay and Brazil, who had been enslaved by the Spanish colonists as early as 1515. The first Reduction was established in 1609 in what is now southern Brazil, and by 1630 twelve more had been founded. The colonists opposed the movement, but Philip III of Spain aided the Jesuits with subsidies and legal measures. The Indians filled the communities and the venture grew so successful under the management of the Jesuits that the Spanish Government was no longer obliged to subsidize it. The site for a Reduction was chosen for its healthful climate and proximity to waterways. The plan of the village was square, with the streets running in straight lines. In the center was the church, and nearby were the residence of the Fathers, and the cemetery. The Jesuits taught the young, managed the community, and fostered the common arts, agriculture, and cattle-raising. The main part of the "Christian Indian State," as the Reductions were called, was formed by 30 or 32 Guarani Reductions in present Paraguay. These were the object of numerous attacks by the Paulistas, bands of marauding slave-traders, who disrupted the villages and carried the Indians off in large numbers. The first disastrous blow suffered by the Reductions occurred in 1750, when, in consequence of a treaty between Spain and Portugal, seven communities were compelled to move into new territory. The treaty was rescinded, 1761, but six years later Charles III of Spain dealt the fatal blow to the Reductions when he signed the edict exiling the Jesuits from Spanish colonies in America. The missions were allotted to the Franciscans but never regained their former state of excellence. After their destruction a fable grew up concerning their wealth, which was supposed to have been hidden by the Jesuits. Among the many Jesuits who labored in the Reductions were Father Maceta, Father Cataldillo, Father de Mendoza, Father Mazetta, Father Diaz, Father Ruiz, Father Baraza, and Father de Montoya. The last named is famous for his history of the Paraguay mission, and his vocabulary, grammar, and catechism in the Guarani language.

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