Uruguay in Guarani. Indigenous Missionary Presence
The international traveling exhibition “Uruguay in Guarani. Indigenous Missionary Presence” will be shown at the Russian Museum of Ethnography from February 3 to March 1, 2017. This exhibition is organized in cooperation with the Museum of Pre-Columbian and Indigenous Art in the City of Montevideo and funded by the National Meat Institute of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay.
The main subject of the exhibition is the unique experiment in the world history: foundation of elaborate network of missions also called “Indian towns” on the territory of the Guarani peoples by the Jesuits in the early XVII century and the influence of this experiment on formation of ethnic composition, economical specialization and cultural specifics –of the modern Uruguay, the “Switzerland of Latin America”.
In XVII-XVIII century the network of the Jesuit Guarani Missions functioned as an isolated and self-sufficient society with its own administration headed by the Jesuit priests and native caciques that completely satisfied its economic needs with help of agriculture, cattle breeding, and crafts and had its own standing army equipped with firearms. Thus, some historians conventionally call it the “The Jesuit State”. However, in 1768 the Jesuit Order was banned by the Spanish king Charles III and expelled from all the Spanish domains. In 1828 around 6000-8000 indigenous missionaries fled to the modern Uruguay territory, where they established several towns Bella Union (1829-1833), San Servando (1833-1853), and San Francisco de Borja del Yi (1833-1862).
These towns became the object of historical and archeological research by the team of archeologists, historians and ethnographers from the University of Republic. The most of exhibited objects are the artifacts from the largest town, established by Guarani refuges from the Jesuit Missions, San Francisco de Borja del Yi.
The exhibition presents the results of archeological excavations in this town that reflect daily life of the Christianized Guarani: instruments, utensils, construction materials, jewelry and even game pieces. In total they give us comprehensive insight into the life of this indigenous group in the middle and late XIX century and their gradual miscegenation. Particular emphasis is made on indigenous missionaries’ contribution to Uruguay present-day material and spiritual culture, especially on their importance as experienced cattle breeders, who participated in foundation of modern cattle-production – the base of Uruguay economy, the lexical loans that came from the Guarani language and on the mate drinking traditions. The pearl of exhibition is collection of 12 mate gourds made in different styles in XVIII-XXI century. In total the exhibition includes 113 object and maps, drawings, and wood carvings representing history and culture of indigenous missionaries from XVII century to our days.
The exhibition has been declared of National Interest by the resolution of the President of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay Mr. Jose Mujuca.