My stay in the northern Argentinian town of Posadas was short, sweet, and very informative. Posadas, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a smallish city located right on the Río Paraná, which forms the border to Paraguay. Posadas’ claim to fame is that it’s the capital of Yerba Mate production. That’s a popular tea you find in the hands of locals all around Argentina. Today, however, it’s gaining popularity with tourists mostly because of its location close to some national parks and other day trip destinations. One of the most interesting is San Ignacio Miní, a former Jesuit mission.
You can easily reach San Ignacio Miní on the public bus from Posadas. The 60 km drive takes about an hour. From the bus stop on the main road of the town San Ignacio, it’s only a short walk to the entrance of the „reduccion”. It’s one of four former Jesuit missions in Argentina that the UNESCO has recognized as world heritage sites.
A short history of San Ignacio Mini
The mission of San Ignacio Miní is even older than the site you visit today. The Jesuits founded it in 1610 in a different location and made it a functioning mission about twenty years later. It was moved in 1696. Why? Portuguese bandits kept attacking the previous site, and the people just wanted a bit more peace and quiet.
As there was already a San Ignacio Guazú (the latter meaning „great” in the language of the Guaraní, the native people of the area), this new one became known as San Ignacio Miní. Not hard to guess what “Miní” means. During the 18th Century, about 3000 people lived in the complex. A lot of them were natives. They created cultural handicraft products, which the Spanish then sold.
The removal of Jesuits from most European countries in 1767, known as the Suppression of the Society of Jesus, also meant the end of this mission. However, the buildings still stood proud until 1817. Then they were destroyed, along with several other missions in the area, during the Luso-Brazilian war against the independence movement.
San Ignacio Miní may not be the only Jesuit mission you can visit in the former province of Paraguay, which now comprises of parts of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. However, they are the best preserved and the most accessible. Which makes them the perfect day trip destination from Posadas.
Exploring the ruins of San Ignacio Miní
Once you enter the complex, you come across the museum in the entrance area. Its included in the entrance fee. Here, you can get a better idea of the history of the complex and what life in the mission was like.
Either go first, to know what you’re looking at when you see the actual ruins. Or keep it for last, to delve deeper into the facts once you’ve seen the actual thing.
Entering the mission
Once you leave the entrance area behind, you walk through some trees to reach the green on which the mission stands. The impressive church is on the opposite side, so you can take it in in its full splendour while walking towards it.
This former church is the best-preserved building. It’s made of red sandstone, which is a naturally fragile material. But because its walls were around 2 m thick, they endured over the centuries.
The style in which the mission was built is called „Guaraní baroque”. Which makes sense, because even someone knowing as little about architecture as me can spot the similarities to Spanish baroque.
After marvelling at the church, you can walk around the huge site to your heart’s content. There’s a lot to see and explore, so make sure you bring enough time!
San Ignacio Miní is a fascinating window to a chapter of history that I, at least, didn’t really know anything about. What is left of the original buildings gives the faintest of ideas of how impressive the structure must once have been.
Want to know more about Posadas?
Posadas itself is not a bad place to be, so here are some basics to give you an orientation:
How to get to Posadas
Posadas has a small airport that offers flights to Buenos Aires. Other than that, the main transportation is by bus. There are regular connections to and from Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rosario, Salta and other destinations in Argentina. You can also get to some destinations in Paraguay or Brazil.
How to get around in Posadas
There are regional buses in and around Posadas. They also take you to some places outside of town like San Ignacio Miní. Alternatives are taxis, which aren’t very expensive here. I actually made friends with the taxi driver who took me from the bus station to the hotel on my first day in town. He ended up giving me a town tour for free a few days later, accompanied of course by some good Mate!
Posadas is located just at the border of the tropics. Its climate, therefore, is subtropic and wet. Rain can happen all year round. Temperatures in Posadas are usually high.
Things to do in Posadas
Posadas offers several interesting museums and exhibitions. There are also nice parks and a beach, which sits on the river that divides Posadas from Paraguay. Great place to spend a hot day!
Day trip options from Posadas include obviously San Ignacio Miní, which is the only one I did. If you want to explore Paraguay for a day, Encarcanion sits just on the other side of the river. The Iberà National Park is also in this area, though you would probably need more than one day to do this one justice.
Have you been to San Ignacio Mini or any other Jesuit mission? Would you be interested in visiting one? Any question about San Ignacio Mini or Posadas? Share in the comments!