The Mission takes place during the Jesuit Reductions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During this time many Jesuit missionaries established missions independent of the Spanish state in order to teach the native inhabitants Christianity. Leading this cause is Father Gabriel, a Spanish Jesuit Priest, who arrives in the Jungle in South America to set up a mission and convert a small village of Guarani Indians. In the beginning of the film, there is an image of a Jesuit missionary tethered to a cross which is being sent over the massive Gauze Falls.
This act encourages Father Gabriel to try to reach out to the tribe. Guarani warriors track Father Gabriel down, prepared to kill him, as he tries to make his way to their village. Gabriel is able to calm the warriors down by playing a song which is the beginning of his acceptance into the tribe. The movie then shifts to Roding Mendoza, a slave trader and mercenary, who is filled with guilt after killing his brother and is looking for repentance. Father Gabriel, after finding out about Mendoza actions, seeks him out to offer him a way to repentance and salvation.
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Once Mendoza agrees, his armor ND weapons are bound within a satchel that is attached to his waist and he is challenged to scale the cliffs of Gauze Falls. He makes it up the falls and to the Guarani camp where he is met with skepticism and disdain. Eventually, one of the Guarani cuts the satchel off and throws it into the falls representing the forgiveness of the tribe and him being released from his penance. Mendoza then becomes a Jesuit under the guidance of Father Gabriel. The Guarani’s gain confidence in Father Gabrielle mission from the leadership he portrays and the eagerness of the Guarani’s to learn.
During all of this, there are political events going on as well. Spain and Portugal sign a treaty ordering Spain to transfer the control of some land, which includes the land containing Father Gabrielle mission. This was a critical agreement since Spain had outlawed slavery but slavery remained legal in Portugal. As a result, the Jesuits have to fight to protect the missions from Portuguese slave traders. The threat being posed by the Portuguese leads papal emissary Alliteration (a representative of the pope) to make a decision about whether or not the mission should be shut down.
Alliteration is torn between two controversial options; either he can side with the colonists and close the mission leading to the enslavement of the Guarani or he can side with the missions leaving the Jesuit to face the Portuguese government. He eventually decides to close the mission but Father Gabriel and Mendoza refuse to obey the decision. The two try tactics of fighting and peace to resist the Portuguese but are eventually taken down by the Portuguese army and the mission is burned down and the Priests and Guarani adults are massacred.
Spain and Portugal, the Church administrative hierarchy, and the Jesuit order can e described as having their own culture as institutions based on the apparent separation of motives between each which came from the different ways of thinking that were developing at the time. The Jesuits showed a genuine care about the spiritual well-being of the Guarani people where Spain and Portugal were not as charitable as represented by the government officials. Spain and Portugal had a culture that was based off of nationalistic viewpoints. Spain and Portugal were competing for power in the New World and were unsure about how to treat the native people.
Spain’s idea was to maintain control by forcing Christianity and their ultra on to the natives. Portugal Just looked to enslave them to show their superiority. Both countries, though, looked for power instead of trying to help the natives accept a new way of life as these countries brought over colonists. Their main concern was to benefit their country versus helping others. These countries would do anything to show their countries power, including taking away power from the church to control the fate of the mission. This is made obvious in the scene where the Pope’s emissary, Ultramarine, is to decide the fate of the mission.
Father Gabriel sees the datives as naturally spiritual and tries to defend the Jesuit position. Portuguese officials see the tribe as unfit for civilization and eventually kill off any natives that resist their rule once the mission is disbanded and enslaves the rest. Either way Ultramarine went, it seemed that Portugal would get its way in the end. From this it is also evident what the motive of the Church was; which was to maintain authority on the outcome of the Guarani project. With the revolts going on against the Church, the Church wanted to use the control they did have to get their agenda completed.
Jesuit missionaries were left to succumb to their decisions and this affected the final outcome of the mission as well as the everyday business of the missionaries. The Jesuit missionaries started to try to break away from the church by not forcing European customs on the natives. In this way they started to become enlightened. Ultramarine did go and experience the missions but he saw the economic practices of the mission to mirror that of radical French Socialism rather than understanding that it was a direct result of what they had learned from the New Testament. When
Ultramarine encountered some Guarani natives who could barely be recognized as such, he was fully pleased. This shows how the Church wanted the natives to completely conform to their ways and culture instead of bringing out the good in the natives like the Jesuits were trying to do. The authorities of the church wanted one thing while the missionaries wanted another. The Jesuits crossed cultural boundaries by merging their beliefs and teachings with the Guarani culture. The Jesuit missions expected the natives to convert to Christianity but generally did not expect them to adopt the European cultural norms.
The Jesuits also crossed cultural boundaries by trying to give the natives social mobility. The Jesuits gathered the Guarani into these missions to protect them while they taught them how to read and write as well as be self-productive. Works Cited Hounded, Anthony. “Reductions of Paraguay. ” CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA:. Robert Appleton Company, n. D. Web. 17 July 2014. “The Jesuit Missions: Their History. ” The Jesuit Missions: Their History. N. P. , n. D. Web. 17 July 2014. Bulgaria, Lenore. “The Jesuit Missions in South America. ” Catholicism. N. P. , 23 Mar. 2011. Web. 17 July 2014.