|The church of the estancia in Jesús María, Córdoba|
The presence of the Order of the Society of Jesus in the Spanish colony during the 17th and 18th centuries marked forever the character and the identity of Córdoba. The Jesuit priests that settled in the Spanish territories in the New World brought with them not only their religious zeal to spread the Catholic faith among the indigenous people of the land (a practice that may be seen today as objectionable), but they also brought enlightment and progress in the form of the first university they created in the country, and the impulse they gave to the economy of the region through their agricultural and industrial establishments - the estancias.
The Jesuit Block (containing the church of the Society of Jesus, the priests' residence and the Collegium Maximum, later university) together with five of the Jesuit agricultural establishments spread around the province of Córdoba, were declared World Heritage Site in the year 2000 by the UNESCO.
The Jesuit estancias -as the large rural estates are known in Argentina- were mainly agricultural establishments founded by the order to produce the food, the goods and the resources needed to maintain the missions spread throughout the colony as well as the college and university they had founded in the city of Córdoba in 1613.
These estancias today are an excellent example of the fusion of the European and indigeneous cultures and they illustrate an unparalled social, religious and economic experiment that spread over 150 years of Argentinean history and lived on even after the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767.
Today we take a look at one of the Jesuit estancias, the one in the town of Jesús María, about 50 km from the city of Córdoba.
In 1618 the order bought land in the region of Guanasacate, as Jesús María was originally known in the language of the sanavirones, the indigenous people living in what is now the province of Córdoba. The bulk of the goods produced in this agricultural and manufacturing establishment went to maintain the Colegio Máximo, the college founded in 1610 in the city and which was later to become the university of Córdoba.
In the estancia of Jesús María, the priests instructed the natives in many manual crafts like candle and soap making, raising cattle and wine production for which they received a salary. There was also a population of approximately 300 slaves bought in the port of Buenos Aires who did most of the heavy work around the estate, leaving the natives to dedicate to the more specialised crafts.
Wine making was the main activity in Jesús María. In 1618 when the order bought the estate in the province of Córdoba, they also acquired 20.000 grapevines and they started their own wine production.
With an average of 600 cans of lagrimilla -as the wine became known- per year, the Jesuit winery of Jesús María was the first and later the largest wine producer in the viceroyship of the Río de la Plata. Their lagrimilla wine was the first wine produced in the colonies to make it to table of the Spanish king.
|The tajamar or water reservoir made by the Jesuits in their estate in Jesús María to supply water for use in the cloister as well as for irrigation of their crops and vines.|
A central courtyard is enclosed on two sides by a two-storey arched gallery that housed the cloister, while the third and fourth side were occupied by a storage building and a high wall. The priests' living quarters and communal rooms were located in the back of the construction.
The natives and the slaves lived in precarious huts spread in the outskirts of the estate, but these were in due time replaced by proper living quarters built of bricks, stones and tiles.
An ingenious compound of lavatories was built in the cloister of the estancia, making it the first construction in the country to have indoor toilets with their own waste disposal system.
The style of the single nave church is beautiful despite its simplicity; the only adornment of its central cupola is a relief work thought to have been made by native artisans. No picture taking is allowed inside the church, so unfortunately, I cannot offer you a peak into the interior of this jewel of 17th century religious architecture in Córdoba.
|The simple façade of the church in the estancia de Jesús María|
During the first half of the 20th century, the national government took charge of the former Jesuit establishments declaring them national monuments and started with the renovation works. Finally, the UNESCO gave all the estancias and the Jesuit Block in the city of Córdoba the status of World Heritage Site in 2000.
|A local artist describing his work to a couple of tourists.|
|This bird is probably a descendant of one of the old inhabitants of the estancia during the Jesuits' times.|
The estancias they owned were models of industry and progress from their very origins, and many of the activities and crafts introduced by the Order in the 17th and 18th century -like wine making and agriculture- still form the basis of the economy of the region.
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