Remembering Jesuit contributions to Paraguay

Conservatives love to remember the institutions of the past, even if the modern equivalent institution has no love for them today. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The old ruins on the stamp are not very well reproduced. I do like the 1950s period feel of the font used for the stamp. It is perhaps not the choice expected to show off ruins, but It works. It brings the old history up to the current time when the government might want to remind what can happen when stability is allowed to deteriorate.

The stamp today is issue A125, a 5 centimos stamp issued by the Republic of Paraguay on June 19th 1955. It shows the Jesuit ruins at Trinidad Belfry. It is part of a six stamp issue honoring the Jesuit contributions to Paraguay. According to the Scott catalog, it is worth 40 cents in its mint condition.

The Jesuits did much to bring civilization to Paraguay during the early years of the Spanish colonial period. The area was somewhat off the beaten track and mainly populated by Guarani Indians. The Indians were considered a source of slave labor and concubines for the plantations of Brazil. To protect from this, The Jesuits organized townships where the Indians could be protected. These townships converted to Catholicism and became prosperous under the management of the Jesuits. The Jesuits saw this as the beginning of an autonomous native nation in Paraguay.

The prosperity in a troubled region of empire came to be seen as a threat to Spain. They saw it as the creation of an empire within the empire and competition for the Spanish colonial plantations. The Jesuits were eventually ordered out by the King of Spain and the townships fell into mismanagement and plundering. Within a generation, the achievements of the Indian communities was lost.

Paraguay in 1955 was in the early years of the long rule of President Alfredo Stroessner. He did much to develop the economy and achieved a level of leadership stability totally lacking before and since. He did it by a firm hand on the controls of power. Reminding the people of how things can regress like with the Jesuits seems a logical lesson to try to teach.

Ironically, the Catholic church was not on board with such politicizing. The church became a source of opposition power. By the 1970s, political crackdowns by Stroessner would result in excommunication of leaders in the government. A visit by Pope John Paul II in 1988 put the church central to the opposition and there was a coup in 1989 that ended 40 years of Stroessner  rule.

Well my drink is empty and so it is time to open the discussion in the below comment section, After Stroessner left power he spent the next 16 years in exile in Brazil. Sick and in his 90s, he was refused his request to come home to die. The level of tension between left and right still being so high. It might have been nice for the church to appeal the decision as a way for the country to come together. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

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