A trip to the past of Formosa where Guaraníes and Franciscan Fathers were the protagonists that forged the identity of a city. Cultures with different creeds...
Waking up. The rebellious sheets did not let us get up to have breakfast before Fredy would come to fetch us. Recent memories of the navigation down Pykysyry brook were still floating in our minds. These images made us get up since we would have a day as promissing as the previous one.
Fredy- our guide again-, always punctual, was parked at the Hotel door.
" Today, we are going to go on a cultural historical tour through one of the first Franciscan Missions of Formosa" - he says as the vehicle transporting us leaves the Capital of the province along Nº11 National Route.
We go towards San Francisco de Laishí, first Ecologic Town of Formosa, located 70 kilometers away from the Capital City where the Franciscan Mission is, named after the Patron Saint of the Order plus Guaraní Cacique Laishí who was owner of this land before Chaco was conquered.
A cultural historical tour
Made us discover our origins
Vanished into the landscape of Formosa
After riding 36 kilometers, in Tatané, we took the detour onto Nº1 National Route. There, a fixed patrol of National Gendarmery did the routine controls and allowed us to go on.
Formosa landscape is fantastic. This virgin land with its different shades of green, waiting to be sown with corn or watermelons, attracted us making our look fade into the horizon. Palm trees, carob trees, cattails and an endless number of species of vegetals come one after the other making a lattice with the green foliage.
The warm chat with our guide and the majestic panoramic views to both sides of the vehicle made kilometers seem shorter to get to San Francisco de Laishí, arriving to the old town almost without noticing it.
A place with history
This town, which has no more than 6,000 inhabitants, turned long ago into the main center of the region. It was founded by Priest Pedro Iturralde in 1901, the Franciscan Mission founded a school, built a chapel and settled workshops and factories, starting thus Guaraní people into the practice of basic industry and into the works of agriculture and cattle raising.
We crossed a little bridge above Salado brook, took San Martín Avenue- the only paved street, the rest are all gravelled- and we went straightforward to the guts of the Mission.
There, we were welcomed by doña Celina Orquera de Guanes who was the first teacher of the town and, long ago, the first and only graduate student of Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Convent in San Francisco de Laishí.
With the typical features of a person that loves each centimeter of the legendary Franciscan Mission, she invites us to go around it and get to know its history being herself part of it.
Celina is avery special person and, if one lets her speak, she does not stop a second. She knows so much about the place that overwhelmed us with data, dates, photographs and elements that were essential parts of the antique convent.
With her, we went inside the building. The thick walls speak to us taking us back in time when the Franciscan fathers' actions channeled the inborn working capacity of Guaraní people, giving,as a result, an industrial development which became important to the point of producing first quality sugar or cigarettes made by Guaraní women that were considered "excellent", similar to the best havana or the best Paraguay cigarettes of the time.
We went around the old hall and perceived the smell of humidity that seems to have remained since the foundation.
We went up the old stairs that took us to the upper part of the convent and, from there, we appreciated the first buildings of the city like the sawmill and the warehouse. In the distance, we observe the mysterious architecture of the chapel called Sacred Heart of Jesus which belongs to Santa Clara School, runned by the Educational Franciscan Sisters of King Christ.
After contemplating for some minutes, during which imagination makes us play with the presence of phantasmagoric images of old natives that passed by working and forging a future that seemed uncertain. We later went to another part of the building where there is a museum.
Inside it, we could appreciate weapons used by The Police of National Territories, meteorology instruments, a shrine, a telegraph and the stick used by Father Iturralde until the last days of his life among many other elements.
As we ended up the visit, we said goodbye to Celina, who , with her weary pace accompanied us the whole tour, and left the place. A reflexive silence took hold of us... Thinking about it, we realized that that inhospitable mission, vanished into the landscape of Formosa was perhaps the craddle of the American civilization of the region. In addition, the fact of having been there, made us discover our origins once more.
Marcelo Sola Marcelo Sola
Contact of the excursion or tour
Paraguay 520 (3600) Formosa, FormosaCel: +54 370-4365764
See more points of interest in Formosa