History 475 Blog

The Mission tries to show the early European colonization of South America and some of the interactions between native tribes, such as the Guarani, and Europeans.  The theme of the movie is religious and it tries to show both the good and bad sides of European colonization.  However, considering that historians today know how this part of history played out, that being the eradication of most native peoples and conquest by Europeans, the bad side is much more prevalent.  Even the “good” Europeans, who are the Jesuits have an alterior motive, they want to convert the Guarani from their native religion to Christianity, as well as change their cultural identity.  Some may see this as a positive thing but it shows a lack of respect for native culture.  The movie primarily takes the European perspective and this is backed up by the fact that there are no real Guarani characters in the movie.  Most of the natives might as well be furniture or props within the film since very few of them have names or have any real commanding role in the film.  The movie innacurately portrays the killing of white people (such as in the begining of the film) as commonplace among the tribes which it was not according to the Article written by Saeger.  The movie portrayed most Guarani, all in fact except for those in the mission of San Miquel, as hunters whereas the native Guarani often farmed.  The omitting of their agriculture was no doubt intended to show them as a more savage group of hunter-gatherers who had to have civilization brought to them by Europeans.  A culture which farms is more technilogically advanced and more civilized and obviously that was not the view that The Mission took in respect to the natives.  
The idea that the Guaranis accepted the Jesuits because of music is not very credible, the Jesuits were accepted because they were given iron machetes and axes to help the Guarani clear their own land and improve their traditional agricultural practices.  The Guarani were also still hesitant to join the Jesuit missions.  This was because the Jesuits tried to change their culture, their economic ways to a more European style and tried to force discipline upon the natives.  The Guarani used to hire themselves out for labor purposes and this was forbidden among the Jesuits and as such the Jesuits tried to force this viewpoint on the Guarani.  The Guarani’s hesitant acceptance of the Jesuits did not include an immediate conversion to christianity, which the movie implies.  in fact many Guarani were hesitant to even go into Jesuit missions in many cases whereas in the movie all the Guarani in the “mission above the falls” were seen inside the mission at some point.  The movie did not directly say the Guarani were all christian but it also did not show any of their native religion, nor were there any members of their tribe that could easily be identified as a shaman/medicine man/priest to the untrained eye.  Saeger also remarks that the movie’s portrayal of the Guarani as killing children is inaccurate.  There are remarks that the Chaco, an enemy of the Guaranis practiced this often but was not often used among the Guarani.  Infantcide was no doubt another way to try and show the primitiveness of the Guarani people.  The movie gives about as much historical accuracy as someone can expect a hollywood film to do.  The Mission shows where the Spanish and Portugeese occupation of the new world will take the native people (that being genocide) and it exaggerates the positive affects that the Jesuits had on the Guarani while portraying the Guarani people as little more than savages that need Europeans to bring civilization to their continent.