The Mission

The Mission

The Mission, I believe, showed a remarkable story about the depth human kind will sink to in the pursuit of God, gold, and glory. Though there are numerous books and articles about the tragic history of Latin Americans, it can be hard for this generation to grasp the devastation inflicted upon them through the many words we read. Because we have grown up in a world a technology, it can be a struggle to conjure a correct image and empathize with these civilizations with only words as our guide.  The characters, images, and storyline of the movie enable you to appreciate the horrific oppression these indigenous people faced at the hands of Spanish and Portuguese rule.

The poor civilizations of Latin America were unfortunately roped into a societal structure which would never be in their favor. The price of transportation across the Atlantic was expensive and only precious metals and items were able to pay the costs. Due to these staggering prices, the indigenous people were enslaved to mine for these metals and work on plantations for these items, namely sugar (Chasteen, 60). Furthermore, these people were also expected to pay tribute for being from this “foreign” land in addition to their “service” to the crown.

“The economical priorities of the Spanish crown determined the political organization of the colony” (Chasteen, 61).  As shown in The Mission, the indigenous people outnumbered the invading nations. In fact, the Spanish and Portuguese only represented a small percentage of the population and did not send vast armies overseas due to the expenses. However, many of these indigenous people seemed “broken” and did not put up a resistance to the Spanish and Portuguese rule.  They seemed to have accepted this social hierarchy. Historians call this hegemony, which means they accepted their own inferiority.  This acceptance often manifested itself through religion. The indigenous people accepted the church’s authority and hierarchy and therefore accepted the rule and class structure of the European nations. Defiance of this divine right would be considered heresy and, in many cases, a criminal offense.

 In the film, this group of Guarani Indians and the Jesuits are the protagonists who, despite their faith and good works, find themselves in a very precarious predicament with the Spanish and Portuguese.  The film makers were trying to show how the righteous natives were brutally overthrown by corrupt politics. Though this is true, the film portrayed many falsehoods about the assimilations into the mission lifestyle.  The movie portrays a quick acceptance of the Christianity life, however, in reality this process often took decades. The natives were proud of their beliefs and lifestyle and had no interest in accepting the new doctrine the missions provided. The indigenous people and the Jesuits also clashed in other ways. Many of the practices the Guarani Indians did were appalling to the Jesuits, such as infanticide. In the movie, Father Gabriel even defends this practice because of its necessity to run from the Spanish. However, in reality, a Jesuit would have been shocked by such an action and would certainly not have come to its defense.  Even thought the movie smudged some of the facts about the relationships between the Jesuits and the indigenous people, it succeed in showing the devastation and heartbreak brought to the tribal people by the invading nations, their politics, and their disregard for the natives as people with rights.