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Title: Conversão dos Cativos
Title: (Conversion of the Captives)
Subtitle: Povos Indígenas e Missão Jesuítica
Subtitle: (Indigenous Peoples and Jesuit Mission)
Subject: Jesuit Mission in South America, Tupi-Guarani
Subtitle: Culture and Religion
Year: 2009
Authors: Paulo Suess, Bartomeu Melià, José Oscar
Subtitle :Beozzo, Benedito Prezia, Graciela Chamorro,
Subtitle :Protásio Langer
Foreword: Leszek Lech
Format: 14x21
Pages: 150
Publisher: Nhanduti Editora
ISBN: 9788560990061

Paulo Suess, Bartomeu Melià, José Oscar Beozzo, Benedito Prezia, Graciela Chamorro, Protásio Langer

Conversãos dos Cativos. Povos indígenas e missão jesuítica (Conversion of the Captives. Indigenous Peoples and Jesuit Mission)

Titl It is an honor to introduce a publication that sheds light on historical facts related to the Jesuit missionary activities among the indigenous peoples of the South-American lowlands as well as to the Amerindian reaction to the advance of foreign cultural traditions. This book is the result of contributions by Paulo Suess, José Oscar Beozzo, Benedito Prezia, Graciela Chamorro, Protásio Langer e Bartomeu Melià, who are historians and ethnologists, but at the same time theologians and persons of faith who, each in his or her own way, discover and strengthen the divine presence in Latin-American communities. The chronological setting of the articles covers the period of the Jesuit missions until the events following the expulsion of the Jesuits from Brazil in 1759 and  in 1768 from Spain and its territories. Thus concentrates on the beginnings of the modern States later established in the South-American lowlands.

TitleIn his article A catequese nos primórdios do Brasil. Piratininga revisitado (Catechesis in the beginnings of Brazil. Piratininga revisited), Paulo Suess describes the missionary activities carried out by and from the College of Saint Paul of Piratininga in the beginning of its history. He analyzes the historical facts of the colonization, the socio-cultural context of the period and the missionary aim of the Jesuits – pioneers among the native peoples. The objectives of the discussions offered by the author are, among others, “the rupture with the prohibitive silence that converted the mistakes of the ‘spiritual conquest’ into a taboo”, and the creation of “critical conscience”.
Ti tlDue to his living among the Tupinambá, Anchieta had good chances to get to know them in their originality, but little possibilities to recognize them
Titl in the alterity. We cannot demand from him anthropological interpretations and hermeneutical keys of the 21st century, as we cannot demand from
Titl the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth the heliocentric cosmos vision of Copernicus. But like navigation did not depend on Copernicus, the recognition of
Titl alterity does not depend on modern anthropological schools. In all historical periods there were people who broke up with the ethnocentric fence of
Titl their traditions and with destructive cultural plausibilities. (38)

TitleJosé Oscar Beozzo’s article A evangelização entre a persuasão e a força (Evangelization between persuasion and force) is based on a detailed study of the document O Diálogo da Conversão do Gentio (The Dialogue of the Conversion of the Gentile) by Father Manuel da Nóbrega SJ, written in the context of the crisis the Jesuit mission suffered among the natives, understood by the missionaries as “labor in vain”. Beozzo highlights the dilemma to abandon the missionary way of persuasion and to adopt the method of conversion by force. His critical interpretation does not hesitate to show the contradictory position of Nóbrega and Anchieta who considered the enslavement of the natives indispensable for ensuring the evangelization.
Titl Nóbrega’s option is clear and of a crude realism. Speaking humanly and not from a ideal viewpoint, and much less from a  religious, once it was
Titl accepted that the conversion had to take place inside the colonial and slavery system, hand in hand with a political and economical domination, the
Titl only way left was to impose also the conversion by force. So he comes to propose the just war against the indigenous as an actual way for the
Titl political consolidation of colonization and catechesis and as the solution for the economical problems, assuring the regular and legalized supply of
Titl indigenous work force for the plantations and mills. (73)

Titl Protásio Langer offers an interpretation of theological-catechetical aspects of politics and ideology in Cartas geográficas edificantes: o imaginário da conversão dos povos indígenas nos mapas dos jesuítas Heinrich Scherer e Samuel Fritz (Edifying geographical maps: The imagery of the conversion of indigenous peoples in the maps by the Jesuits Heinrich Scherer and Samuel Fritz). Examining imagery details of the maps published in Europe, he points out one of their main purposes: to edify, that is, to divulge the work of the Company of Jesus among people abroad, and to help attracting new members and missionaries for the cause of the indigenous conversion. The richness of these documents lies above all in the imagery that expresses different milieus and desires projected on the native populations.
Titl The struggle against the idolatries of the New World, the disciplining and the conversion of the indigenous’ souls, the universality of Catholicism, the
Titl parusia and the Last Judgment are constant topics and currents that turn the geographical maps into eloquent documents of the political/theological
Titl thought that substantiated the spiritual conquest of America. The images of Jesuit angels fighting the demon, of converted and repentant indigenous
Titl under the cross, of the Company of Jesus as the diffuser of Catholicism all over the world, as well as the texts and the illustrations that call laborers
Titlto the harvest come together to shape a concretion of an end time, of a teleological dimension of human history. (82.89)

Titl Benedito Prezia offers a touching article: Nossa Senhora da Conceição dos Guarulhos: A frustrada missão entre os Maromomi (Our Lady of Conception of the Guarulhos: The frustrated mission among the Maromomi). After a short description of the known characteristics of the Maromomi people, he relates the history of their “aldeamento” (settlement in a missionary station), their “pacification”, and, eventually, their gradual extermination by flight, chase and enslavement. The conclusion of this neat and perspicacious analysis of the Portuguese actions within the political, social and ecclesiastical context of their time and the resulting destruction call upon us to construct “a society that respects the minorities and eradicates all forms of slavery”.
Titl The establishment of the Maromomi mission was a certain advantage for the Portuguese colony. The Jesuit Fernão Guerreiro wrote at the time:
Titl “Before, the Maromomin were against the Portuguese; nowadays, with the intervention of the Fathers, they have churches and help the White”. The
Titl gathering in settlements met an expectation of the Colony – the indigenous pacification – but it frustrated the missionary project which believed that
Titl the missions would be an asylum to protect the indigenous communities from the constant enslavement. [...] In front of the slavery, the Maromomi
Titl showed three attitudes: to accept it as an unavoidable evil, to react with violence or to flee to the backlands, the sertão. (102.104)

TitleGraciela Chamorro analyzes transformations registered in the Guarani language. Her article Sentidos da conversão de indígenas nas terras baixas sul-americanas. Uma aproximação lingüística (Meanings of the Conversion of the Indigenous People in the South-American Lowlands. A Linguistic Approach) discusses the impact the conversion imperative had on indigenous peoples. The works of Montoya are compared with the data of the Lima Catechism and with catechetic material by José de Anchieta. She offers a linguistic analysis of the conversion that makes her conclude that the indigenous language was not only a translation means of Christian ideas and concepts. Despite of all transfigurations it is still indigenous, and being now examined, testifies the birth of new indigenous identities and of processes that indigenize the “Other”.
Titl But if the peoples called Guarani did not succumb, it was due to this ‘ferocity’ that opened them the way to liberty. Nothing more incompatible with a
Titl mission that aimed to supplant the indigenous being than the ferocity, the aggressiveness, the pride, the questioning attitude of the catechumens.
Titl It is not by chance that one of the key expressions describing the indigenous conversion is pochy ekuavog, which means literally ‘to empty oneself
Titl from wrath’, ‘to loose courage’. Who reduced him or herself to christianisme, had to strip, to empty her or himself from this ‘wrath’ and this ‘courage’.
Titl We are in front of a form of criminalization of the resistance. (123)

Titl Bartomeu Melià presents Escritos guarani como fontes documentais da história rio-platense (Guarani Texts as Documentary Sources for the History of the Rio de la Plata Region), showing that the written Guarani language “made history and wrote  history” not only in the Jesuit missions and with catechetical purposes, but also as a diplomatic language and a communication means among and between the indigenous peoples themselves. These and other documents are examples of a Guarani position of resistance to the political, cultural and religious invasion, and show the existence of a Guarani history that “constructs its own vision on fundamental subjects; a mentality that was not understood by the Portuguese and Spanish [...], while the Jesuits have an enormous difficulty to understand it”.
Titl In those days, the history of the Guarani constructs its own vision of fundamental subjects, with a mentality that is so unique and special to them that
Titl the Portuguese and Spanish don’t understand it. Awkwardly, it is attributed to the Jesuits, although they themselves have an enormous difficulty to
Titl understand it. Nevertheless, they guess that it is just and suspect that it is right. The Guarani say and write that another colony is possible. In their
Titl language, the history is different. [...] These histories [the documents written in Guarani] oblige us to leave our center. Like a tornado with its
Titl concentric movement, an ex-centric reading of these sources takes us to the center of a new history in which the Guarani voice and eco cannot be
Titl missing. (138.142)

Titl The approaches and rich materials gathered in Conversão dos cativos contribute without doubt to reevaluate the past with its flaws and prejudices, but also to discover and savor the cultural riches and historical experiences of our indigenous peoples. The book also illuminates the ongoing challenge of struggling for the edification of a society with more justice, pluralism and solidarity that defends not only the threatened lives of so many indigenous brothers and sisters, but propitiates an authentic dialogue between indigenous people and national and ecclesiastic institutions.

Leszek Lech (Editor)

 

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