Have you ever wondered which UNESCO World Heritage site is the least visited?
When we heard a rumor calling out the Jesuit ruins in the towns of Trinidad and Jesus in Paraguay as the least appreciated UNESCO World Heritage site, we figured they were worth a visit.
The back-story of these ruins is a rather fascinating — and inspiring one: a community founded on the ideals of education, sustainable agriculture and integration — almost 300 years ago.
The Jesuit communities of Trinidad and Jesus attempted to set an example. The European Jesuits learned Guarani, the local language, and they worked with the local indigenous people with a vision of creating a community focused on education and cooperation. Contrast this to the competing tradition of their contemporaries: keeping the local indigenous Guarani people as slaves.
Unsurprisingly, the Jesuit approach to the Guarani didn't sit so well with colonialists and settlers whose businesses depended upon slave labor. Eventually, the Spanish government expelled the Jesuits in 1767.
All that remains of their progressive slice of history are the brick skeletons of settlements, churches and courtyards strewn across a green field in the middle of nowhere in Paraguay.
The idealists in us hope that the ideas of education, sustainability and community would be more accepted and successful today.