Argentinian Northeast

The most diverse part of the country

Argentina’s Northeastern corner is a perhaps the most diverse part of the country. Its countryside ranges from temperate pampa grasslands in the south to tropical virgin jungles in the far north. The human landscape is equally diverse, with some of the country’s most traditional indigenous nations, such as the Wichí and Guaraní, as well as 20th century European immigrant communities. The Northeast has historic cities, like San Ignacio and Yapeyú, which both began as Jesuit missionary settlements, and Corrientes, a major port since Spanish colonial times.

In the past, the region was called Mesopotamia or the Litoral. The accepted nomenclature today is Northeast Argentina. The area includes the provinces of Santa Fe, Entre Ríos, Corrientes, Chaco, Formosa and Misiones. Two major rivers slice through the landscape. The Río Paraná traverses the middle of Northeast Argentina. To the east of the river are Santa Fe and Chaco Provinces. Along the west bank are Entre Ríos and Corrientes. At Corrientes city, the Río Paraná takes a sharp right turn to form the border between Misiones Province and Paraguay. The other important river, the Río Uruguay, separates Argentina from neighboring countries Uruguay and Brazil. This zone is renowned for its Carnaval and hot springs. The uppermost left corner is the Gran Chaco, composed of modern-day Chaco and Formosa Provinces. This is a little-visited area known for its Imprenetrable lands and the highest temperatures in South America.

Iguazu Falls

The semicircular waterfall at the heart of this site is some 80 m high and 2,700 m in diameter and is situated on a basaltic line spanning the border between Argentina and Brazil. Made up of many cascades producing vast sprays of water, it is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The surrounding subtropical rainforest has over 2,000 species of vascular plants and is home to the typical wildlife of the region: tapirs, giant anteaters, howler monkeys, ocelots, jaguars and caymans.

San Ignacio Ruins

The original mission was erected near the year 1610 by Jesuit priests José Cataldino and Simón Maceta in the region called Guayrá by the natives and La Pinería by the Spanish conquistadores in present Paraná State, Brazil. Because of the constant attacks of the Portuguese Bandeirantes, the mission moved in 1632, and did not settle in its current location until 1696. It was called San Ignacio Miní (minor in Guaraní) to distinguish it from the larger mission, San Ignacio Guazú (great).

In the 18th century, the mission had a population of around 3000 people, mostly indigenous peoples. They produced rich cultural and handicraft products, which the Spanish commercialized by trade via the nearby Paraná River. After the Suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1767, the Jesuits left the mission a year later. The natives destroyed the mission in 1817, as well as other missions in the area.

The ruins are one of the best preserved among the several built in the territory of the Province of Paraguay, which today is divided among Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Due to its accessibility, it is one of the most visited. Overgrown by dense vegetation, the remains of the mission, built in the “Guaraní baroque” style, were found in 1897. It attracted greater popular interest after the 1903 expedition to the site by poet Leopoldo Lugones. The government did not undertake formal exploration and restoration until 1940.

Originally the main square was bounded by the church, a cabildo, a cemetery, a monastery and some houses. The magnificent church with 74 metres length and 24 metres width was designed by Italian priest Juan Brasanelli, and build using the local red sandstone. The width of the walls are around 2 metres, what in spite of the fragile material let the constructions remain standing after over two centuries.