The Mission Essay, Research Paper
Culture is the expression of a people’s creativity – everything they make which is distinctively theirs: language, music, art, religion, healing, agriculture, cooking style, and the institutions governing social life. To suppress culture is to shoot somebody in the heart. Such a conquest is more accomplished than a massacre. “We have seen the colonization materially kills the colonized. It must be added that it kills them spiritually. Colonization distorts relationships, destroys and petrifies institutions, and corrupts… both colonizers and the colonized.”
With that in mind the question at hand is whether the Jesuits were guilty of cultural genocide in their interactions with the Native Americans. I believe that according to the definition of cultural genocide the Jesuits were guilty but they also had a positive impact on the Native Americans.
They gave the Guannini a home and sheltered them from being enslaved. The community that was portrayed in The Mission was one of a communal benefit. The Guannini were able to feed and support themselves so that they were able to live a somewhat happy and prosperous life. I believe that in the movie is said that the San Carlos mission profited nearly 14,xxx quid from exporting some of their goods.
The Jesuits were guilty because they took their beliefs (which were paganistic) and replaced them with that of the Bible. When the Cardinal makes his decision to make it so that the Guannini must leave the mission (the Spanish and Portugese go what they wanted) the Guannini can’t understand why God wanted them to leave and felt betrayed.
They think that it isn’t fair that God can just leave them and that they never should have trusted the Jesuits.
The Guannini were not forced however to make the decision to convert. From what we were shown in the movie their decision to convert was not brought down on them by social forces or by implicit threats from more powerful entities. They could have gone about how they did before without too much resistance.
I believe that the reason the Guannini opted to convert to Christianity was that they were very intrigued by the technology that Father Gabriel brought. Initially the flute played an initial part in doing this. Father Gabriel may have done this purposefully to get the Guannini to make him look like a more spiritually powerful being. This probably made the Guannini believe that their religion was not as powerful as the Christian religion. A religion that has such an affect on a person would makes another religion seem inferior. Therefore, the Jesuits may have used technology in their favor to make the Indians think that their way of life was so much better and made it look so much more appealing. In this respect Father Gabriel was being manipulative.
Also, as we see in the movie, the Native Americans were looked down upon like they were animals. This presumption was thwarted rather subtly in the movie by adding the commentary, which said, many violins that were made in the missions were of such quality that they were being used overseas by European violinists. The missions provided a self-sufficient community that thrived and prospered and were in some respects a perfect society. There was no sense of personal wealth and everyone benefited the same amount and lived harmoniously under the watchful eye of the Jesuits.
The image of the missions in the movie is one of a remote haven for the Indians and as a little child describes in the movie when she is confronted with the idea of being put back in the forest ” The demons don’t come here”. This imagery gives the appearance that all the Native Americans are happy and content with the Jesuits just moving in and changing their lifestyle. I know for a fact I would be at the least hesitant and somewhat militant towards a bunch of funky looking white guys that were trying to get me to believe in something I wasn’t sure of.
To bring together all of my points I think that the Jesuits acted with the help of technology but did so only to improve the Native Americans quality of life. This rise in living standards was very well shown in The Mission. When we see the mission of San Carlos it is absolutely gorgeous and is filled with vegetation and looks as though it is professionally maintained. I sure wouldn’t mind living there.
In Conclusion, what the Jesuits did was “cultural genocide” persay but they only did it out of love and offered the opportunity for a better way of life. Of course, this improve quality of life came with its cost, to become a Christian. Whether or not this decision was made on the Native American’s own or for them is hard to say