San Juan is located at km 196 of Route 1. The entrance to town is located on the right just as the highway makes a sharp left (this place is aptly nicknamed la curva or the curve). If you see signs for the Kurupi yerba mate factory you’ve gone too far.
All long distance buses headed to Encarnacion stop at San Juan (Gs. 25,000). Buses drop off and pick up passengers on either side of la curva – passengers heading further south towards Encarnacion get on at the small triangular plaza while those heading north towards Asuncion get on in front of the army barracks across the road. Due to the high volume of university students that commute to San Juan, buses tend to be very crowded in the afternoon and at night.
San Ignacio Guasu
The town of San Ignacio was once home to the oldest of the Jesuit missions in the Guarani territory, founded in 1609 by Fathers Marcial de Lorenzana, Francisco de San Martin and Indian cacique (leader) Arapyzandu. Originally this mission was located elsewhere but was forced to move twice due to pressures from bandeirantes until finally ending up in its current location (see Missions Under Attack). Modern day San Ignacio still retains remnants of its Jesuit past. The indigenous dwellings along the main plaza are still in use, as are the original school buildings which now house the Jesuit art museum. Today the town is well known once more thanks to artist Koki Ruiz, the driving force behind many of the town’s cultural events including the popular Holy Friday procession in Tanarandy and several living portraits shows in which community members depict classic works of art.
Until the mid 1980’s San Ignacio was the capital of the Misiones department and though this distinction passed to San Juan, San Ignacio remains a more commercially active town. There are several banks, stores and a handful of hotels. San Ignacio’s large and pleasant main plaza is decorated by a series of large concrete murals with religious themes. The town’s entrance is marked
by a series of horse heads carved out of stone, in commemoration of the participation of San Ignacio’s cavalry in the Chaco War. This is also the turn off for Route 4 which leads west to through the province of Neembucu to the city of Pilar. San Ignacio is a good base for visiting various Jesuit towns nearby – doable by car and by bus. Santa Maria is about eleven kilometers away, Santa Rosa about twenty kilometers, and Santiago is about fifty-five kilometers away.
Sidebar: The word guazu means large in Guarani. The mission was given the name San Ignacio Guasu in order to differentiate it from the San Ignacio Mini mission (now located in Argentina).
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