Santa María de Fe, Paraguay (Santa Maria Education Fund) (Craftwork from Santa Maria) (An experiment in ethical tourism)

three websites hosted in Cockaigne but more easily accessible via their own proper addresses
click the links on this page to find out more, or look at the Sites Map

institute museo

Santa María de Fe lies in the Department of Misiones, in the south of Paraguay. It was founded in 1647, one of many missions for the indigenous built through the Spanish colonies of South America by the Jesuits. They were run as virtually independent and self-sufficient settlements, and were so successful that they were seen as a sort of Paradise (in the language of Guaraní mythology, "yvy marane'ў", or land without stain) until the Jesuits were expelled from the country in 1768 by royal decree.


Misiones takes its name from the Jesuit Missions for the Guaraní indigenous, which were technically known as Reductions. They began around 1610 and continued until 1768 when the Jesuits were expelled. The moving story of how the Reductions tried to offer safety from the slave traders, how music and art flourished there, and how political forces led to their cruel destruction has been dramatised in the film The Mission.



As in other Jesuit settlements (or "Reductions") the Guaraní showed profound gifts for all kinds of arts and craftwork, and filled their churches with pictures, sculptures and carvings. In Santa María, a restored building dating from the Jesuit period houses a collection of such treasures, including a crib scene with many figures, statues of St Ignatius Loyola, St Barbara, St Sebastian, together with St Michael (left), St Elizabeth (right), and a moving "Room of the Passion" (top of this page, centre).


The Christian Agrarian Leagues

Between 1962 and 1976 Santa María was also one of the places where the Ligas Agrarias Cristianas flourished in Paraguay.  For the story of these enterprises and the way in which the community remembers them, please click here


The Santa Maria Education Fund

The Santa Maria Education Fund, a UK registered charity (no: 1105031) has been set up to support tertiary education in the village: for more information about the Fund and its project,
please click here
students 2003

The Sewing Workshop

The women of Santa María are continuing the tradition of fine craftwork. The Taller de Hermandad (or Workshop of Sisterhood), which comprises about thirty women, meets every afternoon round a large table.

They sew appliqué work, making bags, hangings, clothes, and many other things including stoles for priests and wall hangings. The takings are shared out equally after costs of materials have been met.

Christmas Cards and Craftwork Presents

These beautiful images are available as Christmas Cards, sold in aid of the Santa Maria Education Fund.
card 2004
christmas card 2005
card 2007
card 2008
card 2009

If you have any problems accessing pages or pictures on this site,
please email Kate Brown on

Articles by Margaret Hebblethwaite on Santa María appear regularly in the Catholic weekly The Tablet.
Click here to find out more
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