Misiones is one of the 23 provinces of Argentina, located in the northeastern corner of the country in the MesopotamiÑa region. It is surrounded by Paraguay to the northwest, Brazil to the north, east and south, and Corrientes Province of Argentina to the southwest.
This was an early area of Roman Catholic missionary activity by the Society of Jesus in what was then called the Province of Paraguay, beginning in the early 17th century. In 1984 the ruins of four mission sites in Argentina were designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
The province was populated for thousands of years by indigenous peoples of various cultures. At the time of European encounter, it was occupied by the Kaingang, Xokleng and Guarani culture. The first European to visit the region was Sebastian Cabot who, while navigating the Paraná River in December 1527, discovered Apipé's Falls. In 1541, Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vacareached the Iguazú Falls.
In the 17th century, members of the Society of Jesus came to the region as missionaries. They began to establish a string of Jesuit Reductions, that of San Ignacio being the most famous. In a few years, they managed to create 30 mission villages. They taught the Guarani western-style agriculture and crafts; the natives had subsisted in the jungle environment and suffered at the hands of European slave-drivers. Their crafts were sold and traded along the river and they shared in the Reductions' prosperity.
In 1759, the Portuguese government, at the insistence of its anti-Jesuit chancellor, the Marquis de Pombal, ordered all Reductions closed in its territory (which then included much of today's Misiones Province). The Marquis eventually prevailed in 1773 on Pope Clement XIV to have the Jesuit Order suppressed. Once the missions were abandoned, the prosperous trade surrounding these Reductions quickly vanished. Colonists imposed a brutal plantation economy in the region, forcing the Guarani to act as slave labor.
In 1814, Gervasio Posadas, the director of United Provinces, declared Misiones annexed to Argentina's Corrientes (at this time Argentina was quasi-independent but nominally still a Spanish colony). Argentina did not exert de facto control over Misiones, which was claimed by several countries and effectively governed itself. In 1830 Argentine military forces fromCorrientes Province took control of Misiones.
In 1838, Paraguay occupied Misiones, because Paraguay claimed it on the basis that the Misiones population was indigenous Guarani, the major ethnic group of Paraguay. In 1865, Paraguayan forces invaded Misiones again, in what became the War of the Triple Alliance. Following its defeat and making a peace agreement with Argentina eventually signed in 1876, Paraguay gave up its claim to the Misiones territory.
Although Argentina had claimed Misiones since 1814, academics tend to interpret Argentine possession of Misiones beginning with the defeat of Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance. Bethell's account is that "the treaty of alliance [i.e. against Paraguay] contained secret clauses providing for the annexation of disputed territory in northern Paraguay by Brazil and regions in the east and west of Paraguay by Argentina... After a long and harrowing war (1865-70), Argentina got it from a prostrate Paraguay territory in Misiones." Scobie's analysis is that "the political status of Misiones remained vague" and that Argentina gained the region "as a by-product of the Paraguayan war in the 1860s".
The Misiones plateau includes a part of Brazil across the border. The rocks contain significant quantities of iron which forms a part of the soil, giving it a reddish color. At the center of the plateau rises the Sierra de Misiones, its highest peak, 843 m, near Bernardo de Irigoyen, in the Cerro Rincón.
The province is embraced by three big rivers including the Paraná, Uruguay and Iguazú. Iguazu Falls are spectacular waterfalls on the Iguazú River in the northwest corner of the province, near the city of Puerto Iguazú. Misiones shares the falls with the Brazilian state of Paraná (in that nation's Southern Region). Meanwhile, the international border with Paraguay is close by.
Misiones' economy, like most in northern Argentina, is relatively underdeveloped yet fairly well-diversified. Its 2006 output was estimated at US$4.8 billion (which shall be around US$7.2 billion in 2011, according to Argentina's economical growing) or US$4,940 per capita (around US$6,500 in 2011), over 40% below the national average.
Though its rainy, erosion-prone geography discourages intensive crop farming, agriculture makes an important contribution to the province's economy, adding about 10% to the total. Misiones' thick forests have long provided for the ample production of roundwood without excessive impact on its ecosystem. The principal exploited trees are the Paraná pine, Guatambú, Cedar, Petiribí, Incense, Cane water-pipe, Anchico, Eucalyptus and Gueycá.
Misiones' chief source of agricultural income, however, has long been the cultivation of yerba mate: Misiones is Argentina's leading producer (yielding about half a million tons, annually). Tea, citrus fruit and, in minor amounts, tobacco, sugar cane, rice and coffee are also cultivated in Misiones.