The documentary cultural heritage of the Jesuits of America Fonds under the custody of the Archivo Nacional de Chile contains relevant testimony of the history of the Antilles, Argentina, Colombia (Bogota), Bolivia, Cuba (Havana), Ecuador, Spain, Philippines (Manila); Mexico, Paraguay and Chile of the XVII and XVIII centuries, corresponding to all areas in which the Society of Jesus carried out its action.
The Society of Jesus was formed in Rome in 1540 when Pope Paul III gave it legal existence. Members of the just founded Congregation were children of the Renaissance, but were loyal to the Christian tradition of the end of the Middle Ages They frequented La Sorbonne and other Universities, but from the classroom their objectives were the Spanish and Portuguese caravels that led them to the West Indies, as well as to the Eastern Indies. Missions were installed in those communities, but missionary work involved establishing the schools, which became a bastion of the new ”paedeutics”, a new education, a new art of being man, Christian humanism. Education was another form of missionizing. The duality of the institutional scheme represented by the schools, apart from that of the Universities and the centrifugal dynamism of the Jesuitical missions, whose inherent nature was in culture, became the way of life everywhere the Jesuits extended their action.
The Jesuits of America Fonds specifically comprises documentation compiled and generated by the Board of Administration of Jesuitical Temporalities, an organization created by the Spanish Crown after the Society of Jesus was expelled from all territories under the dominion of Charles III in 1767 and was intended to give a thorough account of the goods and properties that the Order of Saint Ignatius had in each zone where it had settled.
Along with the documents produced by that institution and as an effect of the application of the decree expelling the Society, a number of original pieces were incorporated that belonged to the order and were related to the inventories of the vast Jesuitical properties, account books, royal orders, correspondence, relations, reports and abundant information on religious, educational and economic activities.
Thus the Jesuit Fonds is the only and indispensable reference of the international community interested in studying the continuity, in Spanish America, of the universal work of the Society of Jesus. In this, the information contained in over 128,000 sheets of the Jesuitical Fonds of America is intrinsically associated with the history of the West, of the vast Spanish Empire of the seventeenth, eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries.