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Paraguay

 

paraguay-map.jpg

 

Introduction

Paraguay is centrally positioned in South America bordering Bolivia and Brazil in the north, and Argentina in the south. It is often referred to as the Corazon de America - the heart of America. The 7 million population is largely Mestizo a mix of Spanish and the local Guarani.

Paraguay-bordering-Brazil-Argentina.jpg

 

 

Geography

The country is roughly divided into two main regions by the Rio Paraguay which flows in a north south direction. The eastern region of Parana consists of grassy plains and wooded hills. Whereas in the west is the Chaco region made up of mainly marsh plains.

Paraguay joins Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay in sitting on top of one of the world`s largest aquifer systems, the Guarani Aquifer. This body of water is estimated at about 37,000 cubic kilometres and could supply fresh water to the entire world for 200 years. See map opposite.

paraguay-Aquiferguarani

 

Economy

In the non-urban areas, the population are primarily engaged in the agricultural sector on low wages. However, over recent decades Paraguay has enjoyed the highest growth rate in South America. In Ciudad del Este, it also has the third most important free commercial zone in the world after Miami and Hong Kong. The country supplies it neighbouring countries with imported consumer goods, and has thousands of small businesses and street vendors.

paraguay-agriculture.jpg  

History

Prior to the Spanish conquest, there were well organised semi-nomadic Guarani tribes in the area for at least a millenium. They worked the fertile plains but little else is known about this period because of the lack of any organised archeological studies. The Spanish settled in Asunción in 1537 which became the seat of a new colonial region. Eventually Paraguay declared independence from Spain in 1811. In the years 1865-70 the country was led into an horrific war by Francisco Lopez against Argentina, Uruaguay and Brazil which decimated the population and ended in defeat. In the twentieth century Paraguay was at war again, this time with Bolivia over the Gran Chaco region in the north. By 1935 it managed to secure control over most of the area.

paraguay-history.jpg  

Government

Politically Paraguay has had a tortured history from 1900-54 with much volatility through 31different presidents. From 1954-89 Alfredo Stroessner and the Colorada party ruled and provided the stability required for economic growth. Since his departure in 1989 the Colorado party has still been dominant, until the elections in 2008 when Fernando Lugo came to power.

paraguay-palacio-de-los-Lopez.jpg  

Asunción

The capital of Paraguay has a metropolitan population of 2 million but this includes several other adjacent cities. It is the centre of government and is the main economic hub of the country. The city was founded initially as a fort in the early 16th century by Juan de Salazar who named it on 15th August after the famous feast day of Our Lady: Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. As one of the oldest cities in that part of South America it became the centre from which other cities, including Buenos Aires, were founded. Although the city does not have that many tourist type attractions, it has its own special appeal which is enjoyed by many visitors. Be prepared to use any Spanish you know, because not many people speak English.

paraguay-asuncion.jpg
 

10 Other interesting facts about Paraguay

1 The country`s motto `Paz y justicia` means Peace and justice.

2 It is the joint owner with Brazil of the world's largest hydroelectric plant Itaipu Dam.

3 Its currency is the Guarani.

4 The legal system is based on Roman law, and Argentinian and French codes.

5 British engineers constructed the first railway line in 1858-61.

6 Paraguay has good relations with the USA who have 20,000 soldiers based in the country.

7 60% of GDP is from trade with Brazil.

8 95% of the population is Mestizo - a mix of Spanish and Amerindian.

9 Paraguay is a bit smaller than California.

10 The Pantanal is the largest freshwater wetland in the world spreading across Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia.

paraguay-itaipu-dam.jpg  
paraguay-pantanal-wetland.jpg

 

Other neighbours of Paraguay

 


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