1. General Info
2. Food
3. History
4. Entertainment
5. Bibliography

By: Kate Todd, Michael Smith, Elliot Price, and Travis Gorhum
Period: 4

General Information


Paraguay is located in South America and is landlocked by Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina. Comparatively, to its’ neighboring country Paraguay is a small country with only an area of 157,048 mi2 (Wilkie) but this does not prevent the culture from having a diverse and interesting history, many forms of entertainment, or unique food and cuisine customs.

Paraguay’s population of 6,669,086 (CountryReports) people divided into approximately into 59% living in urban areas and 41% living in a rural setting (Wilkie). The population grows at a rate of 2.4% each year (Culture Grams). Paraguay has become an ethnically homogeneous country due to its’ isolation. 95% of the population is mestizo, a combination or Spanish and indigenous heritage, a small percentage of the population is indigenous Guaraní. Although people live in Paraguay who are from other countries, they typically are not assimilated into Paraguay’s society (Culture Grams).

Paraguay has two official languages that can be found throughout the country. Spanish is one of the two official languages; many people speak Spanish for education, urban commerce, and dealings with the government. The other official language is Guaraní; this is the most common language. In rural areas, students are now being taught how pure Guaraní is expressed in literature because they found that many adults could not read or write the language. Although there are two official languages, most of the population is able to speak or comprehend Spanish. Paraguay has its’ own unique form of Spanish know as Castellano, not Español. Castellano is a mixture of Guaraní words with Spanish, and many of the vocabulary words are different from their fellow Spanish speaking countries. In addition to the peculiarity in vocabulary, the vosotros form is generally used in informal address instead of the tú form. Portuguese can also be found spoken near the Brazilian border even though it is not an official language. Paraguay is home to Spanish, Guaraní, Castellano, and Portuguese (Culture Grams).

Religion plays an active part is the daily life of the people of Paraguay. Many religions are practiced in the country, some of them include: evangelical Christian, Protestant, Jewish, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Baha’i communities, Islamic communities, Mennonite, and the predominately practiced Catholic Faith. The rural population usually mixes a combination of Christian beliefs as well as traditional Guaraní practices (Culture Grams). Approximately 90% of the population is Catholic (CountryReports). Typically in Paraguay, the women are more religious than the men (Culture Grams). Paraguay’s constitution protects the freedom of religion. The government has worked to prevent the abuse of religion in the governmental or private sectors; there are many laws that prohibit discrimination due to religion. Even though the people of Paraguay have the freedom of religion, the constitution accepts that the Catholic Church has played an important historical role in the public life and the government has permitted Catholic priests to perform Mass at government functions. Even though there is the inherent right of freedom of religion in Paraguay, the government requires that all religious groups are registered with the Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry of the Interior has criteria for recognizing a religion, this includes completing paperwork, receiving nonprofit organization certification, passing various background checks, and paying a fee. Even though the government requires this lengthy process, they enforced few controls on religious groups (CountryReports). Religion is an essential part of the daily life of the people of Paraguay and a part of their diverse culture.

The Paraguay River flows southward through Paraguay and divides the country into two major regions: the Chaco (officially called Occidental Paraguay) and Eastern Paraguay(officially called Oriental Paraguay). Both of the regions have similar climates (Wilkie). Paraguay has a seasonal climate that changes quickly. Because Paraguay is subtropical, its’ seasons are opposite of those in the United States. Paraguay has a long summer that stretches from October to march where severe hot spells and humidity are common. The winter season is from June through Augusts. It is common for cold snaps to be followed by extremely high temperatures. Frosts rarely occur in the winter. Due to the hot and cold snaps that occur so commonly, the relative humidity ranges from 67%-78% year round and is highest in the summer. Annually 59-inches of rainfall throughout the seasons. Torrential rainstorms cause annual floods in riverside communities and in other areas that do not receive very much rain it becomes semiarid. During times of heavy rain, water covers vast areas of impermeable slay subsoil. Generally winds are moderate in Paraguay with the exception of the thunder and electrical storms, which bring about high winds in the summer (Country Reports). The highest point in Paraguay is 842 m (Cerro Pero) and the lowest point is the junction of the Rio Paraguay and Rio Paraña at 46 m. Paraguay has many natural resources such as hydropower, timber, iron ore, manganese, and limestone. But currently, Paraguay is also faced with many environmental issues such as deforestation, water pollution, and inadequate waste disposal (Country Reports).PY222.JPG

Paraguay has a developing economy that is primarily based on agriculture. Most rural families grow cotton, sugarcane, soybeans, corn, wheat, tobacco, cassava, fruits, vegetables; beef, pork, eggs, and milk (Country Reports). The government has tried to decrease the reliance on cotton, but little progress has been made. Typically, rural families are forced to send at least one member of their family to another country to work. Beef is a common lucrative export, the ranches are typically owned by foreigners and to not significantly stimulate the economy (Culture Grams). Paraguay’s market economy has a large informal sector that has thousands of microenterprises, urban street venders, and the resale of goods. It is extremely difficult to make accurate measurements of the economy because of the importance of this informal sector. The industries found in the formal sector of the economy include sugar, cement, textiles, beverages, wood products, steel, metallurgic, and electric power. The Industrial production growth rate has expanded slowly at 3.4%. (Country Reports). Many challenges inhibit Paraguay’s economic progress such as their political instability, foreign debt, lack of infrastructure, and untrained work force, and high rates of unemployment. A small percentage of the population controls the nation’s assets. The real gross domestic product of Paraguay has doubled I the last generation, but this number does not transfer to the standard of living because more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line. Economic Opportunities are available only to those that live in urban areas. The government has tried to strengthen the economy by joining the Mercosur trade block, which includes Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay (Culture Grams). Even after joining this block the unemployment rates run high at 16% and the economy has not grown substantially (Country Reports). Another problem faced by Paraguay is the fact that currency, the Guaraní; inflation rates are extremely high at 8.6% (Culture Grams). Currently Paraguay exports $6,712,000,000 (USD). Their export commodities include: soybeans, feed, cotton, meat, edible oils, electricity, wood, and leather. Paraguay primarily exports to Brazil (29.8%), Argentina (18%), Chile (5.5%), and Bermuda (4%). Paraguay imports $7,557,000,000 (USD). The items they import include road vehicles, consumer goods, tobacco, petroleum products, and electrical machinery. Paraguay primarily imports from Brazil (28.9%), US (22.5%), Argentina (17.7%), Uruguay (4.7%), Hong Kong (4.3%), and China (4.1%) (Country Reports).

Paraguay’s government is a constitutional republic as of June 20, 1992. The flag is an important symbol to the government. The capital is Asunción and there are 17 departments that make up the government. The departments are: Alto Paraguay, Alto Parana, Amambay, Boquerón, Caaguazú, Caazapá, Canindeyú, Central, Concepcion, Cordillera, Guairá, Itapúa, Misiones, Ñeembucú, Paraguarí, Presidente Hayes, and San Pedro (“Paraguay’s Government”). Voters elect a governor to head the department; the departments are broken down into small units of government (Wilkie). The legal system is based on Argentine codes, Roman law, and French codes and the judicial review of legislative acts in Supreme Court of Justice. Suffrage was granted to those between the ages of 18 and 75. Paraguay’s government is split into three branches. The Executive Branch consists of the President (Nicanor Duarte Frutos), Vice President Luis Castiglioni Joria. The president serves as both the chief of state and head of the Council of Ministers. The president nominates the council members. The President and the Vice President are elected by the people together and serve the public for five years (“Paraguay's Government”). The president cannot be reelected for another term (Wilkie). The legislative branch of Paraguay’s government is called the National Congress and is bicameral (“Paraguay’s Government”). The National Congress has 45 member for the Senate and 80 members of the Chamber of Deputies. Both of the house representatives are elected to five-year terms (Wilkie). The third branch of government is the Judicial Branch, which consists of nine Supreme Court Justices (“Paraguay’s Government”). One a justice is selected they are part of the court until the age of 75 upon which they must retire. Paraguay does maintain an armed forces, there are approximately 11,000 active members. At age 18, men are drafted and serve a mandatory year in the country's army or air force, or two years in the navy (Wilkie).
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Paraguayan Food

Paraguay has one of the most diverse and interesting food cultures in Latin America which was shaped by many different influences. Paraguay also has many interesting restaurants. Paraguay’s main food staples are corn and cassava, the root of a yucca plant (Food in Paraguay). Cassava is usually made into one of three distinct products: fariña, typyraty, and almidón (Paraguayan Gastronomy). Most all Paraguayan meals have a type of cassava in them (Paraguayan Food). Paraguayan tables also have lots of yams, beans, squash, peanuts, and coconuts (Paraguayan Gastronomy). The most common meats eaten are pork, chicken, fish, lamb, fowl, and wild game (Food in Paraguay). The most common drink Paraguay is mate, made from dried yerba mate (Paraguayan Food). Some traditional recipes can be found here.

Breakfast is one of the smaller meals of the day. In the morning the most common drink is hot mate, which is called concido if it has milk and sugar in it, or occasionally coffee (CultureGrams). With their hot mate or coffee they will usually eat some sort of bread, like bread and butter, rolls, or pastries (CultureGrams). Breakfast is eaten in the morning with the rest of the family.


Lunch is served in the middle of the day and usually people do not go home to eat (CultureGrams). For example, a farmer is more likely to eat lunch in the fields where he is working rather than going home to eat with his family (Country Reports). Unlike breakfast, a cold version of mate, called tereré, is usually drunk with the meal (Paraguayan Gastronomy).


Dinner is usually eaten with the family at home, after work (Food in Paraguay). It is also the largest meal of the day (CultureGrams). It consists of a type of cassava, meat, grain, and dessert. The meat and cassava are usually put into a soup like Bori Bori which is the world’s only solid soup (Paraguayan Gastronomy). Some examples of desserts are kaguyiy, kivevé, ka’i ladrillo, dulce de mamón, and arró kamby (Paraguay Gastronomy).


Paraguayan people have many customs that are different from the American way of eating. For example, the children of the family eat before the guests are served or even arrive (CultureGrams). Also, everybody is served with a plate full of food and you are expected to eat all of the food. If you don’t take seconds or eat all of your food it is considered an insult to the chef (CultureGrams). If the host gives an unannounced guest some tereré, cold mate, it means they want them to stay for a while (CultureGrams). Paraguayan food culture largely differs from our own in many ways.

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Paraguay_1600.jpgParaguay was first seen by the Spaniard Alejo Garcia in 1524, but he died unfortunately when he was killed by Guarani Indians. Juan de Ayolas later came to the area of Paraguay in 1537(Bastos). It was one of the first colonies in South America, but lost its preeminence due to its lack of resources. Its small population allowed it to be settled more humanely, and allowed it to escape the horrible markets of slavery for work in the mines (Paraguay). As the Spanish population settled in 1539, children of both Indian and Spanish blood were born, known as mestizos (Bastos). Jesuit Missionaries traveled to Paraguay in 1588 to convert the native Guarani Indians to Roman Catholicism. The missionaries taught the Guarani skills such as weaving, carpentry, and printing. The reducciones the Jesuits built thrived with production of yerba mate, cotton, tobacco, and wood (Paraguay). By the 1730s the Jesuits had set up 30 reducciones, with 140,000 people living in them. By 1767 however, Charles III had kicked all of the Jesuits out of the Spanish territories (Paraguay). Domingo de Irala was the first governor of the colony in Paraguay, assisting with the construction of reducciones and organizing the fort of Ascuncion(Paraguay). He was later followed in 1592 by Hernandarias, the first Native American governor. Hernandorias mainly focused on the well-being of the people. The colony of Paraguay was split into Paraguay and Buenos Aires in 1617(Bastos).

Paraguay was one of the first Spanish countries to achieve independence from Spain in 1811. From the 1600s through the 1700s the natives felt neglected by Spain, and furious at the high taxes demanded. The resentment grew in 1776 when Paraguay became part of a large colony called the viceroyalty of La Plata. The people of Paraguay overthrew the governor of Asuncion in 1811 and declared independence (Paraguay). In 1814 José Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia was elected by the assembly to lead the government, 2 years later the dictator for life. Francia employed true characteristics of a dictator, ruling by military force and prohibiting immigration and trade. This isolation worked well, as Paraguay developed a sense of unity and independence (Phillips). This isolation formed the first system of state socialism, pouring all resources into defense (Paraguay). After Francia’s death in 1840, Carlos Antonio Lopez was elected to govern the country. The assembly of Paraguay took a Republican constitution mask in 1844 and named Lopez president. Lopez also worked as a dictator, but encouraged trade and immigration. He built roads, schools, and a large army (Paraguay).

Francisco Solano López took over the dictatorship after his father died in 1862. Lopez had an imperialistic eye, and declared war on Brazil in 1864 after giving warnings of attack during a civil war in Uruguay (Phillips). Argentina foiled Paraguay’s plan by denying permission fortroops to pass through their country, which resulted with Paraguay declaring war on Argentina in 1865. Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay formed the triple alliance in 1865 also and formed a massive counter-attack (Phillips). General Bartolomé Mitre led the ground forces of the Alliance against Paraguay, and the Brazilian navy conducted a successful campaign on the Paraná River south of Corrientes in mid-1865. After this point, Paraguay resorted to a long defensive war (Phillips). Lopez lost battle after battle after battle, save for an outstanding victory at the Battle of Curupayti on September 22, 1866. Later in 1866 Lopez lost 20,000 of his best soldiers, leading to a plague of Asiatic cholera, depleting the entire population (Phillips). After the sacking of the capital, Lopez was forced to a guerilla war. The Brazilian forces killed Lopez in 1870, leaving the Paraguayan government to sue for peace. Paraguay had lost more than half of its people, with only 29,000 men surviving the war. The Brazilian army remained in occupation of Paraguay until 1876 (Phillips).

When Brazil left Paraguay, the country was left to fight among itself. Rival political faction violently aspired for power, with presidents changing very often. From the period of 1870 through 1932, more than 30 presidents had taken head of the government (Wilkie). In a particular time between 1910 and 1912, 7 presidents were taken out of office, often with force. It was during this time that the Chaco war was fought. Out of the 8 presidents who finished their terms between 1904 to 1954, only 4 of them were military leaders (Paraguay). In 1957, Paraguay was stabilized by the emergence of Alfredo Stroessner Mattiauda. Stroessner effectively combined political skill with hard will to take over the country completely, having parties either take part of fraudulent elections or be isolated (Paraguay). By stabilizing the country, Stroessner was able to attract foreign investment, and set to improve the technology in Paraguay, improving roads and agriculture (Wilkie). A notable accomplishment of improvement is the hydroelectric plant at Itaipú on the Rio Paraná, which in turn brought in billions of dollars into the economy. This exposure to the outside world backfired, for the people began to protest for a democracy (Paraguay). Stroessner was overthrown in 1989. In 2008, Fernando Lugo was elected president of Paraaguay. As a bishop, Lugo was backed by his party, and ended the 60 year reign of the Colorado Party (Wilkie).


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Paraguayan Entertainment

People in Paraguay enjoy many forms of entertainment. The country has a prized national soccer team which took a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics (123 foot ball). This soccer team was lead by its captain and M.V.P. Carlos Gamarra (123 foot ball). Soccer is the national sport of Paraguay and essentially everyone who has access to a television or radio follows the countries soccer teams during the sports season. Soccer is played in most towns and cities in Paraguay (Country Reports). Thus, soccer clubs, teams and fields are quite common in Paraguay.paraguay_2.jpg

Paraguay is also home to several other sports and recreation activities. Basketball is the second most popular sport in the country of Paraguay (Country Reports). The international basketball team of Paraguay took second place in the 1955 and 1960 South American Basketball Championship (Maps of the World). However, there are several other popular sports in Paraguay. Both tennis and volleyball are commonly played in this country (Culture Grams). Paraguayan sports are all fun recreation activities for the common people.

Paraguay also has a rich musical history. Paraguay has two main types of music. One of these types of music was based on music of the Garanini Indians. This type of music was created by Jose Asuncion Flores ("Paraguay"). When this type of music became extremely popular, Jose created a symphonic version which contains many famous pieces such as Mburicao and Panambi Vera ("Paraguay"). Paraguayan polka is another form of music which is commonly played ("Paraguay"). Polkas use several types of beats which originated in Europe and were brought to Paraguay ("Paraguay"). Polkas are the most common type of Paraguayan music. The Paraguayan harp is the most commonly used instrument in Paraguayan music ("Paraguay"). The harp is an instrument which was brought from Spain to Paraguay and was adapted for Paraguayan music ("Paraguay"). The guitar is also a commonly used instrument in Paraguayan music. The guitar was made popular in Paraguayan music by Augustin Pio Barrios ("Paraguay"). Augustin created several complex pieces for the guitar such as La Catedral ("Paraguay:).

Cinema was first introduced to Paraguay in 1900. The theatre experience consisted of silent films in black and white. In 1925, Hipólito Jorge Carrón and his nephew Agustín Carrón Quell made the first true Paraguayan film. The pair directed many different documentaries showing the daily life and sights of Paraguay. Another influential director was Juan Max Boettner who made numerous films in color. Fictional films were introduced to Paraguayans in the 1950s. In the 1980s Paraguay was introduced to portable video, which launched a wave of new short films. In 2000, there was a return to full-length films instead of short films. Some of these movies had acclaimed exhibitions and distinctions abroad. Now short films are resurging and several film festivals and contests are developing ("Paraguay").

Paraguay is a bilingual country and thus it has literature in both of its’ native languages. In the first decades of the twentieth century authors such as Natalicio González, Manuel Domínguez, Manuel Gondra and Rafael Barret were poets and prose writers that received accolades. Another generation of writers was born during the 1940s, they were known as the Vy’a Raity. One of these members was Josefina Plá, a Spanish author and artist, who had adopted Paraguay as her second country. She contributed over a 100 works. In 1989, Augusto Roa Bastos was the first Paraguayan writer to win the Cervantes Award for Literature. Other renowned writers in this group included the poets Hérib Campos Cervera, Elvio Romero and Oscar Ferriero, and storytellers Gabriel Casaccia and Juan Bautista Rivarola Matto. Each decade of the twentieth century brought forth expansion in the area of Spanish Literature. The other section of Paraguayan literature is that of the Guaraní literature which is usually divided into three large chapters: indigenous literature, folk literature and refined literature. Indigenous literature has been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. Fold literature of the Guaraní developed in the beginning of the twentieth century. It brought about an important group of poets that achieved widespread success via music. More refined literature in the Guaraní dialect emerged in the second half of the 20th Century, when poets began to experiment with new paths to express important ideas of the times ("Paraguay"). Many different styles and forms of literature can be found throughout Paraguay’ history.

Paraguayan theater was born with Spanish influence, which can be seen in religious allegorical plays and operettas. Ildefonso Antonio Bermejo created the Nation Theatre in the second half of the 19th Century. Paraguayan theatre created its’ own identity in the early twentieth century. Some famous playwrights include: Josefina Plá, Roque Centurión Miranda, Fernando Oca del Valle, Manuel Ortiz Guerrero and Julio Correa. For the second half of the twentieth century, folk theatre was popular. By the 1960s, the Independent Theater had arrived and with it the theatre brought new themes that had not been focused on prior ("Paraguay"). Theatre has evolved to become a larger section of entertainment throughout the years.
There are many different forms of Paraguyan art. Paraguayan painting became popular in the late 19th Century. The first generation of painters achknowlede their impressionist influences and used the knowledge techniques of European painters. Some of the first famous painters include: Pablo Alborno, Juan A. Samudio, Jaime Bestard, Andrés Campos Cervera, and Josefina Plá. In the 1950s, the “New Art” group marked a rift between Paraguayan art and standards taught in higher institutions of learning. The 1960s and 1970s gave way to the plastic arts in Paraguay ("Paraguay"). Paraguyan visual arts are reaching there peak of expression and technique. The field of drawing also produced renowned artists since the first decades of the 20th Century such as Miguel Acevedo, Andrés Guevara, Jenaro Hindú, Luis Alberto Boh and Selmo . Indigenous art has also survived the ages. Wickerwork, weaving, ceramics, wooden masks, and vessels help to preserve the Guaraní history (“Paraguay”).

Entertainment is extremely valuable to the people of Paraguay. Fun and relaxation is quite important for the hard working people of Paraguay. Since most of the common people of Paraguay have to work a life of hard labor, entertainment is even more important in Paraguay then in the United States. From soccer and outdoor activities to music, entertainment in Paraguay is a huge portion of this country’s culture.

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