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Monday, June 15, 2009

Some History About the Country of Paraguay

Some History About the Country of Paraguay

The country of Paraguay, one of only two landlocked nations in South America along with neighboring Bolivia, has had much of its history shaped by a series of dictatorial leaders.

About the size of the state of California, Paraguay is bordered by Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina, and has most of its predominantly Mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian descent,) population living within a 100-mile radius of Asuncion. Asuncion, the capital and largest city, is located east of the Paraguay River where temperate grassy plains, wooded hills, and tropical forests abound.

The western segment of Paraguay, the low, flat, marshy plain called the Chaco, accounts for about 60 percent of the Republic of Paraguay’s land mass, but is home to less than two percent of the nation’s people.

Facts, events, and people who’ve shaped the history of Paraguay include:

* Earliest settlers were fierce Indian tribes, including the Guarani

* 1516 Juan Diaz de Solis, of Spain, first European in Paraguay, dies same year with 69 of his 70 men at hands of Charrua Indians

* 1527 Sabastian Cabot, of Spain, explores Paraguay River

* 1537 Juan de Salazar, of Spain, founds Acuncion

* 1617 Largely through efforts of Rio de la Plata’s provincial governor, Hernandarias, administrations of Argentina and Paraguay split

* 1617 (est.)-1767 Period of strong, progressive Jesuit influence, ending when Spain becomes fearful of Jesuit power

* 1811 Paraguay declares independence from Spain

* 1862-1865 Paraguay loses War of the Triple Alliance against Bolivia, Argentina, and Uruguay … possibly bloodiest war in Latin American history where Paraguay, fighting with children as young as 12 years old, loses more than half its population, quarter of its territory

* 1932-1935 Paraguay fights Chaco War against Bolivia, wins pyrrhic victory

* 1935-1954 Civil war, dictatorships, extreme political instability

* 1954-1989 General Alfredo Stroesssner maintains power with iron fist, military backing, and persecution of opposition

* 1989 General Andres Rodrigues assumes power following successful military coup

* 1993 Juan Carlos Wasmosy first civilian-elected Paraguayan president in 40 years

* 1996-2008 General Lino Oviedo unsuccessfully tries to oust Wasmosy; allegedly behind assassination of new vice president Luis Maria Argana in 1999; exiled to Brazil; returns, imprisoned for 1996 coup attempt; imprisonment overturned by Supreme Court; loses 2008 election

* 2008 Former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo elected president

Although Paraguay’s economy is agriculture-driven with soybeans, cotton, grains, cattle, and sugar its most important crops, in 1991 the nation completed a joint project with Brazil on the Parana River to build one of the largest hydroelectric facilities in the world, Itaipu Dam, which makes electrical power a major source of exporting revenue.

The country of Paraguay, known for its extreme beauty, is a novelty in the Americas because it’s the only country that has an indigenous language, Guarani from the Guarani Indians, as an official language, along with Spanish. About 95 percent of the people are of Mestizo descent, and Roman Catholic is Paraguay’s dominant religion.

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