The landlocked South American Republic of Paraguay, also known as the Corazón (heart) de América, is bordered by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. The Paraguay River runs north to south through the country’s centre. Asunción is the capital, with Ciudad del Este being Paraguay’s economic centre. Most of Paraguay’s population are mestizos (people of mixed European and native descent). They consist over 80% both Guaraní (native language) and Spanish speakers, with Jopara (mixture of Guaraní and Spanish) also widely spoken. This is despite Paraguay having gained its independence from Spain in 1811. The Paraguay 2011 Bicentennial celebrations were spectacular.
Paraguay’s climate varies between subtropical and temperate. The country’s far west is generally semi-arid, whereas the east can be pretty wet.
Asunción was the site of the first settlement by the Europeans in 1537 and the city was founded by the Spanish explorer Juan de Salazar de Espinosa. Asunción’s history as a Spanish colonial province, location of several 18th century South American settlements and central point for Jesuit missions make for a very interesting visit.
Paraguay has received the honour (recorded in the Guinness World Records) for the biggest barbecue in the world, when 28 tons of meat were eaten over 6 hours in Mariano Roque Alonso, Asuncion.
The local population is mostly extended-family oriented, practices conservative values and is foreigner-friendly. The Paraguayan cuisine typically uses ingredients like manioc (a root crop), while a thick corn bread type dish, sopa paraguaya, and chipa (manioc, cheese and cornmeal bread) are both pretty typical and popular.
Paraguay’s lace making and embroidery express the nation’s European/Guaraní artistic cultural fusion, as does much of the native harp music that includes guaranías, polkas and galopas.
Sport is also a crucial part of Paraguayan culture. Football (soccer) is by far the most popular sport, with 1600 teams through the nation, and forms an integral part of the national culture. The Paraguayan national football team has participated in eight World Cups. However basketball, tennis, golf,rowing, rugby union and volleyball are also popular.
Posted : Tuesday, March 13th, 2012 at 11:00
As well as writing about travel, Karen Bryan offers tips on saving money, frugal living and how to live well on less, on her site Help Me To Save