The country had finally been progressing politically but in June 012 suddenly experienced an abrupt threat to Paraguay’s democratic legitimacy. There was a political coup initiated by the Colorado Party, which, until 2008, had held power for 61 years through a series of dictators. The occasion mirrored the power- driven actions that have long prevented agrarian reforms to economically empower the working class. The polarized distribution of power has distanced the political process from the majority of Paraguayans.
Paraguay is intriguing due to its central location, as a democratic crossroads bordering Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. It is also unique in its use of Guarani language in addition to Spanish. The contemporary bilingualism implies an interesting history of colonialism in Paraguay with lasting implications. These factors, along with recent attendance to a presentation by a Paraguayan organization that works for disabled human rights, Fundaci¶n Saraki, are my motivation for studying Paraguay. II.
Geography Land and water combined, the area of Paraguay is 1 53,398 square miles, similar in size to the state of California. Paraguay is a landlocked country, more than 400 miles from the nearest coast. Its main body of water is the Paraguay River, which divides the nation into two geographically distinct regions: the smaller, eastern Regi¶n Oriental and the larger Chaco Region to the west. The two regions provide contrasting environments, with expansive plateaus and low sylvan hills in the Regi¶n Oriental and lowlands in the Chaco, alternating between semi-dry and swampy.
The Chaco Region covers two-thirds of the country but the environmental scarceness of population. The Estero Patino is the name of Chaco’s large swamp, located near the river. Further north is the upper Chaco, where the land is much drier. Between Brazil nd Paraguay are two mountain ranges, the Serra de Amambai and the Serra de MaracaJј, which divide the countries and provide ample vegetation and wildlife. A remarkable portion of the country, 12 million acres, has been deforested and the remaining forests are disappearing quickly (Hernandez, 2004, pages 1 1, 16).
Paraguay’s natural resources include hydropower, timber, iron ore, manganese, copper, coal and limestone (Hernandez, 31). The provincial capital and largest municipality of Paraguay is the city of Asuncion, founded in 1537. It is located on the left bank of the Pilcomayo River, the longest tributary of the Paraguay River. The city was named by the Spanish settler Juan de Salazar, after the Catholic Feast of the Assumption. Asuncion’s large river port provides access to the rest of the continent. Asunci¶n houses the national government, the Congreso, the Cathedral and the Universidad Nacional de Asuncion.
Data collection in Paraguay is not sufficiently standardized; the census is infrequent and inaccurate which makes 2009 population of Asunci¶n- 1. 977 million – only an estimation (Warren, 1949, 34, CIA, 2009). The total population of Paraguay in 2011 was 6, 6,568,290, with 63% residing in urban locations. The GDP of Paraguay is 17. 86 million USD (United States Statistical Division [UNSD], 2011). Because of Paraguay’s small population and poverty, its weight among the nations of the modern world is small. Ill.
History Paraguay’s history, among other defining characteristics, has long been one of oppression. A series of postcolonial dictatorships has kept the country from developing to its full capacity. Even before the European conquest, the land occupancy had a similar demographic distribution due to the environmental limitations. The Guarani, Paraguays dominant indigenous tribe, resided in small villages spread throughout the fertile eastern forest region. Village governance of the Guarani was divided between elected chiefs and religious practitioners called shamans.
The Guarani practiced slash and burn agriculture, moving to undeveloped parts of the forest when the soil became depleted. Alternatively, the indigenous minority that occupied the Chaco region focused more on hunting because the land had so little to offer. Those in villages nearest to the river had to defend themselves against the increasing monopoly of the Guarani tribe. This was the political and social environment in place to greet the arrival of Paraguay’s first European explorer, Aleixo Garcia from Portugal.
Garcia recruited a large group of Guarani to accompany him in pursuit of the famed riches of the Incan Empire in Peru. Garcia’s story lived on, attracting future Europeans to pass through Paraguay (Warren, 1949, page 36). Compared to the rest of Latin America, there was limited European immigration associated with the Spanish Conquest because of the absence of any significant mineral wealth. The number of Spaniards who settled in Paraguay was relatively low, but a product of their passage through was a new mestizo population that evolved from the miscegenation of conquistadores and indigenous women.
The Spanish dentity in Paraguay was binary, with both the explorers and the Guarani/Jesuit missions of the 17th- and 18th-century, known as reducciones. The Jesuit actuality the reducciones had enemies among the Spanish colonists and officials who were Jealous of Jesuit power and prosperity and resentful because they were excluded from exercising any economic or political authority over the missions. The reducciones competed with criollo settlers in regards to access to Guarani labor.
They were legal refuges for the Guarani from the encomienda system of forced labor, which effectively limited the pool of exploitable natives available to the large-scale arms. Because of Paraguay’s transitory environment, the mestizo population retained a much higher ratio of indigenous blood than other mestizo groups in Latin America (Pendle, 1967, page 5). The mix of cultural identities is also apparent in the modern-day characteristics of the mostly homogenous mestizo population, which follows the Spanish lifestyle and traditions but uses Guarani as the household language.
Paraguay claimed the title of the first independent nation in South America. At the end of the 18th century, Buenos Aires, loyal to the Spanish crown, attempted to gain control of Paraguayan colonies to keep them from French rule. France, under Napoleon Bonaparte, had temporarily seized Spain during that time period. The Spaniards in Paraguay had no interest in fighting the armies of Buenos Aires and abandoned the mestizos. When the Spaniards returned, they were unwelcome by the mestizos, who considered Paraguay an independent nation. Paraguay’s independence was actualized on May 17, 1811 Oermyn, page 24).
At the start of Spanish colonialism in Latin America, Paraguay was a promising territory because of its centrality and proximity to Peru. But as time went on and little gold and silver emerged, it lost development potential. In some senses this was a blessing n disguise because Paraguay avoided the wreckage of slavery that lasted in Peruvian and Mexican mining areas. Spanish settlement in Paraguay was less violent and invasive than elsewhere in Spanish America. Centuries of Spanish rule made many Paraguayans poor, uneducated, unaware of the outside world, and lacking in experience with organized protest to demand civil liberties.