20th May, 2003 // Paraguay
The History of Paraguay
Almost no archaeological research has been done in Paraguay, and the pre-Columbian history of the country is poorly documented. It does seem certain that the eastern part of the country was occupied by Guarani-speaking indigenous people for at least 1,000 years before the Spanish conquest. Evidence indicates that those indigenous inhabitants had developed a fairly sophisticated level of political autonomy, with quasisendentary, multi-village chiefdoms.
The first Spaniards to settle in the new territory during the 16th century were predominately young men, almost no women followed them to the relatively unpromising region. Following the "reduction" of the native population, the Spaniards quickly founded a mixed, or mestizo, population who spoke the language of their indigenous mothers but adopted many of the cultural norms of their Spanish fathers.
The country's colonial history was one of general calm, punctuated only by turbulent political events. As a colony, it was economically unimportant to the Spanish crown, and the distance of its capital from other new cities on the continent virtually ensured the territory's isolation. Paraguay declared its independence from Spain in 1811.
From independence onward, the new country has a fascinating history of dictatorial governments, from the utopianism regime of Dr. Francia (El Supremo) to the suicidal reign of Francisco Salano Lopez, who nearly devested the country in warfare against the combined forces of Brazil Argentina, and Uruguay from 1865 though 1870. That was of the so-called "Triple Alliance" ended with the near annihilation of Paraguay, but set the stage for the formation of a two-party (Colorado vs. Liberal) political system that would govern the country throughout the 20th century.
Modern-day Paraguayans look with pride on history of surviving devastating wars and rebuilding their country in the face of great odds. On the other hand, initiative and creativity were stifled for many years during the rule of a new series of dictators during the 20th century, most notably President Alfredo Stosessner, who ruled from 1954 through 1989.
There is little ethnic strife to impede social and economic process, although there is social conflict caused by underemployment and the enormous gap between the rich and the poor. Opportunities to correct these inequities have resulted from a series of positive steps since 1989 ousting of the last dictator, which had moved the country towards a fully functioning democracy. However, the tradition of hierarchical organizational structure and generous rewarding of political favors still prevails.
***All information is provided from Peace Corps publication...Paraguay Welcome book
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