20th May, 2003 // Paraguay
Theater is a popular medium, with occasional offerings in Guaraní as well as in Spanish. Visual arts of startling unconventionality can be seen in many galleries. Paraguay's pre-eminent literary figure is the poet-novelist Augusto Roa Bastos.
Paraguayan music is something of a curiosity - despite the fact that the majority of the population still speaks the native tongue, the music is European in origin, with little or no traces of Black, Brazilian or Argentinian influences. The guitar and harp are popular instruments and songs are usually slow and lachrymose. Dances, such as the polka and bottle dance (so-called because performers swing around with a jar on their head) are, however, much livelier. Agustín Barrios (1885-1944), one of Latin America's most revered composers for the guitar, often performed his music in full Guaraní costume, promoting himself as the Paganini of the guitar from the Paraguayan jungles.
Roman Catholicism is officially the country's religion, but the influence of the church is less pronounced than in many other Latin American countries. Other religious groups include fundamentalist Mennonites and the controversial New Tribes Mission, an evangelical group which operated with the collusion of Stroessner's dictatorship.
Meat dishes as well as tropical and subtropical foodstuffs play an important role in the Paraguayan diet. Grains, particularly maize, and manioc (cassava) are incorporated into almost all meals. Try tucking into locro, a maize stew, mazamorra, corn mush, mbaipy so-ó, a hot maize pudding with meat chunks, and sooyo sopy, a thick soup made of ground meat and served with rice or noodles. Desserts include mbaipy he-é, a delicious mix of corn, milk and molasses. Tea or mate is consumed in vast quantities while mosto (sugar-cane juice) and caña (cane alcohol) are also frequently imbibed.
***All information is provided from Lonely Planet World Guide
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