The Republic of Paraguay
15 October 2012
The Republic of Paraguay is located in central South America. My reasons for choosing Paraguay are both personal and academic. My undergraduate degree is in International Studies with a focus on Latin America. As part of my university program, I did two study abroad terms in Argentina and Brazil. In 2007, while studying in Brazil, I made a brief visit to Asunción, Paraguay. Recent political strife in Paraguay caught my attention. The country had finally been progressing politically but in June 2012 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 Guaraní 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, Fundación Saraki, are my motivation for studying Paraguay.
Land and water combined, the area of Paraguay is 153,398 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 Región Oriental and the larger Chaco Region to the west. The two regions provide contrasting environments, with expansive plateaus and low sylvan hills in the Región 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 its dry forests and thorny scrubs causes it to be inhabited by less than 5% of the population. The Estero Patiño 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 and Paraguay are two mountain ranges, the Serra de Amambaí and the Serra de Maracajú, 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 (Hernández, 2004, pages 11, 16). Paraguay’s natural resources include hydropower, timber, iron ore, manganese, copper, coal and limestone (Hernández, 31). The provincial capital and largest municipality of Paraguay is the city of Asunción, 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. Asunción’s large river port provides access to the rest of the continent. Asunción houses the national government, the Congreso, the Cathedral and the Universidad Nacional de Asunción. Data collection in Paraguay is not sufficiently standardized; the census is infrequent and inaccurate which makes 2009 population of Asunción- 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 17.886 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.
Paraguay’s history, among other defining characteristics,...
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