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Paraguay is known for ..., yes, what exactly? We know that it is a country in South America and that the capital is Asuncion, and the geography classes have been such a long time ago. You never hear a friend or a colleague who has visited Paraguay and even at the travel agencies in the Netherlands say that you visit everything in a few days. In Dutch we say "something we don't know, we don't love" and that certainly applies to the beauty of Paraguay. To introduce you to this South American country, we have fifteen facts about Paraguay.
15 facts about Paraguay
- Paraguayan flag:.The Paraguayan flag has exactly the same colours and orden as the Dutch flag. The Paraguayan, however, differs due to the emblem in the middle of the flag. That emblem is different on the front and back of the flag, which is unique in the world.
- Two official languages: In addition to Spanish, Paraguay has a second official language, Guarani. Almost everyone in the country speaks or understands this language and most people speak a mixture between Spanish and Guarani. Nowadays, Guarani is a mandatory language at school.
- El Chaco: The region in the west of Paraguay is called El Chaco and consists of 60% of the total area, yet hardly 3% of the population lives there. Together with the Amazon forest, Patagonia and the Atacama desert, it is one of the toughest and most difficult regions to live in South America. The Chaco was the setting for the longest war in South America between Bolivia and Paraguay, between 1932 and 1935.
- Cheese and cheese: Two traditional dishes from Paraguay are Chipas and Sopa Paraguaya. Chipas are cheese biscuits made from manioc flour and a lot of cheese. The variant to which cornmeal is added, is the most popular and everybody eats it on Good Friday. Another dish with lots of cheese is the Sopa Paraguaya, the only soup in the world that is not liquid. It is a type of corn bread with onion, fat, cheese, eggs, milk and butter.
- Cold tea: In Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay they drink maté, a herbal drink that is drunk from a spherical cup by a metal straw. In Paraguay it is hot all year round and they replace the hot water with ice-cold tea made from various spices, Térére. In Paraguay you will never see a Paraguayan without its large thermos with ice cold water and its térére cup.
- Crazy exchange rate: The official currency in Paraguay is called the Guarani. Although the currency is reasonably stable, it has a remarkable exchange rate, so that after the first time you visit an ATM machine, you leave as a millionaire. One euro equals 7,000 Guarani. The first few days you start to frighten yourself when you see all the prizes, but you soon learn that one hundred thousand Guarani is barely fifteen euros.
- Alfredo Stroessner: Paraguay has had the longest dictatorial regime in South America. Between 1954 and 1989 Alfredo Stroessner was in power as a dictator. He was the son of a German father and was nicknamed El Rubio, the blonde guy. During his regime, Paraguay became a popular safe place for Nazi war criminals.
- Mennonites: A large community of Mennonites live in Paraguay, who mainly came from Russia and Canada in the 1930s. The Mennonite community is known for its strict rules with large families and where marriage outside the home community are not allowed. Some communities even prohibit any form of technology. The largest communities in Paraguay live in Filadelfia, Loma Plata and Neuland, who do embrace the technology and owe their wealth to this.
- Harp: The traditional music from Paraguay has a special musical instrument, the harp. Originally it came in the 16th century via the Portuguese and the Spaniards, after which the local Indians turned out to be particularly gifted in the carvings.
- Football: Like all countries in South America, football is the most popular sport. Paraguay went to the World Championships several times, but never made it to the semi-finals. The most famous Paraguayan footballer is goalkeeper Chilavert. He is now retired, but for years he took all free kicks and penalties with the national team. Paraguay wasn't present in the last World Cup in Russia. Besides football, fishing is a very popular sport.
- Nicknames: Paraguay has several beautiful nicknames. The most famous are 'the heart of South America', 'the land of water' and 'the island surrounded by mainland'.
- Largest navy: Although Paraguay only has land borders, it has a large navy. Of all the countries in the world without access to the sea, Paraguay has even the largest naval power. With Brazil and Argentina, large parts of the borders are rivers, and access to the Atlantic is via the Rio Parana, passing Argentinian territory.
- Foreign colonies: After World War II, many Nazi followers flock to Paraguay. Under the dictatorial regime of Stroessner, Paraguay proved to be a safe haven. There are many colonies of Germans, Russians, Japanese and Belgians, where traditional culture and language has been preserved.
- First railway:In the 1800s Paraguay was one of the most developed and richest countries in South America. At that time many engineers from Europe came to Paraguay and developed a military power, several industries and the first railway in South America. This ran from the capital of Asuncion to Encarnacion in the south of the country.
- Renewable energy: Paraguay has enormous water resources and access to two major rivers, the Rio Parana and the Rio Paraguay. 99.9% of the energy that the country produces comes from hydroelectric energy. 75% of them from the Itaipu dam, together with the three gorges dam the largest in the world. The Itaipu dam is located in the Rio Parana and ends up further in the world famous Iguazu Falls in Brazil. This does not mean, however, that Paraguay does not use other forms of energy. Gas and oil are imported from Bolivia.