We arrived in Paraguay for a holiday on a Friday morning after a four hours flight. Streets were crowded, and buses were packed with people going to work and school. We had to go through the outskirts of the city to get to the growing suburb of San Lorenzo. This is where my cousin and my host resided. It was a forty minutes drive in a vehicle carrying seven passengers and the luggage. We stopped at my host’s house just briefly to freshen up.
We then kicked off and after driving for an hour or so we stopped for breakfast at Restaurant Parador, a roadside combination grocery store, and restaurant in the town of Paraguari. It’s a buffet style with food already cooked. I didn’t like the look of the fried eggs, so I opted for an empanada con Pollo, which essentially was a fried chicken sandwich on a roll, and a cup of delicious creamy hot chocolate. This was a little different from the empanadas I’m familiar with, a pastry filled with meat.
I was so much interested in learning the great history of Paraguay for the whole week that I spent, I learned that Paraguay is one of the best-kept travel secrets on the South American continent. Landlocked between Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina, it is sometimes called El Corazon de America, the Heart of America, because of it’s central location on the South American continent. It is divided by the Paraguay River into Eastern Paraguay and Western Paraguay. 90% of Paraguay’s population reside in Eastern Paraguay, also known as Parana. Western Paraguay, or El Chaco, is home to some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the world.
Most of the population of in Paraguay is mestizo, or mixed Amerindian and European. While Spanish is the predominant culture, Paraguay’s population blends in influences from German and Italian immigrants who helped repopulate the country after the devastating Triple Alliance War of 1870 eliminated two-thirds of the adult male population of Paraguay. Estimates place indigenous people groups between 1.7 and 5 percent of the population. Spanish and Guarani, the language of the area’s Amerindians, are both official languages in Paraguay. About 80% of the population speak both, often blending the two together in the local dialect known as Jopara. Additionally, some ethnic groups have maintained their native languages, notably German and Portuguese.
Paraguay is one of the least densely populated countries in South America. Most of the population of Paraguay is centered on the city of Asuncion, Paraguay’s capital and largest city. The Gran Chaco region, which accounts for 60% of the territory in Paraguay, is home to less than 2% of the country’s population. The Chaco region is home to 17 German Mennonite colonies. Most of the region, however, sparsely populated, and is home to some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet, featuring Jaguar, crocodilians, puma, giant anteater, over 500 species of birds, and over 200 species of reptiles and amphibians. The region contains the largest dry forest in South America and ranges from tropical to subtropical. In addition to the forest, the region boasts savannas, marshes, swamps, scrublands, and salt flats.
Popular music and dance in Paraguay include a distinctive form of polka that adds polyrhythms to the traditional European form. The bottle dance, in which a dancer spins a bottle overhead, is also popular. Most traditional music is played on the Spanish guitar and the harp.A holiday is incomplete visiting Paraguay.