Here I stand behind beautiful Paraguayan hills in Colonia Independencia, a town with strong German influence and culture as many Germans have crossed the Atlantic to immigrate here. This town is just a few hours from my site in the neighboring department (departments are the same as states in the USA). Here Paraguayans and Germans have grown to have a strong friendship appreciating and valuing both dynamic yet now interwoven cultures.
I went there with several other Peace Corps Volunteer friends for their fun annual Beerfest, or Octoberfest (although it’s takes place Nov. 1), one of the biggest parties in PY, and the largest I went to so far. I was told by a local German working the event there told me about 15-20,000 people were there. They had a lot of authentic German food, traditional German dances and live concerts by local PY artists, a great time!
A brief historical snapshot on foreigners in PY
Many may wonder why would someone decided to move to Paraguay out of all the other countries in the world. There are actually large communities of German, Italian, Australian, French Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Arab, Bolivian, Brazilian, Argentinian ancestry and others throughout PY among the principally Spanish descendant population. At the same time, many Paraguayans go aboard such as to Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia (its border countries), Spain or the USA to seek more economic opportunities given the high unemployment.
Nevertheless, many foreigners are attracted to Paraguay by the beautiful culture, people, nature, and ideal conditions of farmland for livestock, largely cattle, and a variety of agriculture such as soy, sugar cane, and sesame or even a recent strong growing economy to start commercial businesses here. Paraguay is also a relatively stable young Democratic country with no active nation-wide large scale conflict. As most Paraguayans usually say about their country or town, it’s ”tranquilopa” which is calm in Guarani.
The Spaniards first settled and colonized Paraguay in search of resources and wealth in the 16th century, after-which, Paraguay declared its independence from Spain in 1811. Since then many foreigners moved to PY looking for a new world, land and life and/or fleeing oppression or conflict back home. PY in recent times and historically has had an open liberal entrance visa policy for foreigners from all over the world.
After the tragic Trip Alliance War (1865-70), which according to Thomas Whigham of the University of Georgia, 60% of the population and 90% of the men died (however, other reports are lower), post-war governments distributed brochures giving away land and a free trip to Paraguay to attract new immigrants.
A chain of Utopian colonies began including a ”New Australia” and Arayan ”Nueva Germania” co-established by Fredirch Nietzche’s sister in 1887 together with other German colonists. Another German community by the Bolivian border are the Mennonites, which came from the Soviet Union in the 1930s, are known to produce quality agriculture including beef in the country. Of note, Paraguay, including under the dictator Alfredo Stroessner, in office 1954-1989, harbored numerous Nazi war criminals from World War II such as physician Josef Mengele.
Paraguay is the only Latin American country that has still preserved its original native indigenous language, along with its rich culture and traditions, to the extent that the country is fully bilingual along with Spanish; although less than 5% of the population is indigenous, Guarani is spoken by an estimated 90% of Paraguayans. Just about everywhere you go, everyone speaks it.
Subsequently, Paraguay is a unique beautiful place in the world where both foreigners from all over the world and locals mix in the crossroads of the ”heart of South America”.
Fun pictures from Beerfest!