PARAGUAY – THE PLACE
Paraguay is located in South America surrounded by Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia. It is roughly the size of California and is home to 6,700,000 people. The original inhabitants were the Guarani Indians. Paraguay gained independence from Spain in 1811. Today, both Spanish and Guarani are the national languages, with both being taught in school. Asuncion (population 2,130,000) is the capital, located in the southwestern region, near the border of Argentina.
The land of Paraguay is rich with natural beauty and resources. It is the 6th largest producer of soy in the world, and also exports feed, cotton, meat, edible oils, wood, and leather.
PARAGUAY – THE PEOPLE
The Paraguayan people are warm and hospitable. Almost 90% are Roman Catholic. The Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses have also been zealously recruiting 1-2% of the remaining population to their cults.
There is a special tea-like drink they drink called mate (if hot) or terere (if cold). It is made of Yerba (dried herbs) and can have added things such as mint. They put the Yerba in a special cup made of wood or ox horn called a Guampa. To drink the tea, they have a special silver straw, bombilla. This straw filters out the yerba as you drink it. Every morning they drink mate, usually in circles where a common guampa is passed and everyone drinks until they say “Gracias” which means they have had enough. In the afternoons before lunch they drink terere, the cold version of it. Again they pass the guampa around until “Gracias” but the guampa looks slightly different from that of a mate cup. They eat a lot of beef and pasta. Empanadas are a popular food; it’s like a small meat pie and is as common as the hamburger is to the United States. There is also a starchy vegetable called Mandioca (also known as cassava, yam, yuca or tapioca) that they eat at every meal equivalent to bread.