The PARAGUAY RIVER, flowing from north to south, divides the country into two geographic regions: the eastern region, which is an extension of the Brazilian Plateau; and the western region, which forms the northern part of the GRAN CHACO plains. Paraguay has a developing market economy that is based largely on agriculture, trade, and light industries. It is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president.
Seminomadic tribes speaking Guarani were in the area long before it was settled by Spain in the 16th-17th century Paraguay was part of the Viceroyalty of RiO DE LA PLATA until it became independent in 1811. It suffered from dictatorial governments in the 19th century and was devasted by the War of the TRIPLE ALLIANCE (1864, 1865-70), which it fought against Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, The CHAco WAR (1932-35), with Bolivia over territorial rights in Gran Chaco, was settled primarily in Paraguay's favour by the peace treaty of 1938. Military governments, including that of ALFREDO STROESSNER, predominated from the mid-20th century until a civilian president, Juan Carlos Wasmosy, was elected in 1993. The country suffered from a financial crisis beginning in the late 1990s.
We hard to describe Paraguay without churning out the old South American stereotype. The country suffered one of the region's most durable dictatorships, harbored escaped Nazis and remains dogged by corruption and contraband.
But delve beneath the cliches and you will find a vibrant, challenging and largely unvisited destination that welcomes adventurous travelers to the riverside capital of Asuncion, the Jesuit missions of the upper Rio Parana and the vast Chaco.
Asuncion is an energetic capital with thank
fully few high rises and an enviable river
side setting, while southern Paraguay's
Jesuit mission ruins are just as appealing as
Argentina's, with the added advantage of
being less touristy. The Chaco, with its abun
dant bird life, is one of South America's last
frontiers, and boarding a local passenger
boat heading up the Rio Paraguay will be a
fascinating experience, though not for the
Visitors unused to stifling temperatures may prefer the winter months from May to September when the weather is relatively cool and fresh. In the barbarous summer heat (October to April), Paraguayans dress informally in light cottons, but a sweater or light jacket is advisable for changeable spring weather. If you're outdoors in the subtropical sun, don't forget a widebrimmed hat or baseball cap, a lightweight long sleeved shirt and sunscreen. Mosquito repellent is imperative in many places, including the Chaco.