Location: landlocked country in South America, bordering Brazil to the east, Argentina to the south and west, and Bolivia to the north and west
Official language Guaraní and Spanish
Area 406,752 km²
Population 7.1 million
Population density 18 inhabitants per km²
Currency Guaraní (PYG)
Time zone UTC-4, UTC-3 (daylight saving time)
Climate tropical to subtropical
Nature and climate
The Rio Paraguay, which runs from north to south, divides the country into the Gran Chaco in the west and the “Oriente” region in the east. The “Oriente” region, where 97% of the population lives, consists largely of subtropical mountain and table land with individual mountain ranges. The highest mountain is the Cerro Peró with 842 m height. The Gran Chaco area consists of dry forests, thornbush savannahs and partly swamplands. Some uncontacted nomadic indigenous people also live there.
The climate in Paraguay is tropical to subtropical, with wet and dry periods. Rainfall varies greatly across the country and large temperature swings are not uncommon.
In the eastern part, vegetation is densest and the trees lose only part of their leaves during the cooler season. Paraguay’s wildlife includes various monkeys, jaguars, anteaters, capybaras, ocelots; caimans, snakes and numerous species of fish. There are more than 700 species of birds, including toucans, hummingbirds, parrots and nandus. Numerous national parks have been established to protect the native nature.
In pre-Columbian times, what is now Paraguay was part of the settlement area of the indigenous Guaraní tribes. (the name means “warrior”). Even today, some indigenous tribes still live in Paraguay.
The Spaniard Juan de Salazar y Espinosa founded the present capital Asunción in 1537. From 1580, the first reductions were founded by the Franciscan Luis de Bolaños – settlements in which the indigenous population was controlled and missionized and shielded from access by large landowners, slave traders and the Spanish crown. From 1609 to 1767, these reductions were continued by Jesuits.
In 1811, Paraguay became independent from Spain.
In the Triple Alliance War of 1864 to 1870 against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, Paraguay lost much of its territory and population. After a victory in the Chaco War against Bolivia, extensive territories were secured.
Since the beginning of the 20th century the political situation was unstable, there were uprisings and several changes of government. In 1954, a military coup took place under General Alfredo Stroessner, who had German ancestors, and the subsequent dictatorship lasted for 35 years. During this time, immigration to Paraguay was strongly encouraged.
In 1992 Paraguay got a democratic constitution.
Economy and infrastructure
Agriculture and water management play a major role in Paraguay. Since the 1970s, an industrial sector has also developed, and today the service sector accounts for the largest share of the gross domestic product. In the Chaco, pasture farming is the main activity, and field farming is also practiced when rainfall is sufficient. During the last decades, milk production has been expanded by the Mennonites according to European standards and is firmly in their hands. The main agricultural crops are soybeans, cassava, cotton, sugar cane and cereals. Paraguay is the largest producer of mate tea in the world. 21% of the country is covered with forest and forestry is of great importance. However, the situation of the forest is still critical, the demand for wood is constantly growing and so is the partly illegal deforestation. To protect the remaining natural forests, fast-growing woods such as eucalyptus, teak and pine are planted. Predominant industries are wood and meat processing, the extraction of vegetable oils, and the production of confectionery and fruit juices. There are also textile and glass factories, as well as a cement and a steel plant. The Itaipú hydroelectric plant, which Paraguay operates jointly with Brazil, along with two other hydroelectric plants, secures the country’s electricity supply and allows surplus energy to be sold. In recent years, the role of tourism as an economic factor has slowly grown.
Inland navigation on the Rio Paraguay is of great importance, and Asunción is home to an important port. There are airports in Asunción and in Ciudad del Este with flight connections to neighboring countries and a number of smaller airports. Rail service has largely ceased in Paraguay, and the oldest railroad station in Asunción has since served as a museum. There are a number of national roads (rutas), most of which are two-lane and mostly paved. The main form of passenger transport is buses within the country and there are direct connections to neighboring Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Uruguay.