Cultural Notes from Paraguay, Part 1 of 1000

Posted on September 30, 2010

Paraguayans have tons of little traditions and customs – I can’t possibly document them all, but I’m going to start posting “Cultural Notes from Paraguay” to document the ones I learn about.

Ñoqui on the 29th

It is Paraguayan tradition to eat pasta (specifically, ñoqui) on the 29th of every month. You put money underneath your plate to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming month.

Señor octubre

Señor octubre is like the skinny, evil twin of Santa Claus.  In October he brings his bag full of bad luck, illness, poverty, and hunger.  In order to ward off the bad stuff he brings, on the 1st of October people eat jopara.  Here I’m talking about jopara the food, not jopara the language.  Jopara the food is a mix of beans, rice, meat and vegetables, that’s supposed the signify the wish for lots of good things to come.



On the 1st of August, another month thought to bring bad luck, people are advised to drink carrulim as a remedy to purify their blood and avoid the bad luck.  Carrulim is an alcoholic beverage made of caña (sugar cane), ruda (no idea what this is, but it was described to me as being like a lemon with a really strong odor) and limon (lemon) (hence ca-ru-lim).

The rules of the road

I may or may not have mentioned here that I am terrified of driving my truck around Asunción, especially downtown Asunción where the CEDIC laboratory is located.  What terrifies me is the apparent lack of or disregard for traffic rules when determining right-of-way.  I’ve had the rules for right-of-way explained to me several times, and I thought I had the basics of determining right-of-way at intersections down:

  1. If your road is bigger than the road you are intersecting with, you have the right of way.
  2. If your road is made of better materials (asphalt) than the other road (cobblestones), you have the right of way.
  3. All else being equal, the car on the right has the right-of-way.

However, there are some finer points to these rules that I find impossible to master.  Today, while Hugo and I were walking to pick up our lunches at “Garage” (a yummy local eatery), we witnessed a traffic situation where nobody in the intersection seemed capable of figuring out who had right of way.  The roads were of equal size and both were made of asphalt, but when the car on the left yielded to the car on the right, chaos ensued because the car on the right thought the car on the left had right-of-way.

So I said to Hugo, “what’s the problem here? the car on the right has the right-of-way.”  But Hugo insisted “no, the car on the left has the right of way because that road is more important.”  And I was like, “how do you know the road is more important?  They’re the same size, they’re both asphalt, and there’s no sign.”  And Hugo says, “yes, but this road connects directly with [name of another road that’s bigger] further up”.  And I was like, “how is anyone supposed to know that from this intersection?!  Do I need to know the entire layout of Asunción in order to figure out right-of-way?!”  And Hugo said “Yes, it’s a problem for locals too.”  Hahaha!

Furthermore, Hugo went on to say again that the materials the road is made of are important.  I said “I don’t understand, both of those roads were asphalt.”  And Hugo says “But the one on the right used to be cobblestone.”  And I said “Used to be?  So not only do I have to know the entire layout of Asunción, I need to know the history of the construction of its roads to figure out right-of-way?!”  Apparently, yes.  If there was an accident in the intersection, Hugo’s arguments would hold up in the court system and mine would not.

So, I will be maintaining my minimal driving in Asunción strategy.

Posted in: Cultural notes, Food