Paraguay celebrates 200 years

Posted on May 24, 2011

Last Monday was the 200th anniversary of Paraguay winning its independence from Spain (and it was also Paraguayan Mother’s Day).  The anticipation for this event has been HUGE for months, and celebrations will be continuing all year long.

For example, there are commercial spots like this one – which emphasizes the Guarani heritage of Paraguay:

That’s traditional Paraguayan harp music playing in the background (I’m a big fan!).  Wish there was some mention of other ethnic groups in Paraguay, but it’s a great video to stir up national pride.

There has been a lot of emphasis on the historical events that shaped modern Paraguay; particularly the War of the Triple Alliance, the Chaco War, and the Stroessner Dictatorship.  A few weeks ago I went to a play at the Argentine Embassy that was about the Paraguayan and Argentinian perspectives during the War of the Triple Alliance.  As the story has been told to me by Paraguayans, Paraguay was once the wealthiest nation in South America, but the war against the combined forces of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay devastated the country and it took decades to recover: Paraguay lost a lot of its land, stockpiles of gold, and most of its male population.  The play was half in Guarani and half in Spanish, which was a nice touch, but it meant that I understood very little of the dialogue.  I did catch a few things: the burning of the archives in Asuncion, boy soldiers taking up arms after so many men had died, and the story of the Paraguayan soldier who lost both his legs during the war, and afterwards went house to house in the village where he lived to help ‘repopulate’ Paraguay after losing so many men (*wink wink*).  The play must have been good, because the audience gave a standing ovation.

Asuncion had several big activities planned to celebrate the bicentennial last Monday, including a parade and fireworks.  Buildings have been draped with flags and red-white-and-blue colours for weeks.  Lots of memorabilia is being sold and sported on houses, cars, and people.  (I have a little pin that a friend gave me!)

I was in Integrationville over the bicentennial long weekend, so festivities were on a smaller scale.  On Sunday afternoon the school kids gave an exhibition of reciting poetry, singing, and traditional Paraguayan dancing.  And then on Monday evening the high school kids did their version of reciting poetry, singing, and traditional Paraguayan dancing.  One of the nuns had a projector and was showing pictures from recent church events.

Unfortunately I don’t have any good pictures from either event (I’m rather short and was standing near the back of the crowd).  Instead, here’s a video of traditional Paraguayan dancing so you can see what some of the dances look like (though the kids were using a much simpler choreography!):

I want to get one of those twirly dresses.