1902 Encyclopedia > Paraguay


PARAGUAY, a South American republic situated in the basin of the Parana-Paraguay system, between 22° and 27° 35' S. lat. and 54° 35' and 61° 40' IV. long. It is conterminous with Brazil, Bolivia, and the Argentine Rep- blic, and its boundaries were long under dispute. The Argentine Republic especially laid claim to a portion of the Gran Chaco to the north-east of the Pilcomayo; but in 1878 the president of the United States (to whose arbitration the matter had been submitted) decided in favour of Paraguay.1 The town of Villa Occidental, on the Gran Chaco side of the Paraguay river, opposite Asuncion, has since been called Villa Hayes. The whole area of the country is estimated at 91,980 square miles, of which 35,280 are in the Gran Chaco portion, Paraguay proper, or the country between the Paraguay and the Parana., is traversed from north to south by a broad irregular belt of highlands which are known as the Cordillera Amanbaya, Cordillera Urucury, drc., but partake rather of the character of plateaus, and form in fact a con-tinuation and outwork of the great interior plateau of Brazil (Keith Johnston, jun.2), The elevation nowhere much exceeds 2200 feet. On the western side these highlands terminate with a more or less sharply-defined edge, the country sloping gradually up to their bases in gentle undulations with open ill-defined valleys on the eastern side they send out broad spurs enclosing 'deep-cut valleys, and the whole country retains more of an upland character. The tributaries that flow westward to the Paraguay are consequently to some extent navigable, while those that run eastward to the Parana are interrupted by rapids and falls often of a formidable description.3 Apart from the central highlands there are several plateaus and knots of hills in the west between 25° and 26° 20' S. lat. The plateau on the edge of which Asuncion is built has a relative height of about 200 feet, and skirts the Paraguay for about 25 miles with red sandstone cliffs ; to the north of this is the Altos Cordillera, with a relative height of 600 feet. From the Asuncion plateau southwards, near the confluence of the Paraguay and Parana, there is a vast stretch of marshy country draining partly into the Ypoa lagoon ; and smaller tracts of the same character are found in other parts of the lowlands, especially in the valley of the Paraguay. The country sloping to the Parana is nearly covered with dense and well-nigh impenetrable forest, and has been left in possession of the sparsely-scattered native tribes. On the other hand the country sloping to the Paraguay, and comprising the whole of the properly settled districts, is, in keeping with its proximity to the vast plains of the Argentine Republic, grassy and open, though the hills are usually covered with forest, and clumps of trees.ere frequent in the lowlands. Except in the marshy regions already mentioned and along the rivers the soil is dry-, porous, and sandy, produced by the weathering of the red sandstone, which is the prevailing formation throughout the country.

The year in Paraguay is divided into two seasons, - " suinmer " lasting from October to March, and " winter " from April to September. December, January, and February are generally the hottest months, and Alay, June, July, and August the coldest. The most temperate month is April. The mean temperature for the year seems to be about 75° or 76° ; for summer 81°, for winter 71°. The rainfall, amounting to 58 inches at Asuncion, is distributed over 64 days,-75 day-s being cloady and 206 bright and clear. In the five years 1877 - S1 only 50 frosts were observed, and of these 17 fell in August. The wind blows from the south on 118 days, and from the north on 103 ; while from the east it blows only 44 days, and from the west only 3. Neither north nor south appears to obtain any definite mastery in any month or season. The south wind is dry, cool, fresh, and invigorating, and banishes mosquitoes for a time ; the north wind is hot, ntoist, and relaxing. Violent wind-storms, generally from the south, average sixteen per annum. Goitre and leprosy are the only endemic diseases ; but the natives, being underfed, are prone to diarrhwa and dyspepsia.' The fauna of Paraguay proper is practically the same as that of Brazil. Caymans, water-hogs (capinchos), several kinds of deer (Cervus paluclosus the largest), ounces, opossums, armadillos, vampires, the American ostrich, the ibis, the jabiru, various species popularly called partridges, the pato real or royal duck, the Palamedea cornuta, parrots and parakeets, are among the more notable forms. Insect life is peculiarly abundant ; the red stump-like ant-hills are a feature in every landscape, and bees used to be kept in all the mission villagos.

AS to the mineral resources of Paraguay but little is known--possibly because there is little to know. The .gold mines said to have been concealed by the Jesuits may have had no existence; and, though iron was worked by Lopez II. at Ibicuy (70 miles south-east of Asuncion), and native copper, black oxide of manganese, marbles, lime, and salt have been found in greater or less abundance, the real wealth of the country consists rather in the variety and value of its vegetable productions. Its forests yield at least seventy kinds of timber fit for industrial purposes, - some, such as the lapacho and quebracho, of rare excellence and durability, as is shown by the wonderful state of pre-servation in which the wood-work of early Jesuit churches still remains. Fifteen plants are known to furnish dyes, and eight are sources of fibre - the caraguatay especially being employed in the manufacture of the exquisite fianduty or spiderweb lace of the natives. Fruit trees of many kinds flourish luxuriantly ; the cocoa palm often forms regular groves, and the orano.e tree (reaching a height of 5D feet) is so common and 'tears so profusely that oranges, like bananas, have a; mere nominal value. In the MATE (q.v.), or Paraguayan tea, Paraguay- lias a commercial plant of great importance, which may be said to be peculi-arly its own ; and most of the primary crops of the tropics could be cultivated with ease if there were only men and means. Paraguay tobacco is prized in all the La Plata countries, and, as men, women, and children all smoke, there is a large home consumption ; but only a small quantity finds its way to Europe, under other names; coffee (though the berry is of excellent quality-, if slightly bitter) is even more neglected ; sugar is grown oniy for manufacture into rum and syrups, and loaf-sugar has to be imported from Brazil ; and, although the whole popula-tion is clothed exclusively in white cotton stuffs, and cotton grows almost spontaneously in the country, English goods burdened bi- a duty of 40 per cent. keep the market. Wheat, oats, and rice can all be raised in different districts, but the dietary staples of the Paraguayans are still, as when the Spaniards first came, maize and mandioca (the latter the chief ingredient in the excellent chipa or Paraguayan bread), varied it may be Nvith the seeds of the Victoria /via, whose, magnificent blossoms are, the great kature of several of the lakes and rivers. Cattle-breed,: ig was formerly a very important interest in several of the depart-niems, but the stock was nearly all destroyed during the war, and is only being slowly recruited from the Argentine liepublie. The total number of horned cattle is estimated at 500,000. La.nd may be purchased from private owners for from £160 to ot200 per square, league of 4500 English acres, but the Government rate amounts to £900 or 1:1000.

The inhabitants of Paraguay are mainly Guaranis or lialf-breeds with a strong proportion of Ctuarani blood.2 A peaceful, simple people, fond of flowers and fetes, they displayed during the desolat-ing wars of 1865-70 (as so often before in the time of the Jesuits) indomitable courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Trust-worthy figures in regard to the population can hardly be said to exist. A so-called census for 1879 gives a total of 346,048, which is probably not far from the truth. The female births being always ill eXCCO: of the male, and most of the full-grown men having perished in the wars, the females form about two-thirds of the whole. Of the foreign residents in 1679, about 4000 Were Italians, 400 Germans, 400 Spaniards, and 40 English. Formerly, about 1857, divided into twenty-five departments, the country was in 1876 distributed into twenty-three electoral districts, each with a guru politico, a juez de paz, and a municipality. Asu.Nctws (q. o.), the capital, is also the largost city 00,000 in 1857, 16,000 in 1679). Other places of present or historical importance are Villa Rica (12,570 in 1879), often called Villa Pobre, the chief seat of the, tobacco trade, and the easternmost of the larger towns ; Villa l'ilar or El l'ilar (3722), formerly Neembueu, opposite the mouth of the Bertnejo, and the "strangers' farthest " under 1Jr Francia's des-potism ; San Estanislao (7,153) ; San Pedro (9706), near the Tejui, about 3 leagues from its junction with the Paraguay; Concepcion (10,697), the northernmost of the towns or villages, 200 miles above Asuncion, and the trading centre for the northern mate plantations ; Humaita (3868), 198 miles below the capital, the site of the great earthwork:3 by which Lopez stopped the advance of the allies for more than a year ; Paraguari (5315), the present ter-minus of the railway ; Jaguaron (3413), 2i leagnes from I'araguari, founded in 1536, and the seat of a manufacture of orange-flower essence ; Ita (6332), known for its earthenware ; Itangua (6948,!, with brick and tile works ; Elaine (8878), the provisional capital in 1868; Villa Hayes (Villa Occidental, Nouvelle 13ourdeaux), 10 miles above Asuncion, founded in 1854 by Lopez with French settlers.3 Paraguay is a constitutional republic. The president and viee-president hold office for four years, and are again eligible after eight years. The legislative bodies are a chamber of deputies (one deputy from each 6000 inhabitants) and a senaue (one senator from each terri-torial division with 8000 inhabitants, and beyond that from every 12,000 inhabitants). There are five Government departments, and a supreme court of three salaried judges. The people are nominally Roman Catholics, but hill religious liberty prevails. Crime is comparatively rare, and is rapidly diminishing. :Marriage has fallen so completely out of fashion that only 3 per cent. of the births ;tre legitimate. Edncation is technically compulsory ; but the 178 schools were in 1879 attended only by 5862 boys and 920 girls. There is only one public; library (3000 vols.) in the country. The army, which, when Lopez II. ascended the throne, numbered 12,000 men, but with a reserve of' 46,000, is now reduced to 500 men ; every able-bodied citizen is under obligation to serve in ease of need. There is but one war-steamer, of 440 tons burden. The only railway is the line (45 miles) from Asuncion to Paraguari, which was. begun by Lopez I. in 1859, and surveyed as far as Villa Rica. It was bought for X100,000 by a jcint-stottk company in 1877. 'fin double run, occupying twelve hours, i8 performed four tittles ;t week. The general trade of the country has begun to revive front X131,493 in 1876, the value of the imports rose to X256,000 in 1881, and the exports from X68,577 to X385,700. Among the exports (all duty free) there appeared in 1881 - mate, X182,025; dry hides, £23,345 ; tobacco, X131,730 ; 20,009,597 cigars, X4802 (about seventeen a penny) ; 47,917,700 oranges, X9583 ; and bard woods, X3342. The customs furnish nearly four-fifths. of the national reVelltle (110t 11111C11 1110re than X100,000 in 1881). Previous to the War there was no national tlebt. 111 1871 and 1872 two foreign loans (nominally X1,000,000 and. X2,000,000) were contracted through ',Messrs Robinson, Fleming, & Company, London, and hypo-thecated on the public lands of Paraguay, valued at X19,380,000. Apart front the war debt of more than X45,000,000, the official statement for 1882 reoognizes a foreign debt of X3,463,000.

History. - In 1528 Sebastian Cabot, following in the footsteps of De Solis, reached Paraguay and built a fort called Santo Espiritu. Asuncion was founded on August 15, 1537, by Juan de Ayolas, and his successor _Marl ittez de lrala determined to make it the capital of the Spanish possessions east of the Andes. From this centre spanish adventurers pushed east to La Guayra bcyond the Parana, and west into the Gran Chaco ; and More long vast numbers of the less warlike natives were reduced to serlilom. '1'lie name Paraguay was applied not only to the country between Rio Paraguay, and Rio Parana, but to the whole Spanish territory, Which now comprises parts of Brazil, the republic of Uruguay, and the Argentine provinces of Buenos Ayres,. Entre Rios, Corrientes, Misiones, and part of Santa F6. It was not till 1620 that Paraguay proper and Rio de la Plata or Buenos Ayros were separated from each other as distinct governments, and they were both dependent on the vice-royalty of' Peru till 1776, when Buenos Ayres was erected into a vice-royalty, and Paraguay placed under its jurisdiction. In the history of Paraguay down to the latter part of the 18th century, the interest develops along two inain lines, which from time to time get entangled with eaeli other - the strugg,le -between Spaniard and Portuguese for the possession of the border region between the Brazils and the conntry of the plains, and the formation and defence of' a great philanthropic despotism by the Jesuits. The first Christian mis-sions in Paraguay were established by the Franciscans - Armenta, Lebrort, Solaim (who was afterwards canonized as the apostle of Paraguay), and Bolanos - between 1542 and 1560 ; but neither they nor the first Jesuit missionaries, Salonio, Field, and Ortega, were allowed to make their enterprise a permanent suecess. This fell to the lot of the second band of Jesuits, Catahlino, Mazeta, and Lorenzana, -who began work in 1605. The methods by which they controlled and disciplined the Guaranis have been described in the article AMERICA.' The greater number of the Jesuit " reductions" lay outside of the present limits of the republic, in the country south of the Parana, which now forms the two Argentine provinces of Corrientes and Misiones. La Guayra, one of the most celebrated, is in the Brazilian province of Parana. Though they succeeded in establishing a kind of iniperirtret in intipgriO, and were allowed to drill the natives to the use of' arms, the Jesuits never held rule in the govermnent of Paraguay ; indeed they- had nearly- as often to defend themselves from the hostility of' the governor and bishop at Asuncion as from the actual invasions of the Paulistas or Portu-guese settlers of Sao Paulo. It was only by the powerful assistance of Zabala, governor of Buenos Ayres that the Anti-Jesuit and quasi-national party which had been formed under Antequera was crushed in 17:35. In 1750 Ferdinand VI. of Spain ceded. to the Portuguese, in exchange for the fortified village of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay), both the district of La Guayra and a territory of some 20,000 square miles to the east of the Uruguay. Seven of their reductions being included in this area, the Jesuits determined to resist the transference, and it was only after several engagements that they were defeated by the combined forces of Spain and Portu-gal. The treaty which they thus opposed was revoked by Spain in 1761, brit the missions never recovered their prosperity', and the Jesuits were finally expelled the country in 1767. In 1811 Paraguay declared itself independent of Spain ; by 1814 it was a despotism in the hands of Dr I? !LANCIA (q.v.). On Francia's death in 1840, the chief power passed to his nephew Carlos Antonio LOPEZ (q. r.), and Ile was in 1862 succeeded by his son FrffuCiSCO Solano Lopez, whose ambitious schemes of conquest resulted in the almost total extinction of Paraguayan nationality. The three allies, Uruguay, Brazil, and the Argentine Republic, which united against hint, bound thetnselves by the treaty of' 1865 to respect and guaran-tee for live years the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Paraguay, and at the close of the war in 1870 a new constitution was established, and a president, Jovellanos, appointed under their protection. Reduced to utter helplessness, the country OU'e8 its continued existence to the jealousy and balance of power existing between its neighbours. By a separate treaty with 13razil in 1872 it undertook to pay the cost of the war - £40,000,000 to Brazil, X7,000,000 to the Argentine Republic, and X200,000 to Uruguay, or more than £136 per head of the population. An attempt made in 1873 hy Messrs Robinson and Fleming to establish an English colony of so-called Lincolnshire farmers ended in disaster. Somewhat better success has as yet attended the German colony of San 13ernardino on Lake Ipacanay (414 colonists in 1879). The Brazilian army of occupation was withdrawn only in 1876.

Of older works on Paraguay the most important are Azara's Voyages dans l' Amerique 1809; and Charlevoix, Ilistaire, already referred to. As commissioner for the sealement (in 1781) of the frontier between Spanish and Portuguese territory, Aznra enjoyed exceptional opportunities of informa-tion. Lozano's Hist. de la Conguista del Paraguay (used in MS. by Azara) was first prInted at Buenos Ayres, 1873-74. Ulrich Schmidt (often, even in editions of his work, called Sehmidel or Schmidels), a German adventurer,left a narrative of the first Spanish expeditions, which was published at Frankfort in 15a.3. Like much else of khe older literature it is included in Petit o de Ang.elis, Oolercion de &cum. hist. del Rio de la Plata, 1835, , and In De Bry's similar collection, aS well as in Barciats Ilistoriadores, A systematic nan afire of events in the Spanish period is given in Gregorio Funes, Ensayo de la hist. del Paraguay, Buenos Aires, y Tucuman, 3 vols., Buenos Aires, 1816; Washburn's History of Paraguay, Boston, 1871, deals with later times. See also Dobrizhoffer, de Abiponibus; Pnge, La Plata, &c., New York. 1867; Mansfield, Paraguay, &e., London, 1856: Burton, Letters from the Battlefields of Paraguay, 1870; Mulhall, Handbook of the River Plate Republics, 1875: Mrs Mnlhall, Between the Amerzon and Andes, ; E. F. Knight, Cruise of the Falcon, 1883. (14.. A. W )

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries