Middle of the 15th Century
Before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, the territory was inhabited by a constellation of indigenous people whose origins, languages, religions and socioeconomic systems were very different. The Guarani tribes are the most notorious ones and the most associated to Paraguay. Their ancestors would be more than 7.000 years old on the continent.
Discovery and conquest
From 1524 to 1547
The estuary of the Rio de la Plata is discovered in 1516 by Juan Diaz de Solis; Alejo García, in 1524 - by land - and Sebastian Gaboto, navigating on the river, are the first in getting to Paraguay.
Looking for "El Dorado" (Peru), the land where they said "gold and silver sprouted", the Spanish conquerors founded "Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion" (Our Lady of Assumption), on August 15th, 1537.
In order to establish a better relationship with the natives, Assumption became the colonial government's capital on the Rio de la Plata and turned out to be a "Shelter and protection of the conquest as well as the "Mother of cities". Successive expeditions left from there in order to found towns and settlements, including the repopulation of the abandoned Buenos Aires (1580).
The dream of getting to "El Dorado" through the Silver River (Rio de la Plata) vanished in 1547, when an expedition that was looking for the route to Peru discovered Spanish-speaking Christianized natives.
From 1580 to 1810
A relatively peaceful and isolated existence stimulated the integration between Spanish and Guaranis, important factor in the foundation of the Paraguayan nation. However, several indigenous insurrections took place and were bloodily repressed.
The presence and the activities of the Jesuits' priestly order (from 1609 to 1767) are an important indication referring to that period. link. Cap 12. Provincia Jesuìtica del Paraguay
In 1617, a great dismemberment of the so-called "Giant Province of the Indies" takes place: Assumption loses its supremacy and the Spanish immigration is interrupted.
Between 1721 and 1735, occur the "communal revolutions", the biggest challenge to the colonial political system.
Bordering negotiations between the Kingdoms of Spain and Portugal come to an end by ceding several Jesuitical reductions to the Portuguese. This results into the so-called "guaranitical wars" and the expulsion of the priests.
In August, 1776, the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata is created, instituting Buenos Aires as capital. This colonial political division later would feed the Argentinean pretensions of annexation and would influence the independent life of Paraguay.
From 1811 to 1813
Fernando VII, the Spanish king being captured by the Napoleonic troops, Buenos Aires elects a Governmental Assembly in 1810 and requests the subordination of Paraguay; in Assumption it is decided to obey the Council of Spanish Regency. At the beginning of 1811, a Buenos Aires' army invades the country and is defeated by the Paraguayan Creoles. Nevertheless, the revolutionary principles are spread.
The independence of the Spanish crown quickly materialized and without blood effusion, in the night of May 14 to May 15, 1811. Since the realistic authorities were already informed of the plot and were negotiating a protection agreement with Brazil, a group of patriots preceded their plans, controlled the headquarters and required the capitulation of the governor who didn't oppose any resistance.
It is so in the middle of ambiguities referring to the immediate way to follow (subordination to Buenos Aires or full emancipation) that the Republic was moulding itself.
From 1814 to 1840
Several governmental experiments end with the creation of a two-member-consulate (October, 1813) resulting into Dr. Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia's dictatorship: temporary first (1814) and unlimited afterwards (1816).
During his administration, Francia isolated the country, reorganized the public administration and finances of the State (by means of monopolies), forced to auto-provision (the so-called "Estancias de la Patria" or "Homeland Ranches"), subordinated the Church as well as the foreigners (by confiscating their possessions) and created a respectable army. Although he extended the primary education, he eliminated all kind of superior preparation.
Francia was an educated, honest and ferocious man as few. He consolidated the independence and left an enriched State as well as fearful people.
Francia, sick, died on September 20th, 1840, without naming any successor.
The government of the Lopezes
From 1844 to 1870
When Francia died, a period of anarchy and change of regimes by "putsches" reigned; a consulate assumes the power until March, 1844, when a Congress sanctions the "Law establishing the political administration of the Republic of Paraguay", norm that some consider as the first constitution of the country. One of the consuls, Carlos Antonio Lopez, is elected president for a ten-year period (he will be re-elected three times, until his death).
The government of Lopez (1841-62) was of economic development and big realizations: the first iron foundry of America (1854), the second Railroad of America (1856), a fleet furrowing the Rio de la Plata, carrying on board the exportations of the country (1856), a telegraphic service (1854). It is in a context of production and trade that numerous public buildings and schools were built.
In order to achieve the purposes of governmental development, technicians, equipments and European machineries were brought to Paraguay; in turn, youths were sent abroad.
Using little skirmishes and a lot of diplomacy, Lopez succeeds in differing border problems with Brazil and Argentina for several years. He also overcomes a serious diplomatic conflict with the United States (the Hopkins case in 1854) that nearly ends by an invasion of the country.
Carlos A. Lopez dies in September, 1862: before his death, he names his son, Francisco Solano, as successor. A weak opposition cannot avoid a Congress to confirm General Solano Lopez in his functions, the following month. It is the beginning of the "lopism" and "antilopism" that will be of great influence on the socio-political history of Paraguay.
The war against the Triple Alliance
From 1865 to 1870
August, 1864. Brazil invades Uruguay; Paraguay, ignoring its traditional politics of neutrality, is involved.
Agreements in chain end up in constituting the "Triple Alliance", integrated by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The three countries sign an agreement, in May, 1865, which considers a scandalous allotment of lands and compensations on behalf of Paraguay.
The Paraguayan army sustains heroic battles against a superior enemy in weapons and number, but is condemned. Even women and children fight during the final retreat.
In Cerro Cora, on March 1st, 1870, the Brazilian troops corner Lopez who, already severely injured, does not surrender. Summoned to surrender, he launches his last attack and pronounces his illustrious final thought: "I die with my Homeland". He is killed there, and the so-called "Great War" or against "the Triple Alliance" comes to an end.
Less than a third of the half million inhabitants in 1860 survive. Almost all are women, children and old people. Almost no men remained after the war.>
From 1870 to 1932
A temporary government convokes a constituent convention. Paraguay has a liberal juridical structure since November, 1870.
Political conflicts occur, promoted by victorious allies' influences. In 1876, the allied forces remove their troops of Assumption and sign the peace treaties.
1880 is the beginning of privatizing state-controlled properties: public buildings, forests, fields and the railroad are sold to foreign financiers, for most. Large landed estates are constituted and legalized practices of slavery take place in the maté plantations (the mensus).
The internal crisis among members of the red party ("Partido Colorado") intensifies at the beginning of the century and smoothes the progress of a revolution at the end of the year 1904. It is the beginning of the liberal governments' era that will spread until 1936.
The labor movement organizes itself; labor and craftsmen's confederations of anarchist tendency emerge in Assumption. Appearance of intellectual freethinkers as well as development of secular and anticlerical thought.
During the 1st World War, meat and tannin industries get a real affluence, while Assumption considerably modernizes.
Amid reforms and authorities' changes, including bloody civil wars, the question of borders with Bolivia becomes controversial.
A deep world economic crisis (1929-1930), new ideological trends and the question of limits with Bolivia stir the political milieu up.
The War of the Chaco
From 1932 to 1935
In spite of diplomatic agreements, an old conflict with regard to the Chaco among Bolivians and Paraguayans results into a war.
After having repelled a great Bolivian offensive, in the beginning of 1933, the Paraguayans pass to the offensive and reach, at the cost of big sacrifices, the foothills of the Andes, in October 1934. In April of 1935, they move forwards Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
In the presence of a mediating Commission, Paraguay and Bolivia sign the peace on June 12th, 1935, after a 3-year war. The material and human losses were severe, for both sides. The Paraguayan economy endured another hard stroke: hardly 60 years after having been half destroyed by the Great War (1865/1870).
The agreement ratified the Paraguayan control on great part of the Chaco's territory but left petroleum fields to Bolivia. In term of lives, it signified the disappearance of approximately thirty-one thousand Paraguayans.
A deep transformation occurs within the army and in popular sectors during the conflict. Criticisms regarding the liberal regime are exacerbated, while a disordered demobilization aggravates the political climate. On February 17th, 1936, military forces start a revolution, abolish the Constitution of 1870 and suspend the political parties. Colonel Rafael Franco, a war hero, assumes the presidential functions.
Militarization and “colorization”
From 1936 to 1954
A series of reforms are decreed by the revolutionary government (among them, the obligation to work 8 hours daily and the Sunday's rest). Ideological differences generate a new putsch as well as a new power change in August 1937.
August, 1939. Amid great political uneasiness, and by means of elections, General José Felix Estigarribia, who leaded the Paraguayan army during the war against Bolivia, reaches the presidency.
Estigarribia, sympathizer of fascism, dissolves the Congress, assumes all powers and abolishes the Constitution of 1870. In July, 1940, an authoritarian and nationalist Carta Magna, guarantied by referendum, is sanctioned.
September, 1940. Estigarribia tragically dies in an aviation accident and General Higinio Morinigo, strong man of the moment, turns out to be his successor.
In 1942, a decree dissolves the Liberal Party. Without Congress or political opposition, Morinigo is elected president. Broken the relationships with the European Axis, he receives a considerable American financial support during World War II.
The State grows: creations of, among others, the Bank of the Paraguay (today Central Bank of Paraguay), the Merchant Fleet and the Social Security Institute (IPS). Labor organizations are being politicized.
June, 1946. A "red-febrerist" coalition's cabinet is constituted. People in exile return to the country and public liberties are re-established. This period is known as "The democratic Spring".January 13th, 1947. The febrerists leave the government and, some months later, troops rise up against the same one.
August, 1948. The coalition of soldiers, liberals, febrerists and communists is defeated by Morinigo by means of the red civilians' support (the "pynandí"). The 1947's bloody civil war ends in persecuting and exiling the opponents.
Morinigo is deposed in June, 1948. The instability provokes successive changes until the presidency of Federico Chavez (1949/1954). On May 4th, 1954, a military coup headed by Alfredo Stroessner forces Chavez to walk out.
The longest dictatorship of South America
From 1954 to 1989
Designated "red" (colorado) candidate, Stroessner is elected president. The army, allied of the Red Party (Partido Colorado), acquires the political hegemony it looked for since 1936.
A new Constitution comes into force in 1967. Stroessner is re-elected every five years. The opposition is repressed through his government by means of persecution, repression, tortures and death.
The public liberties suffer restrictions since, during the whole government of Stroessner, the country was in aforesaid "State of Emergency".
The colonization of the Eastern part of the country, in the sixties, restructures the population of the Oriental Region. However, the agrarian problem is not solved.
The State continues broadening: Corposana is founded in 1954 (today "ESSAP"), the Bank of Development (Banco de Fomento) (1961) and the IBR (1963), among others. The monumental Itaipú fires up between 1973 and 1982, bringing a wealth and a prosperity and peacefulness squandered by an unequalled consumerism.
The Red Party goes through a crisis in 1987 with the accession to power of the "active members" and the political situation worsens. This last fact, among others, constituted of the causes of Alfredo Stroessner's collapse and of his 35-year dictatorship, the longest of South America.
At dawn of February 3rd, 1989, Alfredo Stroessner is overthrown, product of a military movement led by General Andres Rodriguez.
After having dissolved the Parliament, General Rodriguez legitimated all political parties, except the Communist Party, and organized general elections on May 1st of the same year.
These measures started a transition process towards democracy and, at the same time, in harmony with what occurred in whole Latin America, liberalization and reforms of the economy.
Politically, the most outstanding facts were: the election of Andres Rodriguez as president on May 1st, 1989, with 74.1% of the votes; the promulgation of a new National Constitution in June 1992 establishing a democratic system of government and which considerably improved the protection of the basic rights and the power handover, in August 1993, on behalf of General Rodriguez to Engineer Juan Carlos Wasmosy, first civil president since 40 years.
Engineer Wasmosy was the candidate of the Red Party (Colorado) for the presidential elections carried out in May 1993, elections which, according to international observers, were fair and free.
Economically, the most outstanding facts of General Rodriguez' management were the monopolies breaking up of several public services, the release of the financial System with the liberalization of the interest rates and exchange rates, the reduction of the external debt and the beginning of structural reforms inspired in the ideas of the "Washington Consensus".
The first government of a civil president led by Eng. Wasmosy constituted a lamentable disappointment. The corruption and the successive financial crises of 1995 and 1997 gave place to a very serious economic crisis which heavily affected the small Paraguayan middle class.
In conjunction with the bad economic results, political retrogressions also occurred due to the confrontation of Wasmosy with its principal political promoter, General Lino Cesar Oviedo, chief of the Armed forces, who was accused for having fomented a coup in April 1996.
In 1997, after the Oviedo General had won the presidential internal elections of the Red Party, he was imprisoned and judged for attempting a coup in 1996.
Oviedo's sentence disabled him for the 1998 presidential elections and his place was taken by his candidate to vice-presidency, Eng. Raul Cubas, who at his time left his place on the presidential scene (for statutory reasons) to his main political enemy, Dr. Luis Maria Argaña.
Cubas, thanks to Oviedo's support, very popular at that time, won the elections by 56% of the votes vs. an alliance constituted by the Liberal and "Encuentro Nacional" Parties.
On the third day of his accession to the presidency, Cubas pardoned Oviedo and released him from prison, which caused a political prosecution's request on his person. The assassination of Dr. Luis Maria Argaña, of which the argañists and the opposition declared Oviedo guilty, constituted another crucial issue.
After massive popular manifestations in front of the National Congress which led to the murder of 8 young demonstrators, the political prosecution intensifies and, before being destituted, Cubas resigns and goes into exile to Brazil. The same day, Oviedo escapes to Argentina, where he also obtained the political asylum.
This situation generated the presidency of the Republic to be assumed by the then president of the Congress, Luis Angel Gonzalez Macchi, who constituted a government of coalition among the Red Party and the parties of the opposition.
That government was characterized by political instability and economic stagnation.
It is in that context that Nicanor Duarte Frutos assumes the presidency of the Republic in August 2003, after winning the elections carried out in May of the same year.
The government of Duarte Frutos carried out an important tax reform which made possible to restore the lost stability, and thanks to an extremely favourable international environment, with rising exportation products prices and lowering interest rates, has reached a recovery of the Paraguayan economy.
After a failed attempt to be reelected, and with another crisis of the Colorado party, the PLRA, the main opposition party, gets close to the left parties, creating the Patriotic Alliance for Change (APC). Supporting the candidacy of former catholic bishop Fernando Lugo Méndez, the APC won the april 2008 elections, defeating the Colorado party wich was in power since 1947.
This alternation through elections is unprecedented in Paraguay. With a liberal-progressive cabinet, and despite the adverse parliamentary majority, his government declares free health care, benefits some 110,000 families in extreme poverty with monetary transfers, and increases in public investment in infrastructure. In 2010, the country recovers very high economic growth rates (14.5%) due to the rise of export-oriented production.
Suggested Reading List about Paraguay
1. Arturo Bray. Armas y Letras.
2. Félix de Azara. Descripción e historia del Paraguay y del Río de la Plata.
3. Juan Crisóstomo Centurión. Memorias.
4. Ruy Díaz de Guzmán. La Argentina.
5. David Zook. Conducción estratégica de la guerra del Chaco.
6. Mariscal José Félix Estigarribia. Memorias.
7. Natalicio González. Geografía del Paraguay.
8. León Cadogan. Memorias.
9. Ramiro Domínguez. El valle y la loma.
10. Egon Schaden. Aspectos fundamentales de la cultura guaraní.
11. Efraín Cardozo. Historia del Paraguay independiente.
12. Monseñor Saro Vera. El paraguayo fuera de su tiempo.
13. Helio Vera. En busca del hueso perdido.
14. Gabriel Casaccia. La babosa.
15. Augusto Roa Bastos. Yo el Supremo.
16. Augusto Roa Bastos. Hijo de hombre.Yo el supremo
17. Herib Campos Cervera. Ceniza Redimida.
18. Elvio Romero. Los innombrables.
19. Rubén Bareiro-Saguier. Literatura guaraní del Paraguay.
20. Miguel Chase Sardi y Branislava Susnik. Los indios del Paraguay.
21. Ticio Escobar. La belleza de los otros.
22. Luis Szarán. Diccionario de la música.
23. Efraín Cardozo, Ed. El Lector, 1991. Breve Historia del Paraguay.
24. Arturo Bray, Ed. El Lector, 1996 Hombres y Épocas del Paraguay (Libros 1º y 2º).
25. Arturo Bray, Ed. El Lector, 1996. Breve Historia de los Argentinos.
26. General Francisco I. Resquín .Paraguay contra la Triple Alianza, Ed. El Lector, 1996.
27. Miguel Ángel De Marco, Ed. Planeta, 1998. La Guerra del Paraguay.
28. Justo Pastor Benítez, Carlos Schauman Editor, 1990 Carlos Antonio López.
29. Cecilio Báez, Carlos Schauman Edit 1991.Hist. Colonial del Paraguay y Río de la Plata.
30. Manlio Cancogni e Iván Boris, Ed. Noguer, 1972. El Napoleón de Plata.
31. Amancio Pampliega, Ed. El Lector, 1984. Misión Cumplida.
32. Lic. Antonio Landauro, Ed. América 1986. Banderas y Escudos del Mundo.
33. Ticio Escobar. Una interpretación de las Artes Visuales en el Paraguay.
34. Luis Szarán A. Seiferheld. Historia de la Música del Paraguay.
34. Cartas Anuas de los Provinciales del Paraguay de la Compañía de Jesús (1612 1637).
35. Charlevoix S.J. Histoire du Paraguay. París 1776.
36. A. Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Comentarios. Revista del Instituto Paraguayo. 1901.
37. B. Susnik. Guía del Museo Andrés Barbero.
38. Carlos R. Centurión Historia de las Letras Paraguayas Ed. Ayacucho Bs. As. 1947.
39. J. Max Boettner. Música y Músicos del Paraguay. Ed. APA 1956.
40. D. González Torres. Folklore Paraguayo. 1987 Ed. del autor.
41. Rengger y Lomgchamp. Ensayo Histórico sobre la Revolución Paraguaya. París 1828
42. Parish Robertson. Cartas sobre el Paraguay. Londres 1838