Before the Spaniards conquered the area of today’s Paraguay from the northwest in the 30s of the 16th century, Indian tribes lived here as semi-nomads. In 1537 the Spanish founded the city of Nuestra Señora Santa Mar¨ªa de la Asunci¨®n on the R¨ªo Paraguay (in the Guaran¨ª language “parrot river”). The Jesuits began to Christianize the native Indians: from 1604 onwards, they built their own villages, so-called reductions, to which only members of the order and Indians had access. Although these villages were officially under the Spanish colonial administration, they had their own administration and isolated themselves from the outside. In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled from the country and the reductions were dissolved.
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Until 1580 Buenos Aires was founded on the Atlantic coast in what is now Argentina and became the center of the Spanish colonial empire in the southeast of the subcontinent, Asunci¨®n held this role for several decades. The colonial masters promoted the mixing of the Spanish immigrants with the indigenous Indians, the mixing of the two peoples gave rise to the mestizos, which today make up over 90% of Paraguay’s population.
Independence from Spain
Until 1776 Paraguay was part of the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru, from that point on it belonged to the newly founded R¨ªo de La Plata (with Buenos Aires as the center). When resistance to the Spanish colonial masters culminated in a revolution around 1810, resistance in Paraguay also took shape. In May 1811 the country declared independence from Spain and also from Argentina. The Republic was proclaimed in 1813 and recognized by Spain. The new government was led by Jos¨¦ Gaspar Rodr¨ªguez de Francia (until 1840). The latter initially sealed off his country against Argentina and also the other neighboring countries in order to reduce their influence and promoted the mixing of the whites and Indians in the country. In 1816 Jos¨¦ Gaspar Rodr¨ªguez de Francia was appointed dictator for life (El Supremo). According to AbbreviationFinder, Carlos Antionio L¨®pez came in 1844, a nephew of ex-dictator Francia, came to power and reopened the country to the outside world. The country’s economy (especially agriculture) had already developed enormously under Francia, now the increased trade in goods with the other countries led to a new upswing. But the country’s extraordinary prosperity did not last long: Francisco Solano L¨®pez, who took power in Paraguay in 1862 after the death of his father, plunged the country into a war against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay (1964-70), the countless lives demanded and ruined the country’s economy. Paraguay was under Brazilian occupation until 1876 and lost about half of its territory. To meet the reparation demands, large parts of the country had to be sold to foreign investors.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, various dictatorial governments alternated, while the country’s reconstruction largely stagnated. The conservative Colorado Party (Asociaci¨®n Nacional Republicana) and the Liberal Party (“Azules”) emerged as the most important political forces in the country. Unrest and uprisings determined the domestic political situation. Only under the leadership of Eduardo Schaerer as the new head of state and government (1912-16) did the situation calm down and initial successes were achieved in building up the economy. In 1929, the so-called “Chaco War” (until 1935) broke out between Paraguay and Bolivia around large areas of the Gran Chaco, in which rich oil deposits were suspected. Paraguay won and was able to declare large parts of the Chaco Boreal as state territory,
Paraguay under Stroessner
A constitutional amendment in 1940 further expanded the position of power of the president, who was now not only head of state and government but also commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In 1945 General Afredo Stroessner, son of a German and an Indian, came to power and ruled the country until 1989. Under him, the conservative Colorado Party was declared a unitary party; all persons in leading positions had to be party members. A real opposition could not be established despite the presidential elections held every five years.
In the 1960s, the government brought Japanese and Germans into the country to colonize and cultivate the Chaco area.
A friendship and cooperation agreement was concluded with Brazil in 1975, and a year later both countries began building the huge Itaip¨² dam on the Paran¨¢ River (completed in 1982). The country’s economy gradually began to grow again, thanks to both government-funded infrastructure measures, drug trafficking and money laundering.
In 1989 General Andr¨¦s Rodr¨ªguez came to power through a renewed coup, which initiated democratization of the country. In 1992 a new democratic constitution was proclaimed, which, among other things, banned the direct re-election of the president. In the first democratic elections in 1993, the conservative Colorado party prevailed over the other parties, and its representative Juan Carlos Wasmosy Monti became the country’s new head of state and government. Monti – himself a multi-millionaire – faced repeated allegations of corruption in the following years and was asked to resign. A representative of the Colorado party prevailed in the 1998 presidential election, and Ra¨²l Cubas Grau became the new head of state in Paraguay. Within a short period of time, a dismissal procedure went against him, since he was accused of being involved in the murder of his own vice president, Luis Maria Argaña. In March 1999, Ra¨²l Cubas Grau resigned from his post. His successor was Luis Gonzales Macchi, who was President of the Senate until then. An attempted coup against Macchi took place in May 2000 and violent demonstrations against him took place in July 2002. The government accused ex-general Lino Oviedo, who is in exile in Brazil, of being the driving force behind the protests. In August 2003, Macchi’s party colleague N¨ªcanor Duarte Frutos took the lead in the country. Under his presidency, most of Paraguya¡¯s population continued to live in poverty, while only a few benefited from agricultural exports. At the end of his term, Duarte tried to run for election again with the help of a constitutional amendment. There were broad protests against this, led by “Bishop of the Poor” Fernando Lugo.
With the victory of the former bishop and liberation theologian Lugo at the head of a center-left alliance in the April 2008 presidential election, the Colorado conservative party did not represent the president for the first time in 61 years. In May 2008, Paraguay founded the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) along with the other eleven independent states of South America based on the model of the European Union. In June 2012, at least 17 people died in a violent clash between police officers and land occupiers. Lugo was made politically responsible for the incident and was removed from office by the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. Lugo’s successor was former Vice President Federico Franco. The Colorado candidate Horacio Cartes emerged victorious from the new elections in April 2013.