(República del Paraguay, Tetã Paraguái)
- Location: South America
- Capital: Asuncion
- Language: Spanish and Guarani
- Population: 6,460,000 (in 2009)
- Total Area: 406,752 sq km
- Currency: Guarani (PYG)
- Curious Alcohol Fact: The most popular beverage is actually a tea, but, interestingly, people often drink it out of hallowed bull horns or guampas made of wood.
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption per Capita: 7.88
- Most Popular Drink: The national beverage is mate (a tea made from the yerba mate plant), and it can be served hot or cold.
The Republic of Paraguay is a landlocked country bordered by Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. The country is sometimes referred to as “Corazon de America” or Heart of America because of its central location in South America. The country’s name comes from the Guarani language and probably means “river that flows through the sea” or “water from the Payaguas” most likely because it is home to both banks of the Paraguay River. This river divides Paraguay into Eastern Paraguay and Western Paraguay (also called Chaco). Marshy or grassy plains and thickly wooded hills make up the landscape of the country. Politically, Paraguay is divided into seventeen departments and one capital district, Asuncion.
Paraguayans officially speak Spanish or Guarani. The Guarani are indigenous people who inhabited Paraguay before the Europeans arrived in the late sixteenth century. Most modern Paraguayans are descendants of Guarani and Spanish settlers and are considered mestizo. The majority of the population lives in Eastern Paraguay with about ten percent living in the capital Asuncion. There are a fair amount of Germans living in Paraguay making the country important for German immigration. Almost ninety percent of the population is Roman Catholic.
The Culture of Paraguay is a dynamic fusion of Guarani and European traditions. The native harp provides the music for Paraguayan dance such as galopas, polkas, and slow, melancholic guaranias. Extended family is very important in Paraguayan culture. Although they are a family centric society, Paraguayans are very welcoming to outsiders and tourists. Embroidery and lace making is prominent and a good example of the blend of European and Indigenous customs. The most popular sport in the country is football by far but other popular sports include volleyball, rugby union, basketball, and tennis.
Popular foods include manioc (similar to yucca and cassava and is a tubular root), a thick corn bread like dish called sopa paraguaya, and chipa (bagel-like, cornmeal based bread served with cheese and manioc). Other common foods consumed or used in meals are cheese, onions, peppers, butter, milk, cottage cheese, cornmeal, and fresh corn kernels.
The national beverage is a tea made from the yerba mate plant and simply called mate. It is imbibed both hot and cold and is often drunk from hallowed bull horns or guampas made of wood. Often, mate is flavored with native herbs or coconut which supposedly helps with ailments like headaches. Rum is the most popular hard liquor which is enjoyed often in Paraguay. Paraguayans also like beer. Popular local beers are Brahma and Pilsen.
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Rebecca Dimyan, Danbury, CT, USA.
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