Up early for a work conference call, which I did parallel processing with a fine breakfast including excellent local corn bread and fruit dipped in dulce de leche (caramel). We eventually summoned the courage to venture out of the aircon luxury of our hotel and got a cab to the bustling Mercado Quatro. It was a celebration of plastic, tat, and super cheap clothes that didn’t appear to cover much flesh. The other prevalent stall was the choclo stall, where hardy chicas were husking corn and cutting it off the cob….. it seemed odd to me, as i would expect people could do that themselves. Almost every vendor had a yerba mate thermos and a cup. Its clearly a national addiction.
We continued wandering into town, aiming to visit the Museo de las Memorias, but sadly it was closed. During the 30 + year Stroessner dictatorship this was the detention centre where the opposition were tortured and murdered. Paraguay doesn’t have a great track record on human rights. His tenure ended in 1989 in a military coup. Sadly the new president is also an unhelpful reminder of the dictatorship as he is the son of the former dictators private secretary
One of the upsides about travelling to new countries is it forces you to learn a bit more about them. The only real things I knew about Paraguay before arriving was that it was one of the few landlocked countries in South America. I also knew that it was technically one of the highest consumers of scotch in the world in the 90s (40-50 times the normal rate per person)….. it wasn’t really a country of alcoholics, rather the import duties in brazil meant tonnes of of whiskey was imported to Paraguay and then smuggled through porous borders into Brazil.
Reading up on countries you always find out some truly weird stuff. Paraguay’s weird anecdote is that Nietzche’s sister moved here to set up a racially pure aryan community called ’Nueva Germania’. Most of them died, or returned home within a couple of years, and the few that stayed and survived only did so by working with the locals. Paraguay is apparently an alluring destination for utopian settlements, there was also a teetotaling Nueva Australia (still there today) and the Mennonites. Fabulously, Paraguay is one of the nations in South America where the indigenous culture is still very much alive and kicking, with the native language Guarani being as widely spoken as Spanish.
Asuncion is blessed with a tonne of crumbling colonial architecture, some terrific street art, and a couple of beautiful well maintained buildings like the Palacio Lopez. We wandered for several hours taking photos and chatting to friendly locals.
There also seems to be a pretty dominant presence of my sisters in this town…. some of the best feminist graffiti i have seen, certainly in South America – not a continent well regarded for its feminist stances.
January 1, 2019
- A couple of good blogs here
- We stayed at La Mision which was quite lovely and located in the very posh part of town
- Taxis everywhere are cheap, get in the yellow ones and make sure they use the meter
- Food is good and cheap – eat at Lido or Bolsi. Try the mbeju it’s excellent https://theculturetrip.com/south-america/paraguay/articles/6-traditional-foods-you-have-to-try-in-paraguay/