Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Review: Paraguay in Pictures, Alison Behnke,

Paraguay in Pictures, Alison Behnke, Visual Geography Series, Twenty-First Century Books, Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, MN, 2010.
Paraguay is a country with no access to the sea, other than by several prominent rivers which provided river ports.  Paraguay has two official languages, Spanish and Guarani.  Most of the population is mestizo or mixed. 
The thing that comes through in a resounding way about the history of Paraguay is that they were subject to one dictator after another for many, many years.  Some of the dictators were very severe.  The most recent dictator, representing the Colorado (Red) party, Alfredo Stroessner ruled from 1954 until 1989.  He faced reelection many times, but usually these were rigged in his favor.  The presidency continued with the same party after his exile.  The first free election took place in 1993.  By free, all voters were allowed to vote for the candidate of their choice.  The first election which resulted in a peaceful change from one political party to another did not take place until 2008, after over 60 years of control by the Colorado Party. 
The other notable thing about Paraguay is a couple of wars.  They did not actively participate in the world wars, but had a war against the triple alliance (Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay) in 1866 which Paraguay was thwarted in an attempt to gain access to the sea.
Another war with Bolivia in the 1930s called the “Chaco War” over disputed territories and an attempt by Bolivia to gain access to the rivers which provide Paraguay with ports.  This war ended more favorably for Paraguay.  This wars however lead to the promotion of the military and in turn military dictatorships. 
Paraguay’s major resource is the production of electricity.  In 1981 the Itaupu dam was completed.  This is the second highest producing hydroelectric dam in the world.  99.9 percent of the electricity in Paraguay is hydroelectric power.   The dam was built with economic support from Brazil, and signified a period of economic growth in Paraguay which has not been maintained. 
One thing Paraguay has in common with Argentina is the use of Yerba Mate.  This would be considered the national drink.  

This book has some important information.  It also suggests a website


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