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Travel Pictures - PARAGUAY - 1995

All images Ron Miller

     Paraguay's economy pales in comparison to the rest of South America's "Southern Cone."  In fact, the drop in the standard of living was obvious the moment I stepped across the border. The capital city of Asuncion hinted of the country's troubled economy as slums practically encroached upon the doorstep of the capital building. Paraguay's unique history has led to a majority Mestizo population with 95% of its citizens having a mixture of Indian and Spanish blood. In addition, Paraguay is the only nation in the America's in which the majority of its citizens speak an Indian language (Guarani) as a first or second language. The nation is also home to one of the world's most fascinating social experiments that created the utopian communities referred to as "Gardens of Christianity." Although these mission towns were said to be the first society in the history of the world to be entirely literate, nothing remains today but roofless cathedrals and ruined dwellings.

Paraguay's capital city is a collision of Colonial architecture and poverty.
Asuncion, Paraguay

Typical scene in rural Paraguay -
southern Paraguay

Several generations of Guarani Indians lived contentedly within these "Gardens of Christianity." The Jesuit priests presided
over the mission towns, teaching craftsmanship, agriculture, animal husbandry, and the Christian faith. The missions were
self-sufficient and exported goods including cotton cloth, animal hides, tobacco, lumber, and tea. The missions also
produced such advanced products as watches and even South America's first printing press -

Trinidad, Paraguay
By working together with the Guarani, the Jesuit missionaries eventually created 33 utopian communities that, at their height in 1732,accommodated
78 Jesuit priests, 144,000 evangelized Indians, and vast quantities of livestock including 725,000 cattle, 230,000 sheep, 99,000 horses, and
47,000 oxen. Transforming the nomadic tribes into peaceful and self-sufficient communities required bridging an enormous cultural chasm.
The demise of the mission towns is blamed on the Old World conflict between Spain and Portugal -
Trinidad, Paraguay
Lake Aregua is a tranquil retreat for citizens of the capital -
near Asuncion, Paraguay

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All images Ron Miller
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