From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty
Republic of Paraguay
República del Paraguay (Spanish)

Tetã Paraguái (Guarani)

Location of Paraguay
Government TypeUnitary presidential republic
  • Spanish
  • Guarani
CurrencyGuaraní (PYG)

Paraguay officially the Republic of Paraguay (Spanish: República del Paraguay; Guarani: Tetã Paraguái), is a country in South America. It is bordered by Carolina to the south and southwest, the Riograndense Republic to the east, Brasil to the northeast, and Peru to the northwest. Paraguay is notable as the only landlocked nation in South America, although the country has ports on the Paraguay and Paraná rivers that give exit to the Atlantic Ocean through the Paraná-Paraguay waterway that exits in the Rio de la Plata.

Spanish conquistadores arrived in 1524, and in 1537 established the city of Asunción, the first capital of the Governorate of the Río de la Plata. During the 17th century, Paraguay was the center of Jesuit missions, where the native Guaraní people were converted to Christianity and introduced European culture. After the Argentine Purchase in 1756 and the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spanish territories in 1772, Paraguay increasingly became a peripheral colony of the Spanish empire. The failed 1775 Paraguayan Revolution led to increased regional nationalism in Paraguay and the colony eventually broke free in 1840 during the Spring of Nations and the Colombian revolutionary war.


Early History

The indigenous Guaraní had been living in eastern Paraguay for at least a millennium before the arrival of the Spanish. The Paraguay River was roughly the dividing line between the agricultural Guarani people to the east and the nomadic and semi-nomadic people to the west in the Gran Chaco. The first Europeans in the area were Spanish explorers in 1516. The Spanish explorer Juan de Salazar de Espinosa founded the settlement of Asunción on 15 August 1537. The city eventually became the center of a Spanish colonial province of Paraguay. An attempt to create an autonomous Christian Indian nation was undertaken by Jesuit missions and settlements in this part of South America in the eighteenth century. They developed Jesuit reductions to bring Guarani populations together at Spanish missions and protect them from virtual slavery by Spanish settlers and Portuguese slave raiders in addition to seeking their conversion to Christianity.

Spanish Paraguay

During the 18th century Paraguay gradually became a peripheral colony of the Spanish empire. In 1756 the Spanish crown sold the colonies of Rio de la Plata and the Banda Oriental to the British, in an event known as the Argentine Purchase. After this Paraguay became disconnected from the Spanish empire, surrounded by the Portuguese and British empires and cut off from Peru by the the mountainous terrain. This led to a period of decreasing Spanish settlement and investment in Paraguay as well as increased self sufficiency in the colony. In 1772 during the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spanish territories, Paraguay became one of the few parts of the Spanish empire to not enforce this edict. From 1772 to 1775 Spanish authorities became increasingly angered the insubordinate Paraguayans colonial government while Paraguayans became increasingly restless with Spanish rule. In 1775 the Spanish crown ordered the disbandment of the Paraguayan colonial government and direct crown control of the region. This led to the failed Paraguayan Revolution which saw the brief establishment of the first Paraguayan Republic (1775-1777). Due to the regions geographic isolation the Spanish empire were forced to ask the British in Carolina for assistance in dealing with the rebels. Following the defeat of the first republic in 1777, the period of renewed Spanish rule led to an increase in Paraguayan nationalism as well as period of greater British influence in Paraguay.


During the Spring of Nations throughout the 1830's Paraguayan nationalists started to agitate for independence. After the local Spanish army garrison in Asuncion withdrew in 1839 to focus on the Colombian Revolution Paraguayan republicans declared independence from the Spanish and formed the 2nd Paraguayan Republic. In 1842 after the Colombian revolution ended the Spanish asked the British to help retake Paraguay but the British refused due to ongoing colonial wars in Asia as well as local Carolinan support for the Paraguayan republicans. In 1846 (after two unsuccessful expeditions to reclaim Paraguay from Peru) the Spanish empire recognized the independence of Paraguay in the Treaty of Buenos Aires and set the border at the Paraguay river.

Paraguay in the 19th Century

Support on the Riograndense independence

During the Riograndense War of Independence, Paraguay supported the neighboring country by opening its borders to volunteers coming from Carolina, the Carolinos, as they were called, weapons and other resources to cross into the Riograndense Republic through the Missões region. Paraguay also was the first country to recognize the independence of the Riograndense Republic.

Free Waters Treaty with Britain (1848)

In 1846, Spain recognized Paraguay as independent, shortly after, various nations across the American Continent and Europe also followed the path. One of the first deals made by Paraguay with a foreign nation was the Free Waters Treaty, signed in 1848, which opened the Rio de La Plata to Paraguayan ships. Being the only landlocked country in South America, the treaty had a key importance to the end of Paraguayan geographical and economical isolation.

A year after the ratification of the treaty, every day, hundreds of cargo ships and fishing boats from Paraguay started to cross the river, leaving or returning to the country. The treaty also opened the ports of Carolina major cities, such as Buenos Aires, Sacramento and Port Leonabelle.

Britain saw the treaty as a way to expand its markets to the newly independent country, and also to reduce the Spanish influence over South America. Paraguay looked for modernization and protection from the Viceroyalty of Peru, so, in the end, Paraguay became heavily relying on British goods and modern equipment for the outdated Paraguayan army. The Paraguayan government feared a crisis with the European power would result in the nation being suffocated by the closure of the river, so an era of British  aligned Paraguayan rulers started.

Occupation of the Chaco and Paraguayan-Peruvian War (1885-1887)

In 1875, the Viceroyalty of Peru declared independence from Spain, which was followed by a bloody conflict with the former metropolis. Paraguay took advantage of the unstable situation of Peru to occupy the Chaco region, an enormous flat land on the west side of the Paraguay river, which at the time was mostly uncolonized, with only a few communities and towns constructed near major rivers. In 1876, the Paraguayan army crossed the Peruvian border and started occupying the area. The low number of inhabitants of the land showed no resistance for the occupation, but the same could not be said about the Peruvian government in Cusco.

On February 10th of 1885, an ultimatum from Peru arrived in Asuncion. The document demanded the Paraguayan forces to leave the Chaco immediately, or the occupiers would be expelled by force. Imagining receiving support from Britain in a conflict, Paraguay refused to retreat. Peru declared war on March the 2nd.

In late April, the first clashes between Paraguay and Peruvian forces along the Pilcomayo river started. The British support didn’t come, and Paraguay soon asked the Riograndense Republic for support, which they also refused. During 1885 and most of 1886, Paraguay was capable of holding the Peruvian advance, but the war was already too costly, the economy of the small agrarian country could not hold on too much longer the conflict. Also, the difference between the two countries' population was enormous, this made Paraguay start to suffer from manpower shortage.

In may 1887, Peru won the last major battle near the Paraguay river, this opened passage to the conquest of the west bank of the main waterway to the Paraguayan core. It was only a matter of time until Asunción fell. Knowing this, in June 21th, Paraguay asked for peace. The peace treaty with Peru established the Paraguay river as the border, Paraguay also had to pay huge war reparations.

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