1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Paraguay

PARAGUAY, an inland republic of South America, between 20° 16' 14" and 26° 31' S. and 54° 37' and 62° W. It is bounded on the N.W. by Bolivia, N. and E. by Brazil, S.E., S. and W. by Argentina. Pop. (1905 estimate), 631,347, including 50,000 Iguassu Indians; area, about 97,700 sq. m.

By the treaty of 1872 the Brazilian frontier was drawn up the Parana from the mouth of the Iguassu or Y-Guazú (25° 30' S.) to the Salto Grande or Great Cataract of La Guayra (24° 7'), thence west along the watershed of the Sierra de Maracayú, north along the Sierra de Ambaya to the sources of the Apá, and down that stream to its junction with the Paraguay. The Buenos Aires treaty of the 3rd of February 1876 fixed the frontier between Argentina and Paraguay, and assigned to Paraguay the portion of the Gran Chaco between Rio Verde and Bahia Negra; the appropriation of the portion between Rio Verde and the Pilcomayo was submitted to the arbitration of the president of the United States, who in 1878 assigned it to Paraguay. The frontier line towards Bolivia has long been in dispute.

Physical Features.—The river Paraguay, running from north to south, divides the republic into two sections, the eastern section, or Paraguay Oriental, being the most important. The western section forms part of the great plain called the Gran Chaco (see Argentina), and is to a large extent unexplored. Paraguay proper, or the country between the Paraguay and the Paraná, is traversed from north to south by a broad irregular belt of highlands, which are known as the Cordillera Ambaya, Cordillera Urucury, &c., but partake rather of the character of plateaus, and form a continuation and outwork of the great interior plateau of Brazil. The elevation nowhere much exceeds 2200 ft. On the western side these highlands terminate with a more or less sharply defined edge, the country sloping gradually up to their bases in gentle undulations with open, ill-defined valleys; on the eastern side they send out broad spurs enclosing deep-cut valleys, and the whole country retains more of an upland character. The tributaries that flow westward to the Paraguay are consequently to some extent navigable, while those that run eastward to the Parana are interrupted by rapids and falls, often of a formidable description. The Pilcomayo, the largest western tributary of the Paraguay, and an important frontier river, is only navigable in its upper and lower reaches. From the Asuncion plateau southwards, near the confluence of the Paraguay and Parana, there is a vast stretch of marshy country, draining partly into the Ypoa lagoon, amd smaller tracts of the same character are found in other parts of the lowlands, especially in the valley of the Paraguay. Many parts of the country sloping to the Paraná are nearly covered with dense forest, and have been left in possession of the sparsely scattered native tribes. But the country sloping to the Paraguay, and comprising the greater part of the settled districts, is, in keeping with its proximity to the vast plains of Argentina, grassy and open, though the hills are usually covered with forest and clumps of trees are frequent in the lowlands. Except in the marshy regions and along the rivers, the soil is dry, porous and sandy.

Geology.—Little is known of the geology of Paraguay. A large part of the area is covered by Quaternary deposits, which completely conceal the solid foundation on which they rest. The hills and plateaus appear to be composed chiefly of the same sandstone series which in the Brazilian province of Rio Grande do Sul contains seams of coal, with plant remains similar to those of the Karharbari series of India (Permian or Upper Carboniferous). It is probable, also, that the Palaeozoic rocks of Matto Grosso extend into the northern part of the country.

Minerals.—The gold mines said to have been concealed by the Jesuits may have had no existence; and though iron was worked by F. S. Lopez at Ibicuy (70 m. south-east of Asuncion), and native copper, oxide of manganese, marbles, lime and salt have been found, the real wealth of the country consists rather in the variety and value of its vegetable products.

Climate and Fauna.—The year in Paraguay is divided into two seasons—" summer," lasting from October to March, and " winter," from April to September. December, January and February are generally the hottest months, and May, June, July and August the coldest. The mean temperature for the year seems to be about 75° or 76°; for summer 81°, for winter 71°. The annual rainfall is about 46 in., fairly well distributed throughout the year, though the heaviest precipitation occurs in August, September and October. The prevailing winds blow from the north or south. The south wind is dry, cool and invigorating, and banishes mosquitoes for a time; the north wind is hot, moist and relaxing. Violent wind storms generally come from the south.

The fauna of Paraguay proper is practically the same as that of Brazil. Caymans, water-hogs (capinchos), several kinds of deer (Cervus paludosus the largest), ounces, opossums, armadillos, vampires, the American ostrich, the ibis, the jabiru, various species popularly called partridges, the pato real or royal duck, the Palamedea cornuta, parrots and parakeets, are among the more notable forms. Insect life is peculiarly abundant; the red stump-like ant-hills are a feature in every landscape, and bees used to be kept in all the mission villages.

Population.—The great majority of the inhabitants are of Indian (Guarani) descent, with very slight traces of foreign blood. Civilization has not made much progress, and the habits of the people are more primitive than those in the more advanced neighbouring republics. As a general rule the Paraguayans are indolent, especially the men. Climatic conditions obviate the necessity of any superfluity of clothing. A cotton chemise, and a white mania wrapped in Moorish fashion over head and body, constitute the dress of the women; a cotton shirt and trousers that of the men. Boots and shoes are worn only by the upper classes. Goitre and leprosy are the only endemic diseases; but the natives, being underfed, are prone to diarrhoea and dyspepsia. The common language of the country is Guarani, although in a few districts Tupi is spoken. The country people as a rule understand a little Spanish, if living near any trading centre. " New Australia " is a pastoral and agricultural settlement, originally founded in 1803 by immigrants from Australia as an experiment in communism. The colony failed at first, and was reconstituted in 1894. The settlers numbered 161 in 1908. Immigration is on a small scale (1024 in 1908), but tends to increase; it is encouraged by the government, which seeks to divert to Paraguay some portion of the Italian labour immigrant into Brazil and Argentina. In 1908 the total foreign population numbered about 18,000, half of whom were natives of Argentina. The principal towns are Asuncion, the capital (pop. 1905, 60,259), Villa Rica (25,000), Concepcion (15,000) and Villa del Pilar (10,000); these are described in separate articles. Encarnacion on the Parana has a large transit trade.

Government.—The constitution of the republic was voted by a constituent assembly on the 25th of November 1870. Legislative power is vested in a Congress consisting of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies, elected by universal manhood suffrage in the proportion of one senator for every 12,000 inhabitants and one deputy for every 6000. Every member of Congress receives a salary of about £200. The head of the executive is the president, chosen by an electoral college for four years, and only re-eligible after eight consecutive years. He is aided by a cabinet of five ministers, responsible to Congress. Should he die during his term, or otherwise become unable to fulfil his duties, the president is succeeded by the vice-president (similarly elected), who is ex officio chairman of the Senate. The highest judicial authority is the Supreme Court, which is empowered to decide upon the constitutional vahdity of acts passed by Congress; its three members are appointed for four years by Congress, subject to the approval of the president. There are five courts of appeal, and inferior tribunals in all the large towns. The civil and criminal codes at Argentina have been adopted, almost without change. For purposes of local administration the republic is divided into 23 counties (partidos), which are subdivided into communes.

Religion and Instruction.—Roman Catholicism is the established religion, but the constitution guarantees full liberty to all other creeds. Asuncion, the only bishopric in the state, is in the archiepiscopal province of Buenos Aires. Education is backward and was long neglected. By law it is free and compulsory, but in some districts the attendance of many children is impossible. In 1907 there were 554 primary schools with 41,000 pupils.

Defence.—In 1908 the standing army, including cavalry, infantry and artillery, numbered about 1150 men; and there were five government steamers used for transport and revenue purposes.

Finance.—The financial situation of Paraguay has been a source of anxiety for many years. In 1885, after interest had been unpaid for 11 years on bonds amounting to £1,505,400, an agreement was made for the issue of new scrip to the value of £850,000 in quittance of all claims for capital and arrears of interest, certain public lands being also ceded to the bondholders as compensation. In 1895 an arrangement was made for a reduction of the rate of interest, for the funding of the arrears, and for the creation of a sinking fund. The government were unable to meet their obligations under the new contract, and in 1898 the outstanding amount had risen to £994,600. Provision has now been made for the service of this foreign debt, and the authorities have been able regularly to meet the service of the coupons. The total outstanding on the 31st of December 1908 was £831,850. Besides the London debt, there are many other claims on Paraguay, including (1908) about £1,950,000 due to Brazil, about £2,500,000 due to Argentina, and an internal debt of £850,000. The guarantee debt due to the Paraguay Central railway exceeds £1,500,000; and the total indebtedness of the republic on the 31st of December 1908 may be estimated at £7,650,000.

The revenue is derived mainly from import duties, and the most important branches of expenditure are the salaries of public officials, the army, public instruction and debt. The estimated revenue and expenditure for the three years 1906–1908 are shown in the following table:—

  1906 1907 1907
Revenue    £452,812       £635,000       £599,828   
Expenditure      454,564        677,982        506,502   

The budget for 1906 remained in force in 1907 and 1908.

Industry.—The principal industries are the cultivation and preparation of yerba maté (Paraguayan tea), cattle-farming, fruit growing, tobacco-planting and timber-cutting. Yerba maté, classified as Ilex paraguayensis, is a shrub. The leaves are stripped, withered, rolled and sorted, then packed in sacks and exported, chiefly to Argentina. Paraguayan tea is used in place of the ordinary tea or coffee in many parts of South America. Medical experts state that the beverage infused from the leaves has a stimulating effect, and is also slightly diuretic. The total amount exported from Paraguay in 1908 was 4133 tons. The majority of the yerbales (tea plantations) were formerly the property of the government, but have been acquired by private enterprise. An important feature about yerba maté is the small expense necessary for its production, and the cheap rate, notwithstanding the high tariff on its importation, at which it can be placed on the Argentine market as compared with ordinary tea or Brazilian coffee.

The cattle industry comes next in importance. The number of animals was estimated at 5,500,000 on the 31st of December 1908; an increase of about 45% since the census of 1899. The animals are small, but Durham and Hereford bulls have been introduced from Argentina to improve the breed. The increase in the herds has caused the owners of saladero establishments in Argentina and Uruguay to try the working of factories in Paraguay for the preparation of tasajo (jerked beef) and the manufacture of extract of meat. Both grasses and climate are against sheep-farming on a large scale.

Oranges are exported to Buenos Aires, Rosario and Montevideo, and are largely used for fattening hogs. The orange groves are often uncultivated, but yield abundantly; 10,700,000 dozens of oranges were exported in 1908. Pineapples are also exported, and sugar-cane, cotton, coffee and ramie are cultivated. Tobacco, although of inferior quality, is grown to a considerable extent; the quantity exported rose from about 35 tons in 1900 to 5014 tons in 1908. Tobacco is chiefly exported to Germany. The staple diet of the Paraguayans is still, as when the Spaniards first came, maize and mandioca (the chief ingredient in the excellent chipa or Paraguayan bread), varied, it may be, with the seeds of the Victoria regia, whose magnificent blossoms are the great feature of several of the lakes and rivers.

The forests abound in such timber as quebracho, cedar, curupey, lapacho and urundey. Some of these, such as the lapacho and quebracho, are of rare excellence and durability, as is shown by the wonderful state of preservation in which the woodwork of early Jesuit churches still remains. Fifteen plants are known to furnish dyes, and eight are sources of fibre—the caraguatay especially being employed in the manufacture of the exquisite nanduty or spider web lace of the natives. Rum, sugar, bricks, leather, furniture and extract of meat are manufactured.

Commerce.—The commercial situation of Paraguay has improved in consequence of the investment of foreign capital in industrial enterprise. The principal articles imported are textiles, hardware, wines, rice, flour, canned goods and general provisions; the exports are yerba mate, hides, hair, dried meat, wood, oranges, tobacco. Most of the export trade is with Buenos Aires or Montevideo. The values for the five years 1904–1908 were:—

  1904 1905 1906 1907 1907
Imports     £713,146       £935,703       £1,253,439       £1,572,255       £814,591   
Exports      639,252        566,602          539,028         647,222       773,419   

Of the imports into Paraguay, 29% came from Germany in 1908, 21% from the United Kingdom and 19% from Argentina.

Communications.—Numerous ocean-going liners, most of which fly the Brazilian or the Argentine flag, ply on the Paraguay and the Paraná; smaller vessels ascend the tributary streams, which are also utilized for floating lumber down to the ports. Out of 1320 ships which entered Asuncion in 1908 and 1184 which cleared, none was of British or United States nationality. The Brazilian Lloyd S.S. Co. provides direct and regular communication between Asuncion and New York. The only railway in the republic is the Paraguay Central which was open in 1906 between Asuncion and Pirapó (154 m.). The completion of the line to Encarnacion was then undertaken (1906–1911), a train-ferry across the Parana affording connexion with Posadas. These extensions, and the alteration of gauge to that of the Argentine North-Eastern, were carried out mainly at the cost of the Argentine government, which acquired a controlling interest in the Paraguay Central. They were intended to shorten the journey between Buenos Aires and Asuncion from 5 days to 36 hours. There are some fairly good wagon roads, and the government appropriates annually a considerable sum for their extension.

Post and Telegraph.—Paraguay entered the Universal Postal Union in 1884. Telegraph lines connect Asuncion with other towns, and two cables put the republic in communication with the rest of the world by way of Corrientes and Posadas.

Money and Credit.—The banks open for business in 1904 were the Mercantile Bank, the Territorial Bank, the Bank of Los Rios & Co., and the Agricultural Bank: the last named has a capital of £207,590, advanced by the government, and lends money to the agricultural and industrial classes. The Paraguayan Bank, with a capital of £600,000, was opened in 1905, and the state bank (Banco de la República), with a total authorized capital of £4,000,000, was opened on the 30th of June 1908. The Conversion Office, which is authorized to sell or lend gold, receives a fixed revenue of £30,000 from certain import and export dues; it was reorganized in 1903 for the administration of the public debt. In the same year the gold and silver coinage of Paraguay were legally standardized as identical with those of Argentina (5 gold dollars or pesos = £1); but paper money is about the only circulating medium, and gold commands a high premium (1600% in December 1908). The normal value of the paper or currency dollar is about 4s. 8d. (For purposes of conversion the gold dollar has been taken at 5 = £1 throughout this article, and the currency dollar at 50 = £l.)

Weights and Measures.—The metric system is officially adopted, but the weights in common use are the tonelada (2025 ℔), the quintal (101.4 ℔), the arroba (25–35 ℔), the libra (1.014 ℔) and the onza (.0616 ℔). The unit for liquid measure is the cuarta (.1665 gallon); for dry measure the almud (.66 bushel) and fanega (l½ bushels). The land measures are the legua (2.689 m.), the sino (69 sq. yds.), and the legua cuadrada (12½ sq. m.).

History.—In 1527 Sebastian Cabot reached Paraguay and built a fort called Santo Espiritu. Asuncion was founded on the 15th of August 1535 by Juan de Ayolas, and his successor, Martinez de Irala, determined to make it the capital of the Spanish possessions east of the Andes. From this centre Spanish adventurers pushed east to La Guayra, beyond the Parana, and west into the Gran Chaco; and before long vast numbers of the less warlike natives were reduced to serfdom. The name Paraguay was applied not only to the country between the Paraguay and the Paraná, but to the whole Spanish territory, which now comprises parts of BrazO, Uruguay and the Argentine provinces of Buenos Aires, Entre Rios, Corrientes, Misiones, and part of Santa Fé. It was not till 1620 that Paraguay proper and Rio de la Plata or Buenos Aires were separated as distinct governments, and they were both dependent on the vice-royalty of Peru till 1776, when Buenos Aires was erected into a vice royalty, and Paraguay placed under its jurisdiction. The first Christian missions in Paraguay were established by the Franciscans—Armenta, Lebron, Solano (who was afterwards canonized as the " Apostle of Paraguay ") and Bolanos—between 1542 and 1560; but neither they nor the first Jesuit missionaries, Salonio, Field and Ortega, were allowed to make their enterprise a permanent success. This fell to the lot of the second band of Jesuits, Cataldino, Mazeta and Lorenzana, who began work in 1605. Though they succeeded in establishing a kind of imperium in imperio, and were allowed to drill the natives to the use of arms, the Jesuits never controlled the government of Paraguay; indeed they had nearly as often to defend themselves from the hostility of the governor and bishop at Asuncion as from the invasions of the Paulistas or Portuguese settlers of São Paulo. It was only by the powerful assistance of Zabala, governor of Buenos Aires, that the anti-Jesuit and quasi-national party which had been formed under Antequera was crushed in 1735. In 1750, however, Ferdinand VI. of Spain ceded to the Portuguese, in exchange for the fortified village of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay), both the district of La Guayra and a territory of some 20,000 sq. m. east of the Uruguay. The Jesuits resisted the transference, and it was only after several engagements that they were defeated by the combined forces of Spain and Portugal. The treaty was revoked by Spain in 1761, but the missions never recovered their prosperity, and the Jesuits were finally expelled in 1769. In 1811 Paraguay declared itself independent of Spain; by 1814 it was a despotism in the hands of Dr J. G. R. Francia (q.v.). On Francia's death, in 1840, the chief power passed to his nephew, Carlos Antonio Lopez (q.v.), who in 1862 was succeeded by his son Francisco Solano Lopez. In 1864 a dispute arose between the younger Lopez and the Brazilian government, and Lopez marched an army through Argentine territory to invade southern Brazil. This act induced the governments of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina to combine for the purpose of suppressing Lopez. The invasion of Paraguay then took place, and a struggle involving an enormous sacrifice of life and treasure lasted for five years, only coming to a close when the Paraguayan forces were totally defeated and Lopez was killed at the battle of Aquidaban on the 1st of March 1870. During this warfare every male Paraguayan capable of bearing arms was forced to fight, whole regiments being formed of boys of from 12 to 15 years of age. Even women were used as beasts of burden to carry ammunition and stores, and when no longer capable of work were left to die by the roadside or murdered to avoid any ill consequences occurring from their capture. When the war broke out the population of Paraguay was 1,337,439; when hostilities ceased it consisted of 28,746 men, 106,254 women above 15 years of age, and 86,079 children. During the retreat of the Paraguayans the dictator ordered every town and village passed through to be razed to the ground, and every living animal for which no use could be found to be slaughtered. When the end came the country and people were in a state of absolute prostration.

After the death of Lopez the government was administered by a triumvirate consisting of Cirilo Rivarola, Carlos Loizaga and Jose Diaz de Bedoza, until, in November 1870, the present constitution was formulated. The policy of Brazil was for a time directed towards the annexation of Paraguay; the debt due to Brazil on account of the war was assessed at £40,000,000, a sum which Paraguay could never hope to pay; and it was not until 1876 that the Brazilian army of occupation was whoUy withdrawn. But the rivalry between Brazil and Argentina, and the necessity of maintaining the balance of power among the South American republics, enabled Paraguay to remain independent. No violent constitutional change took place after 1870, though there have been spasmodic outbreaks of revolution, as in 1881, in 1894, in 1898, in December 1904—when a somewhat serious civil war was ended by the peace of Pilcomayo—in July 1908 and in September 1909. None of these disturbances deeply or permanently affected the welfare of the repubUc, nor were all of them accompanied by bloodshed. Under the presidency of J. B. Egusquiza (1894–1898) the boundary dispute with Bolivia became acute; but war was averted, largely owing to the success of the revolution, which forced the president to resign. The main interest of recent Paraguayan history is economic rather than political. In that history the gradual development of commerce, the financial reforms in 1895, and the extension of the Paraguay Central railway after 1906, were events of far greater importance than any political movement which took place between 1870 and 1910.

Bibliography.— For an account of physical features, inhabitants, products, &c., see H. Decoud, Geografia de la republic del Paraguay (5th ed., Leipzig, 1906); E. de B. La Dardye, Paraguay: the Land and the People, ed. E. G. Ravenstein (London, 1892); W. Vallentin, Paraguay: das Land der Guaranis (Berlin, 1907); R. V. F. Trevenfeld, Paraguay in Wort und Bild (Berlin, 1904); H. Mangels, Wirtschaftliche, naturgeschichtliche und klimatologische Abhandlungen aus Paraguay (Munich, 1904); W. B. Grubb, Among the Indians of the Paraguayan Chaco (London, 1904); E. Bolland, Exploraciones practicadas en el Alto Paraguay y en la Laguna Gaiba (Buenos Aires, 1901). Commerce and Finance: British consular reports (London, annual); Report of the Council of the Corporation of Foreign Bondholders (London, annual; statistical publications of the Paraguay government and presidential messages, in Spanish (Asuncion, annual); Revue du Paraguay (Asuncion, monthly); Paraguay (Washington, Bureau of Amer. Republics, 2nd ed. 1902). History: P. de Angelis, Coleccion de documents, &c. (1835); H. Charlevoix, Histoire de Paraguay (1835); G. Funes, Ensayo de la historia civil del Paraguay, &c. (1816); Lozano, Historia de la conquista del Paraguay (Buenos Aires, 1873–1874); R. B. Cunninghame Graham, A Vanished Arcadia (London, 1901); C. A. Washburn, The History of Paraguay (New York, 1871); E. C. Jourdan, Guerra do Paraguay (Rio de Janeiro, 1890); R. F. Burton, Letters from the Battlefields of Paraguay (London, 1870); A. Audibert, Question de limites entre el Paraguay y Bolivia (Asuncion, 1901); H. Decoud, List of Books . . . relating to Paraguay (Washington, 1905).