Paraguay is a small country located deep in the heart of South America, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t filled with a rich history and cool attractions. Here are 20 different things that you probably never knew about Paraguay:
1. The Motto is “Pease and Justice”
Paraguay’s motto is Paz y Justicia, or in English, “Peace and Justice. It is commonly depicted on a banner above a lion with a red cap.
2. America’s Biggest Feline Lives There
The jaguar is known throughout Latin America, but it nevertheless is not found in every country. Fortunately, it is found in Paraguay, and Asunción’s Jardín Zoológico (garden zoo) even has a refuge specifically for jaguars.
3. Paraguay Is a Bilingual Nation
One of the few Latin American countries to have kept its native language official, Guaraní comes first in Paraguay before Spanish. Paraguayans often mix the two languages when speaking, a combination known as Jopará.
4. It Has the World’s Largest Water Reserve
The world’s largest water reserve, called the “Acuifero Guaraní” (Guarani aquifer), lies under Paraguay and extends into parts of Brazil and Argentina.
5. It Has the Largest Navy of Any Landlocked Country
That’s right— though surrounded on all sides by land, Paraguay not only has a navy, but it has the largest one out of all countries without a coastline. The Paraguayan navy operates on the country’s rivers, and can get to the ocean by traveling down through Argentina.
6. They Have Famous Tablecloths
Paraguayan tablecloths crafted from ao po’i cloth are renowned the world over for their intricacy. Just one of them can take over a year to make.
7. Paraguay Used to Be a Lot Bigger…
During the War of the Triple Alliance between 1865 and 1870, Paraguay lost 54,000 square miles of its land to neighboring Bolivia. Its history is filled with conflict with Bolivia.
8. …And More Populated With Men
During the War of the Triple Alliance, about two-thirds of the Paraguayan male population was killed. However, it has regained a more even ratio of males to females over the decades, thanks to immigration and reproduction.
9. It Has a Decent Literacy Rate
About 94 percent of the total adult population is literate, higher than many other countries in the Americas. This puts it as the 96th most literate nation out of 215.
10. Paraguay Has Multiple Climates
The local Paraguayan climate ranges from subtropical to temperate, depending on elevation.
11. Agriculture Is Huge There
About half of the entire population in Paraguay makes its living off of farming and agriculture. Even those who don’t tend to consume fresh, locally grown fruit on a regular basis.
12. The U.S. Army Is There
The United States Army rotated hundreds of soldiers in and out of Paraguay between 2005 and 2006, specifically in the town of Mariscal Estigarribia. There are currently talks of a joint base being established.
13. The British Built the Railroad
The first Paraguayan railroad line was constructed between 1858 and 1861, by British engineers and even many British laborers.
14. It Had One of the Deadliest Fires in the World
The 2004 Ycuá Bolaños supermarket fire in Asunción claimed the lives of 464 people and left 500 injured, making it ones of the deadliest fires of all time in world history. Victims are still trying to seek reparations.
15. It Has Been Part of the UN since 1945
Paraguay has been a member of the United Nations since October 24, 1945, making it one of the UN’s original 51 member states.
16. Paraguay Has Been Called an Island
Novelist Augusto Roa Bastos once referred to Paraguay as “an island surrounded on all sides by land”.
17. Though lush, It Struggles With Deforestation
Paraguay has 1,300,000 hectares of one of the most bio diverse forests on the planet. However, up until 2004 the country had the highest rate of deforestation in the Americas, as well as the second highest in the entire world. In more recent years, however, measures have been taken to promote conservation.
18. Catholicism Rules, But Not Always
Most Paraguayans are strictly religious, and about 90 percent of the population identifies as Catholic. However, church leaders and missionaries frequently complain about the amount of out-of-wedlock births, accounting for over half of all births.
19. It Has the Largest Hydroelectric Power Plant
The Itaipu dam, located on Paraguay’s southeastern border (formed by the Parana River), is the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world.
20. Paraguay Is Famous For Jesuit Ruins
While other Latin American countries may be known for their ancient ruins, one of Paraguay’s biggest tourist attractions (listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Landmark) are the Jesuit Missions of the Guaranís. Built in the 17th and 18 centuries, the ruins are well preserved and encompass five different missions.